"Serious Explorations" Spring '98

Jack, Rick and Kevin at the Cinder Hills OHV area-
Cinder Hill OHV area
Flagstaff, ARIZONA
Written by: 
Rick Horwitz
Photos by:
Rick Horwitz
Jack Lobdell
Jeff Treder
Video by: Kevin Kocher

Click on any photo for Hi-Res


The Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle area is located about 12 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. This OHV area borders Sunset Crater National Monument. Sunset Crater is a 1000 ft. high volcanic cinder cone where the Apollo astronauts practiced with their Lunar Rover. This area is a favorite of mine during the scorching Phoenix, summer. Temperatures are usually 20-30 degrees cooler at the cinders than they are in Phoenix and afternoon rain storms are common. Traction is actually enhanced by moisture in this terrain as it helps compact the loose cinders. The rain that does collect drains quickly through the porous cinders.

Kevin's Explorer at the cinders
Kevin's Explorer at the cinders


Our group thought that the Cinder Hill OHV area would be a great place to get together and meet other Explorer owners who have their trucks featured here at "Off the Beaten Trail". On May 9, 1998 Rick Horwitz, Glendale, AZ,  Jack Lobdell, Placitas, NM, Kevin Kocher, SanDiego CA, Jeff Treder, LaCrosse, WI and Lee and Gloria Zimmerman, Gilbert, AZ met for some four wheelin' fun. 

When we arrived at the Cinders Saturday, everyone aired down their tires to help increase flotation and traction. I aired my B.F. Goodrich M/T's down to 12 lbs. The lower pressure really makes a tremendous difference in this terrain. When we finished airing down and locking the hubs we headed out on the trails. Our first stop was a deep red cinder bowl which didn't give anyone trouble. It did provide a very nice photo opportunity though. 

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Animated Sequence (88k)

After we all climbed the first bowl we proceeded to climb a very steep and loose section of trail. This section of the trail was full of very narrow gaps between the pine trees, our mirrors needed to be pulled in to avoid contact. When we got past the trees the trail became steeper and looser. The two Explorer's with M/T's made it through with no trouble, but Jack's A/T's got bogged down in the cinders when he lost momentum. 

The group who had made it to the top left their trucks there and walked downhill to Jack. Lee found a patch of ground that was a bit more firm than the surrounding area and Jack was able to get moving again, he was able to gain enough momentum to make it up the hill. Much of the group especially myself, found the climb back up the cinder hill very strenuous. The altitude was about 8000 feet and the loose cinders made foot climbing very difficult. From atop this hill we had a great view of our next destination, Double Crater.

Double Crater
West bowl of Double Crater.

Double Crater is just that, two craters in one volcanic mountain. The deepest crater is probably 500 to 750 feet deep. There is a trail that runs along the rim of the craters and the 360 degree panoramic view is just incredible. The Painted Desert lies to the East, Sunset Crater and the San Francisco Peaks lie to the West and cinders and pine trees are all around. On a previous trip I saw 5 or 6 prong horn antelope leaping across the trail on their way out of the crater.

On the rim of Double Crater
Rick, Kevin and Jack's Explorers Double Crater's rim.

After we ate our lunch at Double Crater we continued to check out more trails in the OHV area. Late in the afternoon we found another cinder bowl to play in, we all made several attempts at a very steep and loose section. The cinders got the better of us in this area as none of us climbed all the way up the hill. Even so it was a blast to give it a try.

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Animated Sequence (113k)

The Cinder Hills OHV area is not a place to be driving around at night the black cinder trails are virtually indistinguishable in the dark. We aired up and left shortly before sunset. 

Sunset at the Cinder Hills OHV area
Cinder Hills OHV area at sunset

After the ride we had an excellent dinner at the Horseman Lodge a great steak house on the way back to Flagstaff. We had a great time discussing the days events.

Sunday morning Jack, Jeff, and the Zimmerman's went back out to the cinders. I unfortunately had to drive back to Glendale, because my wife needed a ride to work. Kevin had driven back to Cornville Saturday night to stay at his Uncle's house.

In all the weekend was a great success. I enjoyed meeting everyone who I had corresponded with for some time. Seeing all of the modified Explorers first hand was a great opportunity. I can't wait until our next outing wherever it may be. Next time we hope to have many more Explorer's in attendance. The Jeeps and Four Runners  have their jamborees now it's time for an Explorer Jamboree!

Kevin Kocher shot some video of the ride. Check it out.