San Francisco Volcanic Field

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 35.347°N
  • 111.678°W

  • 3850 m
    12628 ft

  • 329020
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

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Basic Data

Volcano Number

Last Known Eruption



1075 CE

3850 m / 12628 ft


Volcano Types

Pyroclastic cone
Fissure vent

Rock Types

Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite
Trachyte / Trachyandesite

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Geological Summary

The vast San Francisco Volcanic Field in northern Arizona has more than 550 vents, the youngest of which is Sunset Crater, named for its brilliantly colored scoria deposits mantling the cone. The eruptions forming the 340-m-high Sunset Crater cinder cone were initially considered from tree-ring dating to have begun between the growing seasons of 1064-1065 CE; however, more recent paleomagnetic evidence places the activity between about 1080 and 1150 CE. The largest vent, Sunset Crater itself, was the source of the Bonito and Kana-a lava flows that extended about 2.5 km NW and 9.6 km NE, respectively. Additional vents along a 10-km-long fissure extending SE produced small spatter ramparts and a 6.4-km-long lava flow to the east. A blanket of ash and lapilli covered an area of more than 2100 sq km and forced the abandonment of settlements of the indigenous Sinagua Indians.


The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography.

Arculus R J, Gust D A, 1995. Regional petrology of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, Arizona, USA. J Petr, 36: 827-861.

Elson M D, Ort M H, Hesse S J, Duffield W A, 2002. Lava, corn, and ritual in the northern Southwest. Amer Antiquity, 67: 119-135.

Green J, Short N M, 1971. Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: a Photographic Atlas and Glossary. New York: Springer-Verlag, 519 p.

Holm R F, Moore R B, 1987. Holocene scoria cone and lava flows at Sunset Crater, northern Arizona. In: Bues S S (ed) {Geol Soc Amer Centennial Field Guide, Rocky Mountain Sec}, 2: 1-475.

Moore R B, Wolfe E W, 1987. Geologic map of the east part of the San Francisco volcanic field, north-Central Arizona. U S Geol Surv Map, MF-1960, 46 p text.

Ort M H, Elson M D, Anderson K C, Duffield W A, Hooten J A, Champion D E, Waring G, 2008b. Effects of scoria-cone eruptions upon nearby human communities. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 120: 476-486.

Ort M H, Elson M D, Anderson K C, Duffield W A, Samples T L, 2008a. Variable effects of cinder-cone eruptions on prehistoric agrarian human populations in the American southwest. J Volc Geotherm Res, 176: 363-376.

Smiley T L, 1958. The geology and dating of Sunset Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. New Mexico Geol Soc Guidebook, 9th Field Conf, p 186-190.

Eruptive History

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1075 ± 25 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Magnetism Sunset Crater and SE-trending fissures

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Colton Crater Pyroclastic cone 2242 m 35° 32' 39" N 111° 38' 14" W
Double Crater Pyroclastic cone 2439 m 35° 20' 44" N 111° 27' 5" W
Merriam Crater Pyroclastic cone 2078 m 35° 20' 19" N 111° 17' 12" W
Roden Crater Pyroclastic cone 1658 m 35° 25' 37" N 111° 15' 28" W
San Francisco Mountain
    San Francisco Peaks
Stratovolcano 3850 m 35° 20' 48" N 111° 40' 41" W
SP Crater Pyroclastic cone 2141 m 35° 34' 57" N 111° 37' 54" W
Strawberry Crater Pyroclastic cone 1992 m 35° 26' 39" N 111° 28' 11" W
Sunset Crater Pyroclastic cone 2449 m 35° 21' 51" N 111° 30' 10" W


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Gyp Crater
Yaponcha Crater 2135 m


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Bill Williams Mountain Dome 2825 m 35° 12' 1" N 112° 12' 18" W
Elden Mountain Dome 2834 m 35° 14' 27" N 111° 35' 51" W
Kendrick Peak Dome 3177 m 35° 24' 29" N 111° 51' 3" W
O'Leary Peak Dome 2676 m 35° 24' 5" N 111° 31' 49" W
Sitgreaves Mountain Dome 2865 m 35° 20' 33" N 112° 0' 23" W

Photo Gallery

Snow-mantled Sunset Crater (left-center), seen from O'Leary Peak to the NW, is the youngest volcanic feature of the San Francisco Mountain volcanic field, which covers a vast area of northern Arizona between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. The Sunset Crater eruption began about 1100 AD from a chain of cinder cones and vents trending NW-SE, the largest of which is Sunset Crater. Three lava flows were erupted, the longest of which traveled 11 km to the NE.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1973 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The 60-m-deep Gyp Crater in the foreground is located at about the midpoint of a 10-km-long eruptive fissure extending SE from Sunset Crater, the unvegetated cinder cone at the left-center. Paleomagnetic evidence places the age of the Sunset Crater eruption at between about 1080 and 1150 AD. O'Leary Peak, a Pleistocene lava dome, forms the prominent peak in the right background.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1973 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Sunset Crater at the upper right is seen in this aerial view along a 10-km-long eruptive fissure extending to its SE. An eruption from Gyp Crater, immediately behind the left rim of the snow-dappled Pleistocene Double Crater in the foreground, occurred along the SE-trending fissure. Snow-capped San Francisco Mountain appears in the background at the upper left.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1973 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The snow-drapped symmetrical cinder cone at the left side of the photo is Sunset Crater, Arizona's most recently active volcano. The broad snow-capped mountain in the background to the west, behind and to the right of Sunset Crater, is San Francisco Mountain. It is the centerpiece of the San Francisco Mountain volcanic field, which covers 5000 sq km of northern Arizona. The massive eroded Pleistocene stratovolcano is Arizona's highest peak. The peak on the right horizon is O'Leary Peak, a Pleistocene rhyodacitic lava dome complex.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1970 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The rugged Bonito lava flow in the foreground was erupted from Sunset Crater in two stages. The flow originated from vents at the west to NW base of Sunset Crater, which is out of view to the right. The peak beyond the flow to the north is O'Leary Peak, which consists of two rhyodacitic lava domes of Pleistocene age. O'Leary Peak is the NE-most silicic center in the San Francisco Mountain volcanic field.

Photo by Richard Moore, 1975 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The Sunset Crater eruption is considered from paleomagnetic evidence to have begun about 1080-1150 AD. The Bonito lava flow in the foreground originated from Sunset Crater, the cinder cone in the background. The Sunset Crater eruption produced a blanket of ash and lapilli covering an area of more than 2100 sq km and forced the abandonment of settlements of the indigenous Sinagua Indians.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1977 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The Bonita lava flow in the foreground of this view from O'Leary Peak, NW of Sunset Crater, was erupted from two or more vents on the western to NW flank of Sunset Crater. The flow contains both scoria-mantled portions erupted concurrently with major explosive activity from Sunset Crater and darker, scoria-free portions erupted during later stages of the eruption. Portions of the scoria-mantled flow were broken away and rafted along during the late-stage lava extrusion.

Photo by Ed Wolfe, 1977 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Sunset Crater (left) and adjacent cinder cones are seen here from the west across the meadows of Bonito Park. Sunset Crater and adjacent cones were erupted along a 10-km-long, NW-SE-trending line, with Sunset Crater being the NW-most vent. The Sunset Crater eruptions severly affected Sinagua Indians living in the area, who temporarily evacuated the region.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
Sunset Crater, seen here from the NE, is the centerpiece of Sunset Crater National Monument. During the 1920's, geologist H.S. Colton successfully lobbied to prevent a Hollywood movie company from blowing up the cone to simulate a volcanic eruption. The monument was subsequently established to protect the cone. The proximal part of the Kana-a lava flow, erupted from a vent on the NE flank, is buried here by tephra. The flow was the longest from the Sunset Crater vent system and traveled 11 km to the NE.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

The following 15 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections. Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description
NMNH 117806-1334 Basalt
NMNH 117806-1335 Basalt
NMNH 117806-1336 Basalt
NMNH 68375 Basalt lava
NMNH 68375 Basalt lava
NMNH 68375 Basalt lava
NMNH 68376 Lapilli
NMNH 68377 Lapilli
NMNH 68378 Bomb
NMNH 68380 Basalt lava
NMNH 68381 Basalt lava
NMNH 68381 Basalt lava
NMNH 68383 Lava
NMNH 68383 Lava
NMNH 68445 Tuff

Affiliated Sites

Large Eruptions of San Francisco Volcanic Field Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
MODVOLC - HIGP MODIS Thermal Alert System Using infrared satellite Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, scientists at the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, developed an automated system called MODVOLC to map thermal hot-spots in near real time. For each MODIS image, the algorithm automatically scans each 1 km pixel within it to check for high-temperature hot-spots. When one is found the date, time, location, and intensity are recorded. MODIS looks at every square km of the Earth every 48 hours, once during the day and once during the night, and the presence of two MODIS sensors in space allows at least four hot-spot observations every two days. Each day updated global maps are compiled to display the locations of all hot spots detected in the previous 24 hours. There is a drop-down list with volcano names which allow users to 'zoom-in' and examine the distribution of hot-spots at a variety of spatial scales.
MIROVA Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity (MIROVA) is a near real time volcanic hot-spot detection system based on the analysis of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data. In particular, MIROVA uses the Middle InfraRed Radiation (MIR), measured over target volcanoes, in order to detect, locate and measure the heat radiation sourced from volcanic activity.