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Sunset Crater Volcano - Flagstaff, AZ

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Sunset Crater Volcano

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Park Snapshot: Sunset Crater Volcano Formation

This monument preserves a dramatic cinder cone volcano with colorful mineral deposits at its rim and cinder fields and lava flows at its base that erupted sometime between 1040 and 1100 A.D.—the most recent volcanic eruption in the Colorado Plateau. The park also protects more than 3,000 acres around the volcano dotted with pine and aspen trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Hike the trail through the lava flow and cinders and you’ll likely discover colorful, ruggedly dramatic geological features coexisting with twisted Ponderosa Pines and an amazing array of wildlife. 

The cinder cone we know as Sunset Crater Volcano serves as the centerpiece for an amazing display of volcanic features in and around the national monument. It shares the horizon with hundreds of other cinder cones. The processes that created Sunset Crater Volcano also created a sculpture garden of extraordinary forms around its base. 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, solidified into wedge-shaped squeeze-ups, grooved from scraping against the harder rock. 

Park Wildlife

For years following the eruptions, Sunset Crater Volcano and the immediate vicinity remained a burned and blackened blast zone. Over the centuries, small unique pioneering islands of vegetation have become established and these, in combination with the volcanic features, provide habitats for a surprising array of animal life. Cavelike lava tubes and cracks in the lava flows serve the needs of insects, spiders, and rodents. Fast-moving lizards, called Whiptails, thrive in this environment as well. The Western Whiptail is Sunset Crater Volcano's most common species. Bats also inhabit some of these spaces and birds--Steller’s jays, pinyon jays, blackchinned hummingbirds, white-breasted nuthatches, ravens, crows. golden eagles, and several species of hawks--can be seen and heard throughout the monument. The surrounding pine forests provide foraging habitat for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bobcat, and coyote, and are home to a variety of small mammals, including the Abert squirrel, cottontail rabbit, and porcupine. 

Park History & Culture

People had been living in the area for several hundred years, at least, before the volcano erupted. Although we don’t know what they called themselves, archeologists consider them representatives of the Sinagua culture. They were farmers, living in scattered groups adjacent to their corn fields. Their homes were pithouses, dug partially into the ground. These people lived their lives in a landscape much like what we see today - pine forest and occasional open meadows, framed by the San Francisco Peaks and other ancient volcanoes. Then, about 900 years ago, a new volcano emerged literally before their eyes. There must have been enough warning for the inhabitants to move out of harm’s way; no evidence has been found that people died as a direct result of the eruption. However, pithouses for miles around were burned and filled with cinders, and others undoubtedly remain buried beneath layers of lava. President Herbert Hoover preserved the volcano by declaring it a national monument in 1930. More than 200,000 people now visit Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument each year, to learn about this most recent eruption on the Colorado Plateau.

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NPCA is the independent, nonpartisan voice working to strengthen and protect America’s favorite places. With the help of millions of members and supporters, the NPCA works tirelessly to defend the nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for present and future generations. 

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See America Artwork

Check out great artwork of Sunset Crater Volcano and many more parks at SeeAmericaProject.com.

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The Book Two Days In Advance and Save 15% and Get 100 Wyndham Rewards Bonus Points rate (“Winter Rate”) is available to Wyndham Rewards Members at participating Baymont Inn & Suites®, Days Inn®, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham®, Howard Johnson®, Knights Inn®, Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham®, Super 8®, Travelodge®, and Wingate by Wyndham®. Reservation must be booked between January 6, 2017 and February 26, 2017, and no less than 2 days in advance of arrival date. New bookings only; not applicable to group bookings. Reservation must be pre-paid with a valid credit card and is non-cancellable and non-refundable. In the event of cancellation or modification, guest will forfeit total room charge plus taxes for the entire reservation. Savings are discounted from property’s Best Available Rate excluding taxes, resort/service fees, incidentals, gratuities, or additional per room, per night charges that may be imposed. “Best Available Rate” is defined as the best, non-qualified, unrestricted, publicly available rate on the brand sites for the hotel, date and accommodations requested. Rooms at the discount are limited and subject to availability. Blackout dates, room type exclusions, and other restrictions may apply and vary by individual hotel. Please inquire at time of reservation.

 

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