Meteor Crater is not the only crater worth seeing in the state of Arizona. North of the city of Flagstaff lies Sunset Crater Volcano National Park, home of – you guessed it – the Sunset Crater Volcano. Yes, there is a volcano in Arizona. While the enigmatic Meteor Crater was originally believed to be a volcanic formation – it is now known that it was created by a meteorite impact thousands of years ago – there has been no doubt as to what created the Sunset Crater Volcano.
Between 1080 and 1150 AD (or 1040 and 1100), the Sinagua Indians who lived in the area where witness to a catastrophic event that forced them to abandon their homes. The once dormant San Francisco Volcanic Field had awakened; ash billowed high into the sky and lava poured out of the ground. When it was all over the ash had blanketed over 2,100 square kilometers, the lava had spread nearly 10 kilometers away from the fissure, and a 340-meter high cinder cone stood over the devastated landscape.
Today, the Sunset Crater Volcano lies silent. Trees, shrubs, and other plants have started to grow back on the once black and barren lava fields around the cinder cone slopes. There is no danger from the volcano now, but the volcano has been in danger from the actions of people – a movie company once tried to blow up the crater to simulate a real exploding volcano, but a public outcry scuttled that plan and caused the US government to declare the area around the volcano a national monument in order to protect it from further exploitation.
More recently, the trail to the summit of the volcano was closed to prevent further erosion due to the actions of hikers climbing up the mountain. Hikers must now content themselves with a one mile long loop trail at the base of the mountain.