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Explore / nature / high country

Sunset Crater Volcano

Scenic Loop Drive & Lava Flow Trail

2 Cool Lizards travel guide

Lava Flow Trail provides excellent views of the Sunset Crater and Cinder Hills in the Bonita Lava Flow area near Flagstaff. Drive the entire Loop Road for spectacular views of the Bonita Lava Flow, painted desert, wildflowers and ponderosa pine. At the end, visit Wupatki Ruins.

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Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument are both located on Loop Road. Loop Road turns east off Hwy 89 approximately 12 miles north of Flagstaff, runs through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, then heads north and passes through Wupatki National Monument before heading west to meet back up with Hwy 89. Scenic Loop Drive is 35 miles long and drives through beautiful mountail meadows, lava flows and the Wupatki ruins. Sunset Crater is on the south end of the loop; Wupatki is on the north end of the loop.

Bonita Lava Flow Sunset Crater A colorful field of wild sunflowers greeted us as we approached the Bonito lava flow area in August 2007 (slide 1 above). The day was dark and misting, setting off the vivid yellow sunflowers against the charcoal lava and gray sky. Evergreen trees and red flowers added to the colorful display.

Sunset Crater is a 1,000 ft. cinder cone caused by an eruption that occurred 1040 - 1100 AD. Gases in the magma created an explosion of ash and cinders from the top of the cone. Magma with a lower gas content flowed from the base of the cone, creating the Kana-a and Bonito lava flows. Falling cinders covered old volcanos in the area. Volcanic ash from the volcano buried 64,000 acres of farmland 1.

This area is sacred to Native Americans today; they continue to visit the area to honor their ancestors.

An ATV designated trail (outside of the park) can be seen on the black cinder hills from the Cinder Hills Overlook. If you plan to use your ATV in the area, stay in designated areas and keep your noise to a minimum (good muffler system). See photo at right below.

Views of the Painted Desert can also be seen from this lookout. See center photo below.

Respect the area. Don't collect anything and don't leave anything behind.

Autumn through spring is the best time to visit. Spring provides wildflower blooms and fall offers a display of colorful foliage.

As in all Arizona travel, bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There is not a lot of shade on these trails; so bring a wide brimmed hat and a good pair of sun glasses.

Overnight camping is permitted at Bonito Campground, located near the Visitor's Center.

1.  "Wupatki And Sunset Crater Volcano." National Park Service: US Department of the Interior

Photo Right: View from Bonita Lava Flow Trail

Bonita Lava Flow Trail

CHOICE OF TWO TRAILS (see slide 5 above)
Lava Flow Trail consists of two trails, that are part of a loop. Long Trail requires sturdy shoes, and is a moderate hike on approximately 1 mile of rough surface. A shorter, paved, 1/4 mile wheelchair accessible trail provides excellent views. Both trails are reached by the same parking lot within the Bonito Lava Flow area. Stop at the Visitor's Center for maps and information.

CLICK HERE for enlarged photo of map at left


Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument: maps and information about park activities, fees, etc.
phone: 928-526-0502; website:

Fabulous Reviews Of Nearby Places:
Wupatki National Monument
Lava River Cave
Petrified Forest
Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings
Meteor Crater

Lava Trail Sunset Crater
Lava Flow Long Trail
View of painted desert from Sunset Crater
view toward Painted Desert
ATV trail Sunset Crater
ATV trails: Cinder Hills Overlook


Located north of Flagstaff just off Hwy 89. Follow Hwy 89 north out of Flagstaff for 12 miles. Turn right onto Sunset Crater - Wupatki Loop Road all part of the Scenic Loop Drive. Sunset Crater Naional Monument is on the south end of Loop Road, and Wupatki National Monument is on the north end of Loop Road. Loop Road is 35 miles long, and starts and ends on Hwy 89. Click the link below for more information.


Wupatki National Monument: maps and information about park activities, fees, etc.

accessible travel

accessible trail Sunset Crater Bonita Lava Flow
The restroom at the visitor's center is wheelchair accessible, but the stall is small (regular width - no space for transfer). The restroom at the parking lot for lava flow trails (Bonito area) contains a larger, accessible stall. There are no family style restrooms (at the time of our visit in 2007).

Lava Flow Trail provides a paved, 1/4 mile wheelchair accessible trail.

The paved road through the park provides views of the lava flow areas.

Visit accessible travel for more information.

travel with children

Bonita Lava Flow Sunset Crater
Please - STAY ON TRAILS. For the safety of your children and the environment, keep your children on the paths. Children love volcanos and Sunset Crater provides a safe and educational place to explore lava beds. Signs like that on the left provide information about the area. The sign below states that lava is sharp, brittle and unstable; stay on the trails for safety of the formations and yourself and your children. Use the paved, accessible trail if your children need a safer route.

Visit travel with children for more information.

travel with pets

Bonita Lava Flow Sunset Crater
Pets are NOT allowed on the Lava Flow Trail. While in parks, they must be leashed at all time.

NEVER leave a pet unattended in a vehicle. ALWAYS clean up after your pet.

Visit travel with pets for more information.

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