In the last 3 or 4 years, it feels like we have driven all over the beautiful state of Arizona – my kids love every minute of car rides provided that we stop along the way and grab them hot chocolate (in the winter months), or ice cream in the summer months.
Never, ever buy your kids ice cream on a road trip. You would think that after 5 kids I would know better, but obviously I’m stupid and keep falling for it again and again.
One of our favorite places to go on an Arizona road trip is the Meteor Crater up in Winslow – just a few miles outside of Flagstaff. If you haven’t had the chance to go up there it’s definitely worth a drive – integrate the trip with a trip to Flagstaff to play in the snow, or take your kids to the Lowell Observatory one night, too!
The Meteor Crater is located 9 miles off I-40 and is privately owned – the area surrounding the crater (300,000+ acres) is also privately owned.
You can visit the Meteor Crater any time of the year – but from experience, you probably want to go up there in the fall/winter when the weather is cooler. Though we have been in the summer, the actual tour of the crater is cut short due to the hot temps – and this is definitely an opportunity you want to take the full guided tour (not a shortened one!)
Although the cost of admission is rather high, it’s an incredible sight and worth every penny! They do offer significant discounts – AAA, Military and Seniors, that make it quite affordable. Our family of 7 was $54.00 and I thought it was rather fair considering it was such a wonderful sight to see.
The actual Apollo test capsule and American Astronaut Wall of Fame are the highlights of the Astronaut Memorial Park outside the Subway and the gift shop there on site.
Facts about the Meteor Crater
If you are looking to tour the crater with your family, know that it is a wonderful learning opportunity for kids of all ages. From geography to history, and astronomy, your children will pick up interesting bits of knowledge from a tour that they will remember years from now.
- The Meteor Crater (also known as the Barringer Crater) is 3,900 feet in diameter and 560 feet in depth. It’s surrounded by a rim that rises 148 feet above the surrounding plains.
- The center of the crater is filled with about 700 ft of rubble lying above the bedrock. Each year, the crater gets a little more shallow as dust blows from the neighboring prairie – they suspect that 1/16th of an inch is added to the crater each year. Eventually, many thousands of years from now, the crater will no longer be visible.
- The crater is often referred to as the Barringer Crater, in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was the first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact. The crater is actually privately owned by the Barringer family through the Barringer Crater Company – it is the best preserved meteorite crater on Earth.
- Believe it or not, the crater is not protected as a national monument as that would require federal ownership. It is, however, designated as a National Natural Landmark (since 1967).
- It was in 1903 that Daniel Barringer suggested that the crater had been produced by a meteorite — at the time, his company (the Standard Iron Company) staked a mining claim to that land and received a land patent signed by Theodore Roosevelt – the claim was divided into four quadrants coming from the center.
- In the year 1906, Theodore Roosevelt authorized the establishment of a new post office, named Meteor, Arizona (the next furthest post office was 30 miles away in Winslow).
Admission price includes 3 lookout points on the rim of the crater, telescopes on the viewing platforms, guided rim tour (weather permitting), an Interactive Discovery Center, theater showing the movie “IMPACT” twice per hour, as well as a guided tour on the rim of the crater.
Cost of Admission:
• Adults $18.00
• Seniors $16.00 (age 60 years and over)
• Juniors $9.00 (age 6 through 17 years)
• 5 and under are free
• Non-Active Duty U.S Military/Veterans (with I.D.) $9.00
• U.S. Military Youth (age 6-17) $5.00
• Active U.S. Military (with I.D.) FREEj
The Meteor Crater is open year round, but hours vary depending on time of the year:
- Open May 27 – Labor Day, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Non-Summer Hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thanksgiving Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Closed Christmas Day
Get there early for the best tour!
The full guided tour in the non-summer months affords you the opportunity to see the old mining camp, and mining tunnel (viewable from the opening but closed for full entrance) and a picture opportunity at the rim from the guide host.
Kids will enjoy the opportunity to see old cans and mining equipment from the mine entrance (now closed!)
What to Know Before You Go:
- Bring your walking shoes and a camera – you won’t want to miss the opportunity to grab as many pictures as you can!
- The last guided tour in the non-summer months is just around 2 or 2:15 p.m. – – plan to get there by 1 pm so you take photos and tour the museum there on site. They also have a historical video that is 10 minutes in length that you can watch in the theater before the tour.
- Small children can go – but they have to stay on the trail. Make sure they have comfortable shoes because they will be doing a significant amount of walking.
- I suggest a baby carrier if you have a smaller child, although you can probably take a stroller on the guided tour, I wouldn’t bring it with.
- The guided tour can get incredibly windy… which can make for a chilly tour in the winter so bring a jacket! Prepare to lose your hat, and if you have long hair, it’s best tied back.
- The guided tour is about one mile in length and lasts for one hour. If you go in the summer months, the tour is significantly shorter as it’s too hot to take people the full distance.
- There is no access to the bottom and your only access is to the guided tour around the rim.
- The local tour guide is more than happy to take your photo (or family photo) throughout the tour so you can remember the experience.
- Stay at the Meteor Crater RV park to receive a discount on tickets.
- They have a Subway on site if you get hungry – and a wonderful gift shop available adjacent to Subway for any memorabilia you wish to buy.
If picking up Subway is not in the plans for your family, you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch instead – just note that the bathrooms are strategically located past the gift shop and past Subway :)
The actual Meteor Crater is a no-fly zone – as the hot, thin air can cause a loss of lift and a drop in altitude. Despite the area being a no-fly zone, you will occasionally still see aircraft fly above. In 1964, a plane took off from Winslow after refueling and crashed in the Meteor Crater – the two men who were involved in the crash were seriously injured and the remains of that plane can still be seen at the bottom of the crater today.
Have you toured the Meteor Crater?