Winslow, Ariz.—A side trip really worth considering when visiting the Grand Canyon features the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth! Located 35 miles east of Flagstaff, Meteor Crater carved out a bowl an astonishing 700 feet deep and 4,000 feet in diameter when it slammed into the planet some 50,000 years ago.
Traveling at supersonic speeds, the massive iron-nickel meteorite or dense cluster of meteorites created shockwaves when it hit the desert plain with the power of 20 million tons of dynamite. Probably originating from a broken off piece of an asteroid during a collision in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the object was approx. 150 feet in diameter and weighed several hundred thousand tons when it hurtled at break-neck speed toward the ground.
Observation decks around the rim of the site are equipped with telescopes, allowing guests to view the impact up close. Creating an eerie scene, it is easy to imagine that you are staring into a crater on the moon because the terrain is so similar.
NASA chose this earthly crater as an official training site for the Apollo astronauts who went to the moon, and there is an actual Apollo space test capsule displayed on the Visitor Center grounds!
In addition to viewing the crater, the price of admission for this popular attraction also includes access to the Visitor Center featuring:
The Meteor Crater Interactive Learning Center includes
twenty-four extensive and informative exhibits. Also included are two
interactive computer displays that contain information and high-tech
graphics on space, meteorites and asteroids, the solar system, and the
Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that impacted Jupiter.
The movie, "Collisions and Impacts" shows twice each hour in the wide screen movie theater. This informative and entertaining 10-minute feature introduces themes displayed throughout the Interactive Learning Center.
Souvenirs sold in the gift and lapidary shop include the usual items—hats, books, magnets, coffee mugs and bags of "Authentic Crater Dust". Spacious and inviting, the store even includes a Subway restaurant.
The Visitor Center is open throughout the year (subject to change). For hours, admission cost, and directions, visit meteorcrater.com.
The crater is a popular Arizona tourist attraction and as such, you'll find very affordable Winslow hotels nearby.