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Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater is located close to i40 in Flagstaff and is a must see.

Sunset Crater is part of the National Parks Service and is part of the every Fourth Grader Goes free. My husband is also classified as a Disabled Veteran and he can get into the parks for free (and Gold Star Families can too). I printed out the pass for the Every Fourth Grader Goes free, and the site is really kind of awkward.

First, the child has to “play” a game in order to get the pass that they need to get the pass to go to the park. I don’t really understand it! It is the most backward way of doing things. But, I wanted to warn you before you enter the twilight zone on this. I just clicked through and got the pass myself and printed it. It got even stranger when we got to the park. During these “trying times” of 2021, we got waved right into the park and given a map. We stopped at the visitor station because I thought I would have to change my fourth grader pass into an actual pass like the website said.

Only three people, masked, were allowed into the visitor station at a time, so I spoke with the person outside. I asked about the pass and he said “nah, you don’t really have to show it. I guess you could put it on your dash. But, you were waived in. So, no worries. No one will really check it anyhow.”

Ok. Well. There is that!

The visitor’s center does have bathrooms if you need a quick pit stop. There are also camping sites available right nearby. It is not considered on the federal ground, but it is operated by the US Forest Service, across from the visitor center.

Lava Flow Trail

We picked the Lava Flow trail, which has a great bathroom (always my favorite) and great views.

Yes, it says “no sledding”. And no, it’s not because of snow.

I am not telling you to do any sledding. I’m actually telling you NOT to sled. I just am educating you on why the sign is there. I forgot what my kids were watching and we somehow got a whole show about this. Very interesting. But, no!

The Lava Flow trail is very fun and has a paved section where pets are welcome and an unpaved section where pets are not welcome.

A nice amphitheater area is great for picnics! Bring your own food, because there are no places to grab a bite in the Park!

Look at that cool rock! So dark and choppy!

The kids climbing and checking out some cool rocks!

There were so many cool places to take pictures! Trees that looked almost petrified in time. It was about 25 degrees cooler than Surprise with a nice breeze. It is also over 7,000 feet in elevation.

My daredevil always going out on a limb! He was looking over the cavern and trying to see if there were any other “paths” to explore!

The volcano!


The pictures really don’t do Sunset Crater justice. I think you really need to go to experience the different rock, soil and feel it! It’s amazing to see the little balls of dirt that are beneath you and then see the red rock around you too. Being able to travel around Arizona to see so many different types of species is truly amazing.

While you are in the area, you can also check out the Grand Canyon South Rim. I do suggest doing this all in the summer as it gets cold and windy as you are in higher elevation!


The guide at Sunset Crater was telling other people that you can hike to the top of the Volcano, but we chose not to do that! As you can see, it is only about 1,000 feet higher in elevation than where we were, so it isn’t much higher. But, there are a few other short trails.


You may see elk, mule deer or pronghorn. There have been mountain lines, bobcats and coyotes. Squirrels, prairie dogs and chipmunks are also common as they have gotten used to people coming and leaving scraps.

Reptiles also abound in Sunset Crater, but their colors are much darker than their desert companions.

The Basics

Sunset Crater

6082 Sunset Crater Road, Flagstaff AZ, 86004.

While you are in the area, check out Wupatki Monument!

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