Sunset Crater

Cinder Cone That Erupted
Less Than 1000 Years Ago

Sunset Crater is a cinder cone volcano in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, AZ.

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Overview
Sunset Crater
Sunset Crater

Erupting less than 1,000 years ago, Sunset Crater is the youngest in an impressive field of volcanoes all around you. The 1,000-foot-high (305m) cinder cone we see today formed when basalt magma rose directly to the surface through a primary vent. Gas pressure produced a roaring fountain of lava estimated at 850 feet (260m) high.

Pressure blasted the lava into pieces which cooled in flight and piled into this cone-shaped hill. As gas pressure decreased, lava oozed several times from the base of the cone. When the magma ran out of gas, lava splattered the rim. The volcano was short-lived, only months or a couple of years at most from birth to extinction.

The bright-rimmed cone impressed John Wesley Powell, who explored the San Francisco volcanic field in 1885. He wrote, "The contrast in the colors is so great that on viewing the mountain from a distance the red cinders seem to be on fire." His "Sunset" mountain became known officially as Sunset Crater.

Interpretive Display Near Park Entrance
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