How to get there: From downtown Flagstaff, head east on I-40 BUS/US-180 for 3 miles. Continue north onto Highway 89 and follow it for 12 miles. Follow the signs for Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (F.R. 545). Follow the paved road for 5.5 miles. You have to pass through a national monument toll booth but if you tell the ranger you’re doing O’Leary Peak trail, you shouldn’t have to pay entrance fees. The trail leaves the loop road to the left, just past the Cinder Hills Overlook
The trail: O’Leary Peak trail heads northeast from Sunset Crater Loop Road. It remains fairly wide and surprisingly smooth. The trail immediately goes from pavement to volcanic cinders – however, they are well packed so you won’t bog down. After 1.3 miles, the trail turns west towards O’Leary Peak. The road goes downhill as it twists and turns around a few small hills. At around 2.2 miles, you’ll cross a low point that is surprisingly scenic. This trail doesn’t get a lot of traffic and it is around this point you can appreciate that. A simple track through the black volcanic cinders, green pines everywhere, and tall cinder cones towers over you.
The trail turns back north at 2.5 miles. While there are a few rocky sections where trees get close to the trail, it is easy to go quick on this trail. Around 4.8 miles is when you reach the lowest point of the trail, about 6,200’ and the road becomes a mix of gravel and volcanic cinders. The trail begins to head northwest and comes to a junction with F.R. 779 at 6.0 miles. Stay left here. F.R. 546 continues west as it begins to climb again. It remains mostly smooth with some washboards as you get closer to Highway 89. Stay straight at 7.9 miles where F.R. 9124C goes left. 9124C is a more difficult trail that eventually connects back to Sunset Crater Loop Road. Stay straight again at 8.4 miles unless you want to get back to Sunset Crater. Here F.R. 545B goes south 5.5 miles back to Sunset Crater. It provides an alternate, and easy way to get back to the start of the trail. F.R. 546 continues downhill until it reaches Highway 89 at 9.5 miles. This is the end of the road. Straight will take you along F.R. 417 and 514 to Highway 180. The Grand Canyon and Page are to the right, Flagstaff is to the left.
Summary/Trail Ratings: Overall, this 9.5 mile trail around O’Leary Peak is easy and provides a unique chance to drive on volcanic cinders. Allow for 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete the trail. There are no facilities along the trail other than those at Sunset Crater National Monument. We’ve rated this trail a ‘3’ out of 10. It isn’t hard at all but it is a backcountry road unsuitable for passenger cars. You’ll need high-clearance for some of the rocky sections but most of this trail is very smooth and easygoing. This trail may be closed during the winter depending on the amount of snow. O’Leary Peak trail is a very scenic road you should try out to get away from the crowds and experience a unique landscape of Arizona.
Status: Open/Seasonal | Trail Type: One way | Length: 9.5 miles one way | Approx. Time: 30 min. - 1 hour
On O’Leary Peak Trail, leave Sunset Crater Loop Road and head northwest along a surprisingly smooth and quiet trail as it passes through the volcanic hills near O’Leary Peak. Take easy dirt roads to get back to Highway 89 at the north end of the trail or take a more challenging road back to Sunset Crater.
Page last updated: 8/1/2015