Old Caves Crater in Flagstaff, Arizona

Old Caves Crater

TRAIL STATS

Mileage: 3.7
Elevation gain: 660 feet
Time to complete: 2-3 hours
Stars: ★★★½
Difficulty: 1/5 (Ratings explained)
Good trail, easy incline

At the top of the Old Caves Crater cinder cone is a series of small caves that were the last known settlement of the Sinagua people in the area. Dating to 1325, these ruins once featured masonry walls and 70-80 rooms. Some of the caves are bigger than others and feature multiple openings that connect to each other, making a fun place for kids to explore. After visiting the caves, it’s a short hike up to the summit for views of Flagstaff and the surrounding mountains.

This is an archaeological site, and even though it’s already been heavily disturbed, please try not to move any rocks or disturb it further.


Trail Description

Old Caves Crater Trail

From the trailhead, you’ll take an easy walk along a wide, gravelly trail through a nice, shady forest of ponderosa pines.

Old Caves Trail

At the well-signed trail junction, continue straight toward the summit. From that point, the trail begins a series of mild switchbacks, and passes by a tree stump “throne.”

Tree throne on Old Caves Trail

Continue up the switchbacks until you get to a saddle with a nice view down the other side of the crater. This is where the trail forks.

Old Caves

To visit the old caves, turn right at the junction to head up a small hill. Once at the top, go down and to the left to find the caves.

A cave on Old Caves Trail

At first, I thought there were just a few, but if you keep looking around, you’ll find around a dozen! Some of them are large enough to crawl into, and a couple of them even have more than one entrance. It reminded me of a prairie dog town for humans.

Inside one of the caves on Old Caves Trail

Now, I was thinking of giving this hike 4 stars because I thought it was pretty cool to explore this unlikely ancient community, but my daughter called it “holes with some rocks in them.” Huh, I guess it all depends on how much you like history and caves. To up the fun level, I offered her $5 to crawl into this hole and see if it connected to the cave next to it.

Exploring one of the caves on Old Caves Trail

It did!

Old Caves Crater Summit

When you’re done exploring the caves, head back to the saddle and continue up to the summit of the crater where you can get decent views of the surrounding mountains. If you were hoping for a true crater, sorry. It’s just an ordinary hill with vegetation on it.

To make the loop, head down the other side of the crater until you intersect with the Crater Loop Trail. Take a right to make the shorter loop back to where it intersects with the summit trail. Go left there to your car.

Alternative Return Trips

  • Shorter From the summit, go back the way you came
  • Longer Take the Crater Loop Trail to the left instead

Map & Directions

Location Old Caves Crater Trail, Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona

From Flagstaff, take Highway 89 north to Silver Saddle Road. Turn right and follow it to the trailhead.

Fees/Passes None

Trailhead Facilities None

Download KML or GPX


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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!


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