A Day Trip to the Arizona Meteor Crater National Landmark

Arizona Meteor Crater

I don’t know if you are aware, but there is a massive hole in the Northern Arizona earth. It is so cool that people from all over the world travel just to marvel at it!

This hole is commonly referred to as the Arizona Meteor Crater, Barringer Space Museum, The Barringer Crater, and so on. It was created over 50,000 years ago when a meteorite traveling 26,000 miles per hour struck the ground with forces greater than 2 1/2 million tons of TNT!

This National Landmark holds a ton of history just waiting to be explored. You don’t even need to be a science buff to enjoy it for the Barringer Space Museum has a little something for everyone.

A day trip to the Arizona Meteor Crater is all it takes to explore around and learn something new. In this post you’ll learn what to do at the Meteor Crater, fun facts about the crater, and tips to make the most of your visit.

Looking for more to do in the area? Visit BEST things to do when visiting Winslow, Arizona for ideas.

Arizona Meteor Crater

Where is the Arizona Meteor Crater?

The Meteor Crater is located in Northern Arizona off the I-40 about 30 minutes from downtown Winslow and 45 minutes East of Flagstaff. Some would say this is in the middle of nowhere yet it is easy to find and not that far out of the way if you’re traveling along the I-40 or Route 66.

Flat, rocky, and sandy landscapes surround the impact site for miles. There is not much else nearby so be sure you’re gassed up and have water in the car!

Arizona Meteor Crater

4 Fun Facts About Arizona Meteor Crater

When I visited the Meteor Crater I wasn’t expecting to be surprised with such interesting facts. I had no idea that there was more to it than just being a massive hole in the ground. Needless to say- my inner nerd is about to come out because I’m excited to share with you 4 facts I thought were most interesting.

1. the meteor crater had a lake

Over 50,000 years ago when the iron-nickel meteorite struck Northern Arizona it created a cavity 3/4 of mile wide and 750 feet deep. The impact devestated the forest surrounding it. But over time the trees grew back and a lake formed at the bottom of the crater!

This allowed sediments to accumulate and fill in the cavity, which is why today the crater is now 550 feet deep.

2. there are mine shafts at the bottom

After the meteorite impacted earth, a geologist by the name of Grove Kari Gilbert visted the crater to study it. He came to the conclusion that the crater was the result of an explosion, not an impact.

But when a man by the name of Daniel M. Barringer learned of it’s existence, he came up with a theory of his own- the crater is an impact site and the meteorite was partly made of iron. To prove his theory correct and become wealthy in the process, he created The Standard Iron Company and began mining at the bottom of the crater. They ended up digging so deep they reached the water table which flooded the mine shaft and halted operations.

Eventually Barringer proved his theory correct- that it was in fact an impact site- but had nothing to show for it because he never ended up finding the meteorite and nearly ended up bankrupt in the process.

Today, the Barringer family still owns the Arizona Meteor Crater and the network of mine shafts at the base.

3. the NASA astronauts train at the crater

The rugged and deep terrain of the Arizona Meteor Crater echoes the surface of the moon, making it the perfect location for NASA astronauts to train. In fact, it was used by the astronauts preparing for the first moon landing, including Neil Armstrong.

As suspected, the Barringer Crater has a strong relationship with NASA and allows them to still use the impact site for training today.

4. A PLANE CRASHED AT THE BOTTOM

In 1964 two pilots in a Cessna 150 flew over the crater rim but the plane never made it out in one piece.

The plane couldn’t maintain level flight once in the crater. The pilots attempted to turn around but when the plane was trying to climb back out it stalled and crashed into the crater catching on fire.

Luckily the pilots survived but they were badly injured. Parts of the plane were extracated but it was more difficult than planned. Today, parts of the plane remain and can be seen from the rim.

There are several theories on why planes cannot fly over the Meteor Crater, one being that it creates a wind vortex.

Things to do at the Arizona Meteor Crater

The Meteor Crater has been privately owned by the family of Daniel M. Barringer since 1902 when he first began mining for iron in the meteorite. Over the years the Barringer family have built facilities to enhance visitor experience at the crater.

When visiting you have the choice of viewing the crater from an air conditioned building, outside on an observation deck, or by walking along the rim itself. But, there are other things to do than just simply look at the Arizona Meteor Crater. Check them out below!

Visitor Tips

  • Visit as early in the day as possible. Strong winds usually arrive mid-day and the rim will be closed if they are too strong.
  • Take the free guided rim tour. You’ll get to stand on the rim, get better views, and learn a ton of interesting and useful facts from the guide.
  • If you plan on using a camera other than your phone make sure you have a wide angle lens. The Meteor Crater is much larger than you think!
Arizona Meteor Crater

Guided Tours

My favorite part about the experience and #1 suggestion is to take the free guided tour along the rim. It is the only way you’ll get access to walk on the edge of the crater!

The guide I had during my visit was extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and fun. He provided us with information we otherwise would not have learned about.

The walk is roughly 30-40 minutes long and rated easy.

4D Theatre

This one the kids will love! The 4D theatre takes you on an exciting journey into space and your job is to complete the mission at hand. The theatre is full of special effects to enhance your journey- motion seats with “steam” that is released and more.

Barringer Space Museum

discovery center & space Museum

The Discovery Center is a hands-on, immersive learning experience and worth stopping by. It made the learning experience much more fun!

At the Space Museum you’ll get to learn the history of the Berringer family, Arizona Meteor Crater, and other impact sites and sightings from around the globe.

Both areas were done very well and provide a lot of history and knowledge for those who are interested.

Barringer Space Museum Gift Shop

Gift Shop

What is a National Landmark without a gift shop? This large gift shop is stocked full of quirky, fun gifts that both kids and adults will enjoy. Of course T-shirts and books are among the items sold, both of which I decided to pick up!

Apollo 11 Test Capsule

Apollo 11 Test Capsule

Right outside the entrance to the Meteor Crater is an Apollo 11 test capsule which was used for training by the NASA astronauts! Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins are among those who used the crater as their training site before stepping on the moon.

Arizona Meteor Crater

Can you go to the bottom of the Meteor Crater?

Years ago hiking to the bottom of the Arizona Meteor Crater was possible. This would have required a very narrow, steep, and rocky climb down and back up. But it has since been shut down, leaving access only to the NASA astronauts for training exercises.

Today, visitors can get closest to the crater by taking a free guided tour along the rim. The tour will allow you to walk a short portion of the path, allowing you to stand (almost) on the edge and get some great photos!

Are pets allowed at the Arizona Meteor Crater?

Our furry companions are like an extension of our family and the Arizona Meteor Crater gets that. While they aren’t allowed in any of the facilities or on the rim of the crater, they do provide a Pet Ramada and Dog Run!

A lot of us travel with our pets and the Meteor Crater is the perfect road side attraction. It will only take you a couple hours to explore the area, so while you’re doing so your pet can sit in the shade under a kenneled ramada or run around in the dog run. A staff member will even babysit them for you!

Cost: $15 per pet

Camping at the Arizona Meteor Crater RV Park

If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby consider the RV park. The Meteor Crater RV park is located right at the corner of I-40 and Meteor Crater Road- the road that leads you to the crater and attractions. It is close in proximity and not too far from Winslow or Flagstaff.

The park is child and pet friendly! They even have 2 off-leash dog runs for your furry companion(s).

You can check out their website for more information!

Arizona Meteor Crater

Is the Arizona Meteor Crater worth it?

When I visited the Meteor Crater I had actually planned a day trip from Phoenix. It was about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive one way. Was it worth driving that far just for the crater? I’d say yes!

The National Landmark has built facilities to reprieve visitors from the sun and allow immersive learning experiences on top of viewing the crater for themselves. All of the amenities combined provided plenty to occupy us for a couple of hours, plus learning the history was fascinating to me!

If you’re thinking of driving up for the day from Phoenix, or from Flagstaff, I say go for it. And if you’ll be driving by during your Route 66 road trip, I say definitely make this a stop of yours. Hope you enjoy your visit!

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I’d love to hear from you!

Have you visited the Arizona Meteor Crater before, or are you planning a visit in the future? Share in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “A Day Trip to the Arizona Meteor Crater National Landmark

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Kara. I did visit the Crater a few years ago and like you, found it very interesting. There are always things about places like this that you would never know apart from a visit. Pictures do not do justice to the size of the crater.

    Keep trekking on,

    Tom

    • Kara says:

      Hi Tom!
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. Glad to hear you’ve visited and enjoyed the Meteor Crater too. You’re right- pictures don’t do it justice. I wish I had a better way of capturing it…but also it is just better if people see for themselves 😛

      Hope you and the family are doing well!

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