Set just north of Flagstaff, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a popular day-trip destination that is often paired with the neighboring Wupatki National Monument. You can visit on your own or on a group tour that also visits other Northern Arizona attractions such as the Grand Canyon and Navajo Nation.
In addition to learning about the volcanic eruptions from informational plaques, you can also enjoy hikes throughout the park. While the Sunset Crater itself can not be climbed (the trail to the top was closed to prevent erosion), you can explore the formations at the foot of the volcano on the Lava Flow Trail. If climbing a crater is your goal, head to the park’s Lenox Crater—a steep trail leads to the top.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The park makes a great half-day adventure for travelers who want to see more of the area before or after visiting the Grand Canyon.
- The park’s entrance fee also grants you access to Wupatki National Monument, so be sure to give yourself time to explore both locations.
- Erratic weather is common in the park, so dress in layers and be ready for all conditions.
- A portion of the Lava Flow Trail is paved and wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The park is easiest to reach by car or on a guided tour. From Flagstaff, take Highway 89 north for 12 miles (19 kilometers) and then turn right onto Fire Road 545 (Loop Road) and follow it to the monument.
When to Get There
The park experiences temperamental weather year-round, so the best times to visit are in late spring or early fall. Summers are hot (and thunderstorms are common) and the park gets snow in the winter. To see the crater’s colors at their most vibrant, visit around sunrise and sunset. Nighttime visits are popular amongst stargazers—the park is an International Dark Sky Park.
Visiting Wupatki National Monument
After exploring the cinder cones, continue down Fire Road 545 (Loop Road) to reach the ancient villages of Wupatki National Monument. A scattering of historic pueblo ruins gives visitors a window into the way of life of the area’s early communities. The sites can be explored on self-guided trails lined with informational plaques.