Updated: Oct 2, 2018
While much of Arizona’s natural beauty can be described as otherworldly, there’s one landmark in the state that is, in every sense of the phrase, out of this world. Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater, located just east of Flagstaff, is certainly a sight to behold and should be on the shortlist for anyone looking for things to do in Arizona.
Formed around 50,000 years ago, this meteor strike was actually fairly recent. Many large craters formed by meteors hitting earth have been lost to erosion and natural forces over time, but due to this craters relatively young age, it still serves as a scientific goldmine for geologists. That’s not to say nature hasn’t taken its toll on the formation. Since it was created it has lost about 60 feet in height to erosion. It remains, however, an incredible stop for visitors. Stretching across the landscape with a diameter of almost 4000 feet and descending down 560 feet into the earth’s crust, the canyon created by the meteor is astounding.
Called Diablo Canyon by American settlers in the 19th Century, many assumed it was the result of volcanic eruptions or a steam explosion. It was businessman and investor Daniel Barringer who first suggested it might have been the result of a meteorite impact. He believed if he could find the meteorite that caused the crater he could make a fortune off of selling the iron. Unfortunately, Barringer did not have the knowledge we hold today, otherwise, he would have known that most of the meteorite was vaporized upon impact.
The meteorite that made this natural wonder was about 160 feet across and weighed almost 300,000 tons. At a time when Arizona was lush grasslands and wilderness, instead of the desert we know today, this must have dramatically affected the landscape and ecosystem. There is a museum dedicated not only to the history of the crater but to much of American space exploration as well, located on the rim of the crater.
Regardless of what you are looking to get out of a vacation to Arizona, there are always plenty of things to do. From Phoenix to Flagstaff, and Scottsdale to Tucson, there are a wide array of natural monuments and landmarks that are unlike anything else on earth. Be sure to look into options to explore the desert, like guided tours, ATV rides, or helicopter tours of important sights.