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The Cinder Hills OHV area is located east of Highway 89 and south of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, approx. 12 miles northeast of Flagstaff.
- Take I-17 North to I-40 East
- On I-40, take Exit 201
- Turn on to US89 North (actually North East)
- Go approx 7 or 8 miles (you will pass a Cevron on the left to indicate you are close) to Forest Road (FS) 776
- Turn right onto the Forest Road and follow that back to the Cinders
- About 4.5 miles in will be a turn off (it's hard to find sometimes) that you can follow to the red bowl that many people use as a base camp
About 1000 years ago, give or take, this area exploded in a volcanic eruption that left black and red cinders pilled high and deep. The landscape is very different from anything most people have seen before. So much so, the Apollo astronauts trained here for their expeditions with the lunar rover! With a backdrop of Humphrey's peak, there are huge red and black cinder cones all over the place contrasted by huge Ponderosa pine trees.
Many people have visited Sunset Crater National Monument but didn't even know that in the same park there is a ton of camping and Off-Roading to be done. The area comprises approximately 13,500 acres, with trails and open riding for all types of off-road vehicle activities. Driving here is a lot like driving on sand, with a lot less traction (you will find yourself spinning your wheels often). Most of the cinders are just small lava rocks with edges that love to get caught in your breaks and squeal for half the ride home. If it's dry you can expect some dust, but if you are lucky it will rain a little to keep the dust down and the traction up. Our favorite place to make base camp is near the first red bowl. It's easy enough to get to that one person we know of drove his rear wheel drive S-10 to the camp spot, but far enough from the road that it's pretty empty of other campers.
Though not required, it's probably a good idea to bring a GPS here. There are very few set trails with no markers to help you back to camp once you get turned around. As one person I talked to said "I've been here 6 years in a row and still get lost back there". With all of the other tracks it can be difficult to find your own tracks to follow back.
If you can make it to Flagstaff, we highly recommend wheeling here. The views are increadible, the weather nice (assuming no hail storm) and with no trail restrictions it's always makes for a fun day or three.
Rating - Easy to Hard depending on what you want to make of it.
September 25, 2004 - Good camping, bad wheeling
August 02, 2003 - Campbell Enterprises Outing
July 19, 2003 - July Cinders Run