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Monday, August 13, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 6

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Summit of Lenox Crater

View from the trail
Woe to Lenox Crater. Crushed, pummeled, bullied and ultimately overshadowed by its younger, more aggressive volcanic neighbors, this humble cinder cone is older than the tumultuous lava flows and red-tinged peaks that have nearly obliterated its rounded and relaxed profile. Unlike the park’s star attraction---Sunset Crater---it's okay to climb Lenox. It's not a difficult hike, however, pea-to-pebble-sized black cinders underfoot create a mildly hazardous carpet of sandpapered marbles.  Ponderosa pines and Gambel oaks shade the trail on its way up to the summit. On top, there's no discernable "crater”, but an impressive cinder-ash flow sliding down the south face is evidence the hill's explosive past.  Take a moment to scoop up a handful of cinders and examine the structure and lightness. Pumice like this can sometimes float on water and has been used to smooth and file rough skin. Each of these pebbles began life as a molten projectile spit from the crater like terrestrial meteorites.  To the north, the mounds of O’Leary Peak and Strawberry Crater stand out above the Bonita Lava Flow.  Both of these volcanoes---located outside of the monument boundaries---are climbable and although, Lenox Crater concludes the Walking Wupatki series of hikes---guess where I'm going next? 

LENGTH:  1 mile roundtrip
RATING: moderate (loose footing)
ELEVATION: 6,940' - 7,240
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails in buildings.  
Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal.
FACILITIES: restroom, visitor center, vending machines
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5.  Turn right and continue 30 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 miles to the trailhead.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365

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