Almost 100 years ago, geologist Daniel Barringer developed a theory. He believed that a meteor had slammed into earth and created the crater just outside of Flagstaff. Those around him did not agree. They felt that the area around Flagstaff was known for its volcanic activity. A volcanic eruption was a better explanation of the crater’s creation. Barringer disagreed and staked a mining claim on the crater. He also began a search for iron and nickel, which he believed laid at the bottom of the crater. Barringer was partially correct about the crater. A meteor had created the crater, however the minerals he was in search of were never discovered. Today the Barringer family has opened the crater for visitors. You can see it for yourself.
Meteor Crater is a gaping hole in the ground, nearly 570 feet deep and more than 4,000 feet in diameter. This hole was made by a several hundred thousand ton meteor, which came crashing to earth at 40,000 mph, nearly 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater is considered to be the best-preserved impact site on earth. The sheer size of this hole is hard to imagine. Try and picture a chasm deep enough for a 60-story building and wide enough for 20 football fields. It is an amazing sight!
The terrain of the crater is similar to that of the moon. This similarity interested NASA and in the 1960’s NASA decided to use the Meteor Crater for training. The Apollo astronauts used the crater as a practice ground for the moon landing.
At Meteor Crater visitors can see exhibits, movies and listen to talks about the crater. Meteor Crater’s Museum of Astrogeology gives a presentation on meteor devastation, along with the role it plays in the study of earth and space science. The largest meteorite ever found in the area is on display to see and touch. Meteor Crater honors the brave Americans who have ventured into space. The Astronaut Hall of Fame commemorates space flight. There are photographs, spacesuits and other exhibits honoring space missions. An Apollo Space Capsule can also be seen at the crater.
One of the most exciting experiences at the crater is the rim walk. The rim itself is about 150 feet above the surrounding plateau and 570 feet above the bottom of the crater. The sides are practically vertical below the rim. You can take the three and a half mile rim trail at the top of the crater, weather permitting. Hikers do need to have the proper footwear for the walk. However, hikers are not permitted into the crater.
Astronaut Park is available for picnics and relaxing after an exciting day at the crater. The gift store has many unique items to take home. There is also a Coffee Shop on the grounds to sit and take in the experience.
Meteor Crater is open all year round. During May 15 through September 15 the hours are 6:00 to 6:00 and during September 16 through May 14 the hours are 8:00 to 5:00. The admission charge is $8.00 for adults, $7.00 for individuals over 60 and $4.00 for children 6 to 17. It is important to allow two hours for your visit to Meteor Crater. If you would like more information, you may call 520-289-2362.
You can get to the crater from Flagstaff by taking Interstate 40 east out of town for 22 miles. Then take exit 233 and follow the signs. It is only minutes south off of Interstate 40. If you are coming from Phoenix or Tucson take Interstate 17 north out of town to Flagstaff. Once in Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east out of town. When you come to exit 233 take it and follow the signs to Meteor Crater. You can get to the crater from Winslow by taking Interstate 40 west out of town for 20 miles. Then follow the signs for the turnoff from the Interstate.