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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 5

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Moving south ---and about 2000 feet uphill-- from Wupatki National  Monument,  scenic "volcanoes and ruins" loop road enters the tortured terrain of Sunset Crater National Monument.  Complementing a bevy of  scenic view roadside pullouts  for casual sightseers; two hiking trails delve deeper into the otherworldly landscape.  First up: the Lava Flow Trail.  This hike-by-numbers trek uses a guide booklet available in a box at the trailhead or the visitor center down the road to describe various volcanic features along the route. The trail has a .25-mile section that's paved and barrier-free, but the remainder of the trail requires sturdy (closed toe) footwear as it moves over some rough-around-the-edges lava.  Just under a mile in length, the trail manages to get hikers into the guts of a massive lava flow that issued from the base of Sunset Crater some 900 years ago.   In terms of geological time, this is newborn rock. Unfettered by the ravages of time, the molten crust that  squeezed, belched, oozed and sprayed from the belly of the earth retains its wild, "fresh from the smelter" veneer.  All around the trail, a placid sea of black cinders peppered with hardy tree sprouts laping  at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano belies  a history of fire raining from the sky.

LENGTH:  1 mile loop
RATING:  easy (some loose rock and steps)
ELEVATION: 7,000' - 7,050'
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails in buildings.  
Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal.
FACILITIES: restooms,  vending machines and water  at the visitor center
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5.  Turn right and continue 29.5 miles to the  turn off on the left. Roads are 100% paved. Alternate access: enter the park from US 180 at milepost 430 and go 5.5 miles to the trailhead.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365

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