October 11, 2023
The Perfect Day Trip From Flagstaff
Welcome the enchanting allure of October in Flagstaff, where the brisk autumn air and the vibrant tapestry of fall foliage beckon your wanderlust. The stunning hues of the season are on full display by the numerous picturesque hiking trails in the local Flagstaff area. However, for those yearning to venture a bit farther, set your sights on the perfect day trip from Flagstaff. Take the scenic route along a 34-mile loop road connecting Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments, a mere half-hour drive to the north of Pine Canyon via US-89.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Among the 600 volcanic peaks in the region, the youngest and most captivating is Sunset Crater Volcano, which erupted around 1040 A.D., creating a towering cinder cone now standing at 1000 feet. While it’s dormant today, you can experience its grandeur through various trails. Explore the Lava Flow Trail, offering picturesque scenery and a close encounter with lava formations. Or venture onto the Lenox Crater Trail, a 2-mile round trip to the volcano rim. For a more strenuous adventure, tackle the Lava’s Edge Trail, covering 3.4 miles over rough basalt and loose cinders along the jagged edge of the Bonito Lava Flow.
Wupatki National Monument
After your Sunset Crater Volcano exploration, continue your journey northeast on the loop road to reach Wupatki National Monument. Amidst the rich, colorful natural landscape, delve into history and archaeology. Humans have called this area home for over 10,000 years, with 1100 A.D. marking the rise of farming and trade, leading to the creation of what’s described as “the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around” by the National Park Service.
Short, easy trails off the loop road grant access to notable prehistoric villages. Wupatki Pueblo, boasting around 100 rooms, stands as the monument’s largest. Lomaki and Box Canyon Pueblos overlook small canyons that once served for agriculture. Hike up to the Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos for breathtaking vistas, and explore Wukoki Pueblo via a short spur road to witness meticulous ancient craftsmanship.
Plan Your Visit
The scenic drive is accessible year-round, day and night, with trails at both monuments open from sunrise to sunset. While the entry fee is typically $25 per vehicle for both sites, you can enjoy free admission on Veterans Day, November 11. For more information and update trail access, be sure to check the National Park Service website.