Meteor Crater Natural Landmark.

Located approximately 35 miles east of Flagstaff, in north-central Arizona, sits a giant hole in the ground that should make it onto any decent “Interstate 40 Must-See Road Trip List”. Simply called Meteor Crater, it’s privately owned by the Barringer family, who claim it to be the “best preserved and first proven meteor crater on Earth”. Despite numerous attempts to switch to government ownership and deem it a public landmark, it remains privately owned. Therefore, it cannot be declared a National Monument and will remain a Natural Landmark, which it was designated in 1967. Overall, it’s super cool and well worth a visit.

Thought to be created around 50,000 years ago, scientists believe the meteor impacted the planet at approximately 26,000 miles per hour, about 18 miles west of Winslow (Standin’ on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona.) and 37 miles east of Flagstaff (the largest nearby city). The impact sent chunks flying at least 13 miles out, landing in nearby Cañon Diablo. This is where the largest chunk was found, the Holsinger Fragment, which is prominently on display at the visitor center (please see picture below).

Sitting only about 10 miles off I-40, it’s open daily from 8am to 5pm. It costs $27 for adults, $25 for seniors (age 60+), $18 for kids (6-13), and those under 6 are free. They also offer a military discount to veterans at $18 per ticket and active-duty military is free.

There’s a large gift shop, theater with an educational video on a loop, and a small museum worth a visit. There are also several observation decks available to the public to walk freely on, located at different elevations and angles. Some have immovable telescopes directed at different points of interests, like the 6-foot-tall astronaut and giant American flag at the bottom of the crater, both of which look minuscule. They also offer a walking tour with an employee guide, which takes you to viewpoints otherwise inaccessible. While the guided tour is nice, it certainly has its pros and cons.

A portion of the trail around the crater that is only accessible while on the guided tour.

Pros: You are granted access to a part of the crater rim that is not accessible unless on the tour; you will hear history and information directly from the guide; and it’s included with the admission ticket, so it’s simply something fun to do.

Cons: It’s not that much further out than the observation decks, maybe only 0.2 miles (even though the paved trail extends much further); the groups are quite large (30+), making it very difficult to hear the guide; and it may be extremely windy, which makes it almost impossible to hear unless you are directly in front of the guide.

Video taken while on the guided tour. You can see and hear how windy it was.

All in all, I’d still recommend it, as it’s included with admission and it affords you a view you cannot get otherwise (although, to be completely honest, it’s not too different). It’s just nice to be aware of everything going in. 🙂

Overall, if you’re ever in the Southwest or Phoenix area, or perhaps passing through via 1-40 on a roadie, I highly suggest a stop at the Meteor Crater. It’s about 2.2 hours northeast of Phoenix, 45 minutes east of Flagstaff, and 30 minutes west of Winslow. It takes approximately 1-2 hours to visit, depending on how long you want to stay and whether you take the tour or watch the in-house video, making it a very doable road trip stop. Come and see the world’s (allegedly) first proven and best preserved meteor crater!

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