If you are ever in the Flagstaff area you need to check out Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This amazing geological formation is located just north of Flagstaff on 89N. Plan to spend an afternoon exploring this amazing park.
You actually get 2 parks for the price of 1 at the entrance. You will also get to visit the Wupakti National Monument with the loop of the national park. Not only will you see lava flows, but you will get to see ancient pueblos.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
As you enter the national park you will drive through the forest until you start to see massive rocks from the lava flows from the eruption that happened in approximately 1085. There are actually 2 ancient volcanoes that you will get to see, Sunset Crater (reaching 1,000 feet tall) and Lennox Crater (reaching 300 feet tall).
When Sunset Crater Volcano erupted it created a plume of fire that reached 850 feet. This massive eruption sent massive lava block and lava bombs all along the landscape. Lava continued to pour over the land to create lava flows. As the lava and rocks cooled this created the rocky surface that we can see today.
The plants that you see around the park only started to grow back 500 years ago. You will notice in areas that new soil is still forming along the land. The growth of this new soil is a very gradual and delicate process. Because of the delicate process rangers urge visitors to stay on the designated trails.
Wupakti National Monument
As you drive along the loop past the volcanoes you will notice a drastic change in landscape. You will red rock and miles of prairie with the highlands of Arizona in the distance. This landscape is part of Wupakti National Monument.
You will take a trip back in time as you visit see the ancient sedimentary rocks of Wupakti dated all the way back to the Permian and early to middle triassic periods (252 million years ago).
Visit any of the 6 pueblos located in Wupakti. Wupakti Pueblo is the largest of these pueblos with 100 rooms. These pueblos are 900 years old. Some native americans continue to live in stone pueblos today. Visiting these pueblos gives us a little glimpse into life 900 years ago.
If you are a geology or history nerd these two parks are the place for you. You could easily spend the entire day going back in time to our ancient world.