Why? Awesome views from, and a look into, the crater of a 4000-year old cinder cone volcano.
SP mountain is a classic cinder cone and one of the youngest volcanoes in the San Francisco Volcanic Field (only 4,000 years old). It is still a nearly perfect symmetrical cone due to its age.
We will climb to the top of the cone. It is very steep. When climbing in cinders at a 32 degree slope it’s generally 2 steps forward and slip back 1 step and with significant difficulty for some of us. Once at the rim we will peer 400 ft. down into the crater (about half the height of the cinder cone itself) and some will choose to walk the circumference of the crater… about ¾ mile. It’s much easier and faster coming down the mountain. You can kinda ski down.
From the rim one may see the 5-mile long lava flow from the base of the volcano. Some of the lava originally flowed as far north as the Little Colorado River. And the Painted Desert may be seen in the distance as well as many cinder cone volcanoes.
Anyone wishing an easier hike may choose to drive about 3 miles due south of SP Mountain to Colton Crater, a large crater containing a small interior cinder cone. It’s an easy hike of 0.7 mile out to the rim and 0.7 mile back. The crater itself is about ½ mile across. That trip and hike will take about 1 ½ hours… less time than climbing SP Mountain.
Before leaving the area we may drive around SP Mountain to its north side to inspect the lava flow.
Here are photos from our 7/2/11 hike here:
Distance : 2.4 miles (1 mile up the road, 0.2 mile up the side of the cinder cone)
Time : perhaps 2 hours
Difficulty : moderate to strenuous and difficult
Trail : smooth dirt road followed by climb up loose cinders and return
Elevation: [masked] ft.
change : 760 ft.
Parking : hard grassy dirt field
Entry fees : none
Dogs : NO
Always carry and drink plenty of water!
Sunscreen and insect repellent is advised.
Supportive footwear is also advisable.
Have light rain gear available (we may hike in light drizzle).
(Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common at high altitudes July – September.)
SAFETY FIRST… we have no medical provisions.
Hike at your own risk.
To get to SP Crater: 125 miles from the 101 on I-17 (north), take exit 340A to merge onto I-40 (east) toward Albuquerque. After 5 miles take exit 201 toward US-89(north) onto US-89)/Country Club Dr. and then after ½ mile turn right onto US-89 (north). From there travel about 27 miles north on US 89. (from US 89 and Marketplace Drive just east of the Flagstaff Mall (east of town) travel about 25 miles north on US 89.)
Nearly a mile past milepost 445 and just within sight of milepost 446 stop at Hank’s Trading post. Wait for the group to convene there and set your trip odometer to 0.
Then about 200 yards south of Hank’s we will go west on a wide dirt road … keep to the left at the first fork and continue due west until at mile 5.1 the road turns left onto a well-traveled dirt road and at 7.0 miles a dirt track takes off to the right aiming for the saddle between SP mountain and an older cone. A sign in the middle of the track indicates that it is closed. Park near this sign. We will walk the rest of the way 1 mile up the road to the saddle where we will climb 0.2 mile to the top of the cinder cone.
Google says that Hank’s is 2 hours 20 minutes from the I-17 & 101… 160 miles
Following the hike: Since this is a short hike requiring little time, a second hike is planned for nearby Strawberry Crater before returning to Flagstaff… see separate hike announcement.
This the second of what will be from 1-5 hikes over the 4-day weekend, depending on each individual hiker’s preferences. Hikers participating in several hikes are encouraged to use overnight lodging in Flagstaff to avoid long tiring drives from Phoenix. For those of you who like to camp, a convenient campground is the Bonito campground near sunset crater. Several of us will be staying at Days Hotel, 2200 E. Butler.