The processes that created Sunset Crater Volcano also created a sculpture garden of extraordinary forms around its base. As new gas vents opened suddenly, spatter cones sprouted from the ground like miniatures of the cone itself. Moving lava developed a crust on the surface as it cooled; caves and lava tubes formed beneath the crust as the lava drained away. Partially cooled lava, pushing through cracks like toothpaste from a tube, solidified into wedge-shaped squeeze-ups, grooved from scraping against the harder rock. Hawaiian terms are used to describe the different types of lava flows: Aa lava has a rough, jagged surface, while pahoehoe lava looks smooth or ropy.
All of these features, and more, can be seen along the Lava Flow Trail. For a quick sample, take a Virtual Field Trip.
Did You Know?
The Sunset Crater penstemon (Penstemon clutei) is found only on cinder deposits within the San Francisco Volcanic Field, including Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, in northern Arizona.