Located in the census-designated place of the same name, Dotsero is an active volcano found in Eagle County, Colorado. Standing tall with a peak elevation of 6,783 feet, Dotsero last erupted approximately 4200 years ago, making it the youngest and last remaining active volcano in the state.
Dotsero is cone-shaped and is classified as a “deep maar volcano” due to its large explosion crater. The Dotsero Crater is roughly oval-shaped and has a diameter of 2,300 feet and a depth of 1,300 feet. It’s located close to the confluence of the Eagle and Colorado Rivers, and the volcano is largely visible from Interstate 70, found just north of the road.
Geology of the Dotsero Volcano
Dotsero is considered a scoria cone volcano, made up of a mixture of oxidized sandstone, evaporitic rock, and basalt. The Dotsero Crater was formed when the volcanoes’ flowing magma exploded upon an encounter with water. After the explosion, rock fragments were scattered around the area, with winds blowing the majority of the fallout south and eastward.
Using radiocarbon dating information gathered from the wood beneath the volcanic rock, Dotsero is said to have erupted in the Holocene, the current geological era. As volcanoes that have erupted in the past 10,000 years are more likely to become active than older, inactive formations, Dotsero is frequently monitored, and is only considered a moderate threat by the U.S. Geological Survey.
For decades, cinder block production was the primary industry in the community of Dotsero, with residents crafting the building materials out of the strong volcanic rock. Today, the magma below the surface of Dotsero provides heat for many nearby hot springs, such as those located in Glenwood Springs.
Visiting and Access to Dotsero
Interstate 70 directly crosses the path of Dotsero’s lava flow, so it is very easy to see bits and pieces of earth originally scattered by the volcano’s eruption. From the interstate, motorists can exit in Dotsero, Colorado (about 6 miles west of Gypsum, Colorado) and travel north to take a right on Access Road 8460.
This will bring you to the Dotsero Crater Recreation Site, which is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.
To reach the Dotsero Crater in a passenger vehicle, high clearance is required to navigate the rough and winding roads. The recreation site is free to enter and access generally remains open to the public any time dangerous winter weather conditions are not present.
Activities near Dotsero Crater Recreation Site
While a trip to visit an active volcano can sound exciting, some visitors may be disappointed if the crater of volcanic rock is not as encapsulating as they had imagined. Thankfully, the Stoneyard Distillery is a great place to get a drink in Dotsero, and there are many great outdoor activity options available in the area.
Camping: There are several free and paid camping sites located near Dotsero. In addition to the surrounding BLM land, visitors can find private and public opportunities for tent and RV camping on Colorado River Road and along Interstate 70. Read about the camping near Dotsero and Eagle County.
Fishing: With a valid Colorado fishing license, visitors are permitted to fish in both the Colorado and Eagle River near Dotsero. In the rivers, anglers fly fishing can try their luck with the area’s native brook, rainbow, and brown trout.
Hiking: From the rim of the crater, it is possible to hike down into the volcano, on a short out-and-back trail that amounts to less than a 2-mile round trip. For different perspectives of Dotsero, there are also several small hiking trails along road 8460 and throughout the surrounding public lands.
Whitewater Rafting: Adjacent to the volcano, there are many world-class float and whitewater rafting opportunities on both the Eagle River and the Colorado River. While many local outfitters run half and full-day trips on these rivers, experienced rafters are also welcome to bring their own equipment and float when conditions are best from late spring to mid-summer.
Wildlife and Birdwatching: Just south of the interstate and volcano, the Dotsero Ponds are a great place to spot various waterfowl, including many nesting ospreys. Around the ponds and near the volcano, visitors also have the chance to encounter loons, grebes, bluebirds, raccoons, skunks, and snakes. In the area, mountain lion activity has also been reported.
Although technically considered active, there is no need to worry too much about Dotsero as a potential threat, as the volcano is not predicted to erupt again anytime soon. And while many live in fear of consequential volcanic activity (Such as the Yellowstone Supervolcano), a modern Dotsero flare-up is unlikely to leave behind colossal damage, thanks to its history of minor eruptions.
While Dotsero is the only active one left in the state, there are former volcanoes in Colorado to discover.
Address: Dotsero, CO