Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Labor Day Part I

Initially, Will and I had completely different plans for our Labor Day weekend.  When they ended up falling through, we were at a little bit of a loss and ended up on a little impromptu road trip up north to Flagstaff, Williams, and the Grand Canyon.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Your girl, who is not a planner, pulled through in the clutch and did all of the research about the Grand Canyon, including where to stay, what to hike, and where to stop along the drive.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I did a pretty dang good job.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

If you want to read about other National Parks Will and I have visited, click here!  When we had only been dating for about four months, we picked up a couple National Parks Passports at the Blueridge Parkway in North Carolina.  It became our mission to stamp our passports at as many parks as possible over the coming years.  So far, we are killing it in Arizona.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Visiting Sunset Crater Volcano was a great look into how volcanos, earth quakes, and volcanic eruptions can drastically change a landscape.  Similar to Mount St Helens in Washington, Sunset Crater once erupted in what would later become Flagstaff, Arizona.  Luckily, the locals at the time appeared to get the gist about what was going to happen and got out of dodge well in advance.  

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

There are several hikes around the volcano to view more of the volcanic rock and ecosystem around the mountain.  Will and I picked a short one miler since we had been driving all day and were eager to get to our hotel.

The Lava Flow Trail is paved and explores the “Bonita Lava Flow,” along with “numerous volcanic features while walking at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano.”  For more information, visit the National Park’s website here.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

The trail we chose is just a short drive past the Visitor Center, where we learned more about the people who once inhabited this area of Arizona, as well as what the volcano may have looked like back in the day.  

We loved getting to peek at the wide array of volcanic rock and dust that still dominates the landscape surrounding the volcano.  We could see high up on the mountain where old trails still leave scars upon the mountainside.  Hiking and climbing is no longer allowed on the crater site in order to preserve and protect it.

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We spent an hour or so on the trail, taking in the landscape and learning about the crater, before we hopped in the car and drove an hour to Williams, Arizona.  We checked into our hotel and headed out to spend the evening at the Grand Canyon Brewery for some delicious steaks.  That night we turned in early so that we could get up super early the following morning to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.

Never fear—that blog post is coming soon.  Hoping you all have great weekends and praying for everyone in the Carolinas right now!  Praying over the impact of Hurricane Florence!

Don’t forget to give this post a like if you enjoyed it and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Until next time,
Jamie out

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Read More:
Labor Day Part II Labor Day Part III

Chiricahua National Monument

Part two in our exploration of Arizona’s National Parks.

We have discovered not only that there are a plethora of parks in Arizona, but that a good amount of them are perfect for day trips.  National Parks are incredible preservations of nature, often highlighting a significant aspect of American culture and encouraging people to explore natural rock formations, caves, mountains, lakes, and forests.  

The National Parks of Arizona have yet to let us down.  We last visited the Coronado National Memorial where we  learned about the Spanish and Mexican influence in our culture and explored a 600 foot deep cave.  This time, we grabbed our passports and our friends and drove a few hours away to see some pretty spectacular rock formations.

Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument

The monument was created in 1924.  The Chiricahua Mountains are an inactive volcanic range surrounded by desert grasslands.  The monument is in a particularly exquisite area that once experienced quite violent volcanic activity.  The ash formed into rocks and through the passing of time, incredible rock formations, forests, and wildlife have created an ecosystem that is worth venturing out to see.  

Chiricahua National Monument

Our first stop was in the Visitor Center to stamp our passports.  All of the National Parks should have a stamp station, and additionally should have passports on sale if you don’t have one already!  Our friends J and M picked one up!  The stamps always have the name of the park and the date you visit so it’s an awesome way to keep track of where you’ve been and have a memento that lasts a lifetime.

Chiricahua National Monument

We spent a little time in the Visitor Center perusing their prickly pear jam selection, as well as learning about the local plant and animal life.  Apparently the rocks of the Chiricahuas are called “rhyolite” and the monument was created to protect them.  

We planned a three mile hike so that we could see many of the rock formations, which sometimes tower hundreds of feet into the air.  

Chiricahua National Monument

Echo Canyon Loop Trail

There is an iconic rock formation known as “Pinnacle Balanced Rock” that is probably the most photographed feature of the park.  Unfortunately, it is over a seven mile hike to see it and this girl had not brought enough snacks (or let’s face it, leg muscles) to brave that trek.

However, the incredible and totally reasonable Echo Canyon Loop Trail worked perfectly with our 1:30pm arrival time and promised to show off the features of the park spectacularly well.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

Beyond the rock formations, there are plenty of faults, lava flows, and other caves to explore along the route.  Our friend J got extremely excited about the prospect of bouldering and quickly talked everyone into climbing on basically everything.  Let’s just say, it took us a little over three hours to go three miles.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

None of us could get over the rock formations.  Everywhere you turned there was a valley of spires, balancing boulders, or tumbling caves and formations with jagged pieces.  It was red and brown and orange.  It was just stunning.  I couldn’t put my camera away.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

According to the National Parks website, the “Apaches called this place ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks,’” and one can see why.

Chiricahua National Monument

This crevice was super cool!  As we hiked down into a valley, we felt an incredible wind whipping through this formation.  It was great to stand right in the opening and feel a fierce cold wind on a hot summer day in the desert.

Chiricahua National Monument Chiricahua National Monument

This park is such a treasure.

Chiricahua National Monument

We found some water!  The summer monsoons have greened up the countryside and left their evidence in a little bit of running water through the mountains.  We also spotted a snake at the bottom of this little creek.

Chiricahua National Monument

We’re not sure what this plant was, but it was growing out of some kind of cactus and grew super tall.  They lined one part of the trail.

Chiricahua National Monument

Guys, I seriously suggest that you check out a National Park close to you.  There are some seriously cool things in nature that are worth the time and effort it takes to see and experience them.

If you liked this post, let us know down below with a like or a comment and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Coronado National Memorial

A lot of people love going on adventures.  Often times they are small—making a run to the gas station for ice cream, only to find that they’re closed and instead of admitting defeat, you run all around town searching for your favorite treat.  Sometimes the adventures are quite large—a honeymoon to Maine or an Alaskan cruise.

When it comes to adventures, Will and I really enjoy National Parks.

Will used to work for the Utah Conservation Corps, which means that he lived and worked outdoors while working conservation projects around the state.  I say this to impress upon you how much he loves and is accustomed to backpacking, camping, hiking, and the great outdoors.  He grew up in a state that has Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, to name only a few.  

I grew up in a family that loved camping, albeit most of the time in a tent-trailer.  “Glamping,” some might call it.  My sister and I begrudgingly joined in on hikes and it wasn’t until after college that I started to love them.  

I took a trip with my family to the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina a few years ago and found some National Parks Passports at their visitor center.  The passports are like any passport, except that they’re to National Parks, not to other countries.  Every National Park has an visitor center and a stamp station for the passports.  

Being of limited means, I eyed the passports longingly and then left.  A couple years later, I took Will back to the same spot and we each picked up a passport, deciding that our new life goals were going to be filling them up with stamps.

Arizona, we are happily discovering, is FULL of National Parks for us to explore.

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

The Coronado National Memorial is one beautiful contribution to the National Parks community.  Located along the border of Arizona and Mexico, it climbs up from the valley and into the Huachuca Mountains.  Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado conducted the first expedition into the southwest in 1540 and the memorial serves to recognize the ties that bind the United States and Mexico.  Check out this website if you want to learn more about the “journey of conquest filled with exploration, wonder—and cruelty” that the europeans and Aztecs experienced.

Interestingly to myself and William, the memorial was established on November 5, 1952.  He and I met on November 5, 2016, so it’s always a date that sticks out to us.  (If you want to read about how we met, click here)

Coronado National Memorial

The Visitor Center

Our first stop was, obviously, to stamp our passports.  

The visitor centers has a small exhibit that mostly talks about the blending of cultures, emphasizing food and spices and highlighting the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos).  They also have a cute little book store!

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God bless the Spanish for brining coffee and cacao beans.  

There are no entrance fees for Coronado National Memorial, by the way, so it’s a super easy trip!  It’s only half an hour from Sierra Vista and has a couple hiking trails and a lot of picnic tables.  

Coronado National Memorial

Coronado Cave Trail

Unlike our recent trip to Bisbee, we were smart enough to do a little bit of research before we visited the park.  We discovered that there is a cave trail leading to a 600 foot deep cave that hikers are welcome and encouraged to explore.  You don’t need a permit, but it is encouraged for explorers to get information at the visitor center.  

The trailhead is just a short drive from the visitor center and it’s a half mile hike up the mountain.  See—THIS is why I’m working out five days a week.  So that I can climb half a mile up a mountain and survive!  Haha!  (I’m only half joking, by the way.)

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

Also, more advice—Arizona is HOT.  If it’s going to be in the mid to upper 90s, don’t hike after 10am.  We were lucky that it was only about 89 degrees that day and therefore we had until about 2pm to get all of our hiking in.  Heat stroke is real, people!

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

The Coronado Cave

600 feet long, about 70 feet wide at most spots, and home to a select few stalactites and stalagmites, this was one of the coolest caves I’ve ever been in (without a tour guide).  

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

Literally.  So much fun.

We climbed down the rocks (pictured above) and then took a few minutes to get our flashlights situated before heading in deeper.  

It is PITCH BLACK inside of that cave, y’all.  Will gave me the head lamp and he used a flashlight.  I was surprised at how massive the cave felt, especially with our limited light sources.  We climbed all around and explored a lot of side tunnels, but mainly kept to the real deal.  It was so much fun!  And a lot cooler than outside in the sunshine, that’s for sure.

At one point we turned off all of our lights to just sit in the dark.  It was nuts.  I couldn’t handle it.  I just kept picturing the creatures from the movie The Descent and had to turn my head lamp back on.  

Coronado National Memorial Coronado National Memorial

After a proper adventure and exploring all of the nooks and crannies, we climbed back out feeling excited and accomplished.  The half mile hike back to our car felt like nothing.

After spotting some deer who were crossing the road, we got back in the car and drove the winding road up to the Coronado Peak to sneak some views of the canyon before we had to head home.

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The valley is definitely greener than normal because of monsoon season.  I’m not complaining, though.  Apparently they get to experience all four season at Coronado.  I would love to see this place with some snow.

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Honestly, we have nothing but good things to say about the Coronado National Memorial.  We had a great time!  We’re super glad that we looked it up ahead of time, otherwise we would not have been prepared for the cave trail.  Ending the trip with a windy drive up the mountain followed by a view of the valley was perfect.  

Do you like exploring caves or do you get freaked out by the dark?  

Until next time,
Jamie out

Coronado National Memorial
We aren’t dorks at all.