It doesn’t exactly have the drama of Italy’s Mount Vesuvius or Washington’s smoky Mount St. Helens—But the Dotsero Crater, the youngest of three volcanoes in Colorado, is by far the cutest of all.
The maar (crater) is only half a mile wide and about 600 feet deep at deepest point, very small by volcano standards. It’s topped by brushland and pinion-juniper woodlands, and it’s honestly hard to tell that the depression in the land is a volcanic crater—to the untrained eye, the only evidence that you’re really in volcano territory are the nearby hot springs (the water is warmed by magma beneath the surface).
But hike up the Dotsero-Ute Trail to the edge of the Dotsero Crater, and you’ll be at 7,300 feet above sea level looking down into geologic history. The volcano erupted a mere 4,150 years ago (i.e., very recently on the geologic time scale), according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program. The eruption, caused by magma coming into contact with groundwater, catalyzed a southward lava flow two miles long into the Eagle Valley. I-70 actually runs over the solidified lava.
According to experts, Dotsero is not in any danger of erupting any time soon.
On the other hand, it hasn’t exactly been classified as extinct.
The Dotsero Crater is located along the Dotsero-Ute Trail about one mile east of the town of Dotsero just before Glenwood Canyon on I-70. The Ute Indians were the first to use this trail followed by prospectors looking for silver ore in the Caronate mining area in the early 1900s.
Take exit 133 to Dotsero and drive north on Colorado River Road about 0.5 miles to the trailhead. This out-and-back trail is about three miles one way with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet.
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