Sunset Volcano Crater & Wupatki National Monuments

April 24, 2010 - Flagstaff, Arizona, United States

Saturday April 24th.

After we visited Lowell Observatory on Saturday morning, we decided to visit the Sunset Volcano Crater & Wupatki National Monuments. It was only a short 12 mile drive north of Flagstaff & when we arrived we looked through the visitor centre & then we were told that as it was National Park week, the entry fees to the park would be waived – lucky us !

The drive through the park would take us on a 35 mile loop past the volcano & then onto the Wupatki park. First stop was a lookout over a lava flow – spectacular views of what mother nature can do when she gets angry. Next it was onto a view of the cinder cone (Sunset crater) from the eruption some 1000 years ago (pretty recent for this one) – again beautiful views of the cone itself, the valley & the desert plains below. The drive was a winding road through Ponderosa Pines & as when came down into the lower plains the landscape changed from forest to Beautiful rock formations, outcrops & even a giant sinkhole.

At this point we had crossed over from the Sunset Crater Park to the Wupatki Park. Again the scenery had changed quiet dramatically & we were at the edge of the high desert country. It was here that Wupatki ruins can be found & explored. These people occupied the region around the 1100’s (after the eruption) – most likely due to the fertile soil. These ruins have stood for centuries & it was quite awe inspiring walking around & exploring them. One of them even allows you to climb up its steps & explore the rooms (the local ranger we spoke to said it was known as the castle as can be seen from the photos). There is also a display of artefacts & history at the visitors centre for that part of the park. The descendants of these original inhabitants still live in the region today being the Hopi, Zuni & Navajo people. I will let the photos of the ruins do the talking as you really need to see them to appreciate how hard it must have been to survive out here. Ultimately it may have been drought, enemies, over farming/population that moved them on – no one really knows but what a beautiful place to come visit if you get a chance. It was at this point we rejoined the highway & headed back to Flagstaff for the evening observatory session.


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