Frequently Asked Questions

Where’s the meteor crater?
If you’re looking for a giant hole in the ground, that would be Meteor Crater, a privately-operated national landmark about 40 miles east of Flagstaff. At Sunset Crater Volcano, “crater” refers to the vent at the top of the volcano, 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape.

When did Sunset Crater erupt?
Recent research indicates that the eruption occurred in approximately the year 1085 and lasted a few weeks or months.

Is it an active volcano?
No, but it's in an active volcanic field. Cinder cones like Sunset Crater Volcano typically erupt only once, but Sunset Crater is one of around 600 volcanoes in northern Arizona. Volcanic activity in the surrounding San Francisco Volcanic Field has been infrequent but consistent during the past 6 million years, so if you stick around long enough - 15,000 years or so! - you might see another eruption somewhere in the region.

Why can’t we climb the volcano?
The trail to the top of Sunset Crater was closed in 1973, due to the deep ruts and erosion caused by the feet of thousands of hikers. After decades of climbing, the trails to the top were waist-deep trenches, and hiking on the loose cinders was extremely strenuous. The old trail scars have proved impossible to erase, even after 30+ years - they can still be seen today!
As an alternative, you can climb to the top of another cinder cone by taking the Lenox Crater Trail. You can also hike a Forest Service trail up O’Leary Peak, and look down into Sunset Crater.

What is Wupatki National Monument?
Wupatki is one of our sister sites. Located about 20 miles northeast of Sunset Crater on FR545, Wupatki is a collection of old pueblos dating to around 1000 years ago. Most of the pueblos were built after the Sunset Crater eruption, and were probably built by people who relocated after their homes were buried by ash and lava flows. Today, six of the pueblos have trails that you can visit.

Last updated: December 22, 2021

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