The processes that created Sunset Crater Volcano also created a sculpture garden of extraordinary forms around its base. As new gas vents opened suddenly, spatter cones sprouted from the ground like miniatures of the cone itself. Moving lava developed a crust on the surface as it cooled; caves and lava tubes formed beneath the crust as the lava drained away. Partially cooled lava, pushing through cracks like toothpaste from a tube, solidified into wedge-shaped squeeze-ups, grooved from scraping against the harder rock. Hawaiian terms are used to describe the different types of lava flows: Aa lava has a rough, jagged surface, while pahoehoe lava looks smooth or ropy.
All of these features, and more, can be seen along the Lava Flow Trail. For a quick sample, take a Virtual Field Trip.
Did You Know?
In the 1960s, astronauts practiced for the first lunar landings on cinder fields in and around Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument