A couple weeks ago, my wife and I made a trek to one of our favorite places, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm). It’s a cinder cone near Flagstaff, and part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field. In the past, northern Arizona had a lot of volcanic activity, and Sunset Crater last erupted 900 years ago.
This area is a great place to photograph fall colors. There aren’t a lot of Aspens, but photographing the ones that are there, against black basalt and cinder, really makes the colors pop.
On this trip, we wanted to go on a newly created trail to the peak of Lenox Crater (https://www.nps.gov/sucr/planyourvisit/lenox-trail.htm). This approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) trail is pretty steep going up to the summit, and combined with the altitude of about 7,000 feet (2,134 m), can be taxing. Pace yourself, take breaks when needed and drink plenty of water.
On the hike, my wife and I saw wild flowers next to the trail, fallen trees, trees with scars from lightning strikes, and some amazing views. I enjoyed looking at the fallen trees root balls, wondering what hidden treasures their demise had revealed. While treasure was missing, the shapes in these root balls were amazing. One tree, that fell some time ago, was especially fascinating The wood of the root ball had been bleached and weathered by the sun, rain and snow. Jagged edges, gentle curves and hypnotizing swirls entranced me. I could have photographed this wonder for hours.
At the top, there really isn’t a crater, as the falling ash from the Sunset Crater eruption filled it in, but the views are vast and breathtaking. There’s also an information plaque there that helps you identify the surrounding mountains that you can see from here.
One advantage of the steep trail is that it keeps the crowds down. We were there on a Free National Park Day, with two to three times as many people as usual and only encountered two groups of two people on the trail. Try out Lenox Crater trail for great views and peace and quiet.