Out and about: Strawberry Crater offers geologic, cultural and historic wonders
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Strawberry Crater is not as well known as Sunset Crater and the trail is one of the lesser known trails in the Flagstaff area, but it is well worth the trek because of its unique landscape, wildlife, plants and Native American history.
Just one warning, the road in is rough and a high clearance vehicle is recommended.
Renamed Strawberry Trail by the U.S. Forest Service, the trail is a short 1.1 mile loop that goes by Strawberry Crater. This crater is so named because the top looks like a strawberry. The trail is short, but the area is ripe for exploration.
On a recent hike with the Arizona Trailblazers, hikers went up and down cinder hills making for a pretty good work out.
The many small hills surrounding Strawberry Crater offer great views of the 1,000-foot top of Strawberry Crater as well as the Painted Desert, Hopi buttes and other mountains.
Michael Humphrey led the hike, but Flagstaff resident Les Cherow and Bill Zimmerman were along for the exploration.
Strawberry Crater Wilderness, one of 90 wilderness areas in Arizona, was established in 1984 and covers 10,141 acres. This wilderness area is best known for its cinder cones and lava flows.
The Coconino National Forest information board at the trailhead states that Navajo and Hopi people claim Strawberry Crater as an important heritage site and that they used Strawberry Crater as a place to herd prey.
Once Sunset Crater erupted, all tribes vacated the area. There were fluctuations in population, but by 1,300 A.D. the population declined.
Before the eruption in 1,064 A.D., Indigenous people lived in groups of two to five pithouses and had larger ceremonial or communal structures. They believe artifacts are from the Sinagua, Kayenta, Cohoina and Hohokam tribes.
This wilderness area appears sparse, but don’t let that fool you as mountain lions, bobcats, coyote, mule deer, elk and pronghorn visit this land.
Snakes are also plentiful in the Strawberry Wilderness including the Hopi rattlesnake, glossy snake, night snake, Arizona Mountain king snake, Sonora Whip snake, Striped whipsnake, Sonora gopher snake, Western Patch-nosed snake and Western Rattlesnake.
Strawberry Crater penstemon and cinders phaceliam are two endangered plants in this wilderness. The trees are mainly pinyon pines and junipers.
The trail leads hikers up the outside wall of the crater and crosses through a gap into the interior bowl.
The Arizona Trailblazers is a statewide hiking group. To see their list of hikes visit their website.
From Flagstaff, take Highway 89 north 19.6 miles to the bottom of a long downgrade. Take Forest Road 546 straight for about five miles. The parking lot is right by a huge powerline.