Sunset Crater National Monument reopens road, some trails

The National Park Service partially reopened Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument on Thursday after being closed since the Tunnel Fire began burning in mid-April.

Sunset Crater Loop Road, along with the Lava Flow and A’a trails, are open once more, according to the National Park Service’s website. However, the visitor center, along with Lenox Crater Trail, Lava’s Edge Trail and Cinder Hills Overlook, remain closed for now.

“Most of it is open,” said Chief of Visitor Services for National Park Services in Flagstaff Richard Ullmann. He said the Tunnel Fire especially affected the Lenox Crater Trail, which was completely burned over.

The Tunnel Fire burned 60% of the Sunset Cater National Monument earlier this summer, according to the national monument’s Burned Area Emergency Response & Burned Area Rehabilitation Plan.

A main concern with opening the heavily burned trails is hazard trees, Ullmann said, which means “a tree that has a structural defect that makes it likely to fail,” according to the US Forest Service’s website. The fire-damaged trees pose a safety risk to hikers should they fall.

Additionally, the burned area rehabilitation plan states over a mile of the Lenox Crater Trail was marked using logs, which burned in the fire and have left an unmarked trail as a result.

While the visitor center is safe enough to reopen, Ullmann said it still remains closed simply due to staffing shortages. He said he expects the visitor center to reopen sometime in late September.

“We look forward to reopening the visitor’s center as soon as possible,” Ullmann said.

Ullmann said he would like to thank the public for being patient while they did “a lot of work behind the scenes” to get the park safe enough for visitors once again.

As for people planning a trip to the area, Ullmann said people should enjoy the monument safely and heed the closures.

Reach breaking news reporter Sam Burdette at [email protected] or on Twitter @SuperSafetySam

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