50.000 years ago, a meteorite hit the dry desert plain of Central Arizona destroying everything around and creating an impressive moon-like crater. Take a walking tour of the crater, see the museum and the visitor center. A fun family-friendly activity for anyone interested in astronomy. 

Fun facts

Did you know that when a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere at hight speed and vaporises (it turns into a  big fireball, or shooting star) it is called a meteor. If the meteoroid survives its burning trip through the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed on the surface of the Earth, it is then called a meteorite. So Meteor Crater should actually be called Meteorite Crater. 

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50.000 years ago, a nickel-iron meteorite traveling at the speed of 8 mps (12.8 kmps) hit the dry desert plain of the Colorado Plateau in Central Arizona. The impact sent shockwaves similar to those of an earthquake through the ground destroying everything around the area and creating a moon-like crater that is just under 1 mile (1.5km) wide and 560 feet (170m) deep. Meteor Crater, or Canyon Diablo, is also called Barringer Crater after the scientist who studied it in the 20th century and attributed its origin to a meteorite and not to a volcanic eruption. 

Based on the studies and data collected from the area, it is believed that no tribe lived in the vicinity and that only animals such as mammoths, bison, camels, giant ground sloths and horses suffered and died because of the impact, while the flat layer of the open grassland and woodlands that was the Colorado Plateau at the time was blasted into tons of rock that created the rim we can walk on and visit today. 


Unlike many other craters around the world, the Barringer Crater hasn’t suffered much from natural erosion since its formation thanks to two factors: the dry terrain where it lies and the fact that it is considered quite young by geologists and scientists. It is for this reason that it still looks like craters found on the moon which makes it an interesting and fascinating sight to visit. As a matter of tact, Apollo astronauts used this particular crater as a training base to prepare for their missions on the moon. 

Name: Meteor Crater or Barringer Crater

Location: Interstate 40, exit 233 in Winslow, 40 miles (60km) East of Flagstaff. There is an RV park 5 miles from the visitor center. 

Duration: Allow at least 2 hours for the guided tour of the crater and the interactive Collision! 4D experience, the movie and access to the Discovery Center 

Difficulty: easy

What to take: sun cream and hiking shoes for the guided tour of the rim

Lodgings: RV park 5 miles (7.5km) from the crater

How to get there: by car or through an organized tour from Flagstaff. Coming from Flagstaff on Interstate 40, take exit 233 onto Meteor Crater Road, carry on for about 5 miles (7.5km) to the visitor center.If you do not have a vehicle, some companies organise tours including Meteor Crater, along with the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert such as Tour The Southwest, The American Roadtrip Company or Touch The Southwest 

Why is it for you: It is a cheap family-friendly activity located close to Flagstaff and will be interesting to anyone with a bit of imagination and an interest for astronomy and space in general

Sherpa Sam’s recommendation: “This is a great activity not far from Flagstaff that you can easily squeeze into your planning while visiting the Grand Canyon because it’s only a couple of hours long”.

Price: $22 for adults, $20 for Seniors, Non-Active Duty military and veterans, $13 for Juniors (6 to 12 years old) and free for Active Duty Military

What is included: Access to the Discovery Center, to the museum, “IMPACT, The Mystery of Meteor Crater” movie, Collision! 4D Experience, views of the meteor crater from an observation deck with 3 lookout points, and a guided rim tour (weather permitting). There is also a restaurant called Blasted Bistro. 

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm year-round except on Christmas Day 

Note: Drones are not allowed. Meteor Crater is a private property and belongs to the Barringer Meteor Crater company, which means that visiting the crater is not free, nor it is allowed to hike or camp in or near the crater. The bottom of the crater is also not accessible even on the guided tour. 

Grand Canyon Sherpa

Sherpa Sam

Tempe, Arizona 85284

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© 2020 Grand Canyon Sherpa 

Photography courtesy of Burt Williams