Tres Virgenes

Photo of this volcano
Google Earth icon
  Google Earth Placemark
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 27.47°N
  • 112.591°W

  • 1940 m
    6363 ft

  • 341010
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Tres Virgenes.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Tres Virgenes.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for Tres Virgenes.

Basic Data

Volcano Number

Last Known Eruption



Unknown - Evidence Uncertain

1940 m / 6363 ft


Volcano Types

Lava dome(s)
Pyroclastic cone(s)

Rock Types

Andesite / Basaltic Andesite

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)


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

Geological Summary

The Tres Vírgenes volcanic complex contains the only large stratovolcanoes in Baja California. The roughly 1940-m-high complex rises above the Gulf of California in the east-central part of the peninsula. Three volcanoes, El Viejo, El Azufre, and La Vírgen were constructed along a NE-SW line and are progressively younger to the SW. The youngest volcano, La Vírgen, is an andesitic stratovolcano with numerous dacitic lava domes and lava flows on its flanks. A major plinian explosive eruption from a SW-flank vent was radiocarbon dated at about 6500 years ago, but Helium exposure and Uranium-series dates give a late-Pleistocene age for this event. An ash plume was reported from Tres Vírgenes volcano by a Spanish Jesuit priest while navigating the Gulf of California in 1746. No tephra deposits from such a young eruption have been found, but young undated andesitic lava flows at the summit could potentially be related to this event. A geothermal plant is located at the northern end of the complex near the margin of the Pleistocene El Aguajito caldera.


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

Capra L, Macias J L, Espindola J M, Siebe C, 1998. Holocene plinian eruption of La Virgen volcano, Baja California, Mexico. J Volc Geotherm Res, 80: 239-266.

Mooser F, Meyer-Abich H, McBirney A R, 1958. Central America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 6: 1-146.

Sawlan M G, 1991. Magmatic evolution of the Gulf of California rift. In: Dauphin J P and Simoneit B A (eds) {The Gulf and Peninsular Province of the Californias}, Amer Assoc Petrol Geol Mem, 47: 301-369.

Schmitt A K, Stockli D F, Hausback B P, 2006. Eruption and magma crystallization ages of Las Tres Virgenes (Baja California) constrained by combined 230Th/238U and (U-Th)/He dating of zircon. J Volc Geotherm Res, 158: 281-295.

Eruptive History

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

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1857 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    
[ 1746 May 25 ± 15 days ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    

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.


Virgenes, Volcán las


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Azufre, Volcán el Stratovolcano 1650 m 27° 30' 22" N 112° 35' 0" W
Viejo, El Stratovolcano 1370 m 27° 31' 0" N 112° 36' 0" W
Virgen, La Stratovolcano 1940 m 27° 28' 11" N 112° 35' 28" W

Photo Gallery

Sharp-topped 1650-m-high El Azufre volcano (center) is the central peak of the Tres Vírgenes volcanic complex. Its summit lies about 4 km north of the highest peak of the complex, La Vírgen (left). The small peak on the horizon immediately to the right of El Azufre is 1370-m-high El Viejo, the oldest peak of the southward-younging Tres Vírgenes complex. El Viejo was constructed SW of the Pleistocene El Aguajito caldera, barely visible on the far right horizon. Both El Viejo and El Azufre are composed of dacitic lava domes and flows.

Photo by Marjorie Summers, 1987 (Smithsonian Institution).
The two most prominent peaks of the Tres Vírgenes volcanic complex in central Baja California are seen here from the SSW. The steep-sided peak at the left is 1660-m-high El Azufre, a dacitic lava dome complex. La Vírgen (right), the youngest and highest peak, has a more complex history. This roughly 1940-m-high volcano consists of andesitic lava domes and andesitic flank scoria cones. It has erupted from both summit and flank vents and has produced both plinian explosive eruptions and dacitic and andesitic lava flows.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
A major plinian eruption about 6500 radiocarbon years ago from a vent on the SW flank at about 1400 m elevation produced a widespread pumice-rich fallout deposit and minor pyroclastic surges. The vent is located at the notch on the middle left skyline and was also the source of the 100-m-thick rhyodacitic lava flow that forms the lower left part of the cone. A volcanologist from the National University of México stands in the foreground on a blocky basaltic-andesite lava flow that may have been emplaced late in this eruptive sequence.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The middle unit of the La Vírgen plinian fall deposit displays a massive structure with large pink-colored pumice fragments. This deposit is the product of a plinian explosive eruption that occurred about 6500 radiocarbon years ago during the last major eruption of Tres Vírgenes volcano. The dispersal axis of this more than 1 cu km airfall deposit was to the SW. The eruption also included the emplacement of pyroclastic flows and voluminous lava flows.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
A panoramic view from the SE shows the Tres Vírgenes volcanic group, which is aligned in a SW-NE direction. Volcanism has migrated to the SW from the oldest peak El Viejo (extreme right) through El Azufre to La Vírgen (center), the highest peak. Prominent ridges exposed on the left flank of La Vírgen are rhyodacitic lava flows from the youngest major eruption. The smooth hills in the left foreground are Quaternary ignimbrite sheets probably related to La Reforma, a Pleistocene caldera east of Tres Vírgenes.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The setting sun colors the SSW flank of Tres Vírgenes, the highest volcano in Baja California. Much of the volcano consists of lava domes and viscous lava flows. The protruding hills on the volcano's flanks are the rhyodacitic lava flows associated with the last plinian eruption of the volcano about 6500 years ago. The aligned flat terraces on the plain are underlain by basaltic-andesitic lava flows of Tertiary age. A producing geothermal plant at Tres Vírgenes supplies electricity to the Santa Rosalia grid.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The Tres Vírgenes volcanic complex consists of three stratovolcanoes constructed along a NE-SW line. La Vírgen (the youngest and highest peak) is seen here at the left from the SE, with El Azufre forming the sharp peak at the right and the still older El Viejo forming the low peak at the extreme right. The sparsely vegetated dark lava flow in the center foreground is one of the youngest from La Virgen volcano. A major plinian explosive eruption from a SW-flank vent took place about 6500 years ago and was followed by effusion of a thick lava flow.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The Tres Vírgenes volcanic complex in central Baja California consists of a NE-SW-trending chain of three volcanoes. Volcanism has migrated over time to the SW. This view from the SE shows the intermediate-age volcano, El Azufre, on the right and the highest and youngest volcano, La Vírgen, on the left. The latest major eruption, about 6500 years ago, produced a plinian pumice-fall deposit and thick, viscous lava flows from a SW-flank vent near the notch seen halfway up the volcano's left flank.

Photo by Brian Hausback, 1990 (California State University, Sacramento).
Las Tres Vírgenes volcano is viewed from the SSE along Highway 1. The steep-sided viscous Southwest Coulee (La Vírgen) lava flow is prominent on the left horizon. Lava flows from Mesquital dome (reddish-brown color) are visible in the foreground. This lava dome lies on the lower southern flank of the volcanic complex near the highway.

Photo by Brian Hausback, 1990 (California State University, Sacramento).
Three major Quaternary volcanic complexes are visible in this Landsat satellite image of Baja California. The N-S-trending Las Vírgenes volcanic complex at the left center consists of three southward-younging stratovolcanoes. The dramatic 10-km-wide La Reforma caldera along the Gulf of California coast at the upper right displays dark-colored andesitic outer flanks and a resurgent dome in the center of the caldera. The extensively eroded El Aguajito caldera lies north of Tres Vírgenes and NW of La Reforma and has indistinct margins.

Landsat image (National Aeronautical and Space Administration, processed by Brian Hausback, UC Sacramento).

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

There are no samples for Tres Virgenes in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences Rock and Ore collection.

Affiliated Sites

Large Eruptions of Tres Virgenes 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.