Lenox Crater Trail Loop

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

Trip Date: Thursday, July 25th, 2019
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 5th, 2020
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1.6 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly, 300 feet of elevation gain
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

The hike to Lenox Crater is short albeit scenic. No matter when you visit, you can enjoy the quiet splendor of the pine forest covering the geologically interesting volcanic field. Visit this park and hike to Lenox Crater next time you're in Flagstaff and you won't be disappointed!

To start the hike, walk across the road from the parking area and look for the trailhead marker. The trail forms a loop, and you can choose to go in either direction -- I will describe the route going counterclockwise. Almost immediately after starting, you will begin ascending a gradual couple hundred feet to the top of the hill. Pine trees surround you, and you'll hear the consistent wind rushing through the millions of pine needles above you. In the spring and summer, you will find occasional wildflowers adding a splash of color to the earth-toned landscape, like the purple Sunset Crater Beardtongue pictured below, a flower only found in these volcanic fields.

Purple wildflowers decorating the pine forest

Purple wildflowers decorating the pine forest

As you approach the top of the hill, the grassy floor littered with pine needles transitions to the barren, volcanic field of gravel called Lenox Crater. At the apex of the trail, you can see the highest mountains in Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks, as pictured below. There are plenty of fallen logs near the trail here so you may sit and enjoy the view.
The San Francisco Peaks looming high in the distance

The San Francisco Peaks looming high in the distance

On the descent, you'll have a view of Sunset Crater to the east, as pictured below. This extinct volcano and namesake of the park last erupted sometime in the 11th century, creating the Bonito Lava Flow which you can best view at the nearby A'a Trail or Bonito View Trail. While volcanoes are usually found where two of the Earth's tectonic plates meet, Northern Arizona's volcanoes are unique, formed by a geologic hotspot where the mantle is hotter than its surroundings. The hotspot stays fixed as the tectonic plate above moves, hence why there are so many now extinct volcanoes in this area.
Sunset Crater from the trail

Sunset Crater from the trail

At the bottom of the hill, turn left at the intersection ahead to return to the parking area and finish your hike. Overall this is a nice, quick hike that allows you to enjoy the mountainous scenery of Northern Arizona. Check out some of the other nearby trails in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument or continue on the scenic loop road to Wupatki National Monument! Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!



Important Information

Dogs are not allowed on any trails in the park; it's best to leave your dog at home since desert temperatures can kill dogs waiting in cars. The uphill climb at 7000 feet of elevation makes this a more difficult hike for families, but it's doable for most. You can visit during any season, but be prepared for wind. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 100 degrees and afternoon thunderstorms are common. Winter and early spring may bring snow, but it doesn't usually stick around long. The hill may deter some, but still expect to see people on the weekends.

Directions

From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east. Take the exit for U.S. Highway 89, then turn left. Turn right onto U.S. Highway 89. Turn right at the brown sign pointing to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument. After passing the visitor center, look for a small parking area on the left hand side of the road. If this lot is full, continue straight then take the first right into the parking area for the Lava Flow Trail -- you'll have to take a short spur trail to reach Lenox Crater.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Entrance to the park is $25 per vehicle and permits access for 7 days to both Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Interagency passes are also honored here. Visit the park's fees page for more information. There are no facilities at the trailhead, but there are pit toilets at the nearby parking for the Lava Flow Trail. Otherwise, the staffed visitor center has restrooms and water in addition to educational exhibits and a gift shop.

External Links

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