Dotsero Volcano

Round Trip Distance: 0.2 - 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 7035 - 7158 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Dotsero Crater
Fee: none
Attractions: Volcanic crater

The Dotsero Volcano is the only active volcano in the State of Colorado. By definition a volcano is considered active if it has erupted within the last 10,000 years. The time of the last eruption for the Dotsero Volcano is estimated to have been roughly 4,000 years ago according to radiocarbon dating. Currently the USGS has the Dotsero Volcano ranked 82nd on their list and give it a moderate threat level. The crater is within 2 miles of Interstate 70 making it a relatively easy site to visit.

To get there take the Dotsero Exit 133 on Interstate 70. At the traffic circle on the north side of the interstate take the first exit onto US Highway 6 heading east. After another 6 tenths of a mile turn left onto a road that has a 'No Outlet' sign. After another half mile the road reaches a mobile home park. Go around the mobile home park on the left side and follow the road the begins climbing up the gulch. Some maps label the road with the number 8460. A 4wd vehicle would probably be desirable due to places where the road has thick loose layers of gravely volcanic rock. If you park at the bottom and begin hiking the round trip distance will be just under 2 miles. For turn by turn directions enter Dotsero Crater into your driving app.

As you head up the road you might notice thick light colored layers of volcanic ash. About halfway up the mountain the road passes a vent, or blow out, that is interesting to investigate.

As the road reaches the Dotsero Crater there is a kiosk with a map that is labeled 'Castle Peak'.

Views of the crater from near the kiosk aren't all that great. There is a short trail that drops down to a saddle in the rim of the crater where you can get a little different perspective.

In our opinion the best views can be found by hiking along the fence until you reach the end.

From there you can pick up a primitive trail that travels below the rim along the side of the crater. Since there is no volcanic activity occurring it is probably one of the safest hikes within the crater of an active volcano that you can take.

There are great views of the crater to be had from all along the trail.

The trail ends at what appears to be a parasitic vent similar to the blow out along the road driving up to the crater. The way that we understand it is that the red colors are from sandstone that was ejected from the volcano. Some of it is more porous looking like it was melted more than some of the less porous rock.

Much of the basalt type of rock has a textured pumice appearance.

There is a good spot along the road where you can see down into the valley where lava is fanned out all the way to the confluence of the Eagle and Colorado Rivers. At the base of the mountain on the other side of the valley you can see a very thick ash layer. Interstate 70 was actually built right on top of the lava flow.

A visit to the Dotsero Volcano would be greatly enhanced by Googling some information about it and volcanos in general beforehand. One good place to start is with the USGS Dotsero page. We came to the Dotsero Crater because of the novelty of it being the only active volcano in the State of Colorado but on arrival became enthralled with the actual geology that we were seeing. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.