Texas has surprising geography with many natural wonders. It is the second largest state in the US and is home to BBQ, cowboys, and hot weather. And also volcanoes.
You may be fascinated to know that you can see dinosaur footprints from millions of years ago, ocean fossils on the top of mountains, and, yes, volcanoes. Find out how these volcanoes formed, what is the biggest volcano in Texas, and where you can find them.
Are There Volcanoes in Texas?
Yes, there are around 200 volcanoes in Texas. However, they are all extinct and have been for millions of years. But geologists theorize that it could be possible for them to become active again in the future (though hopefully not in the near future).
The last time a volcano erupted in Texas was 30 million years ago in far West Texas (Trans-Pecos Region). The west region consists of a volcanic field; in South and Central Texas, you can find remnants of marine volcanoes. That’s right. Texas used to be underwater about 80 million years ago. A giant volcano in Texas was once at the bottom of shallow ocean waters.
What is the Biggest Volcano in Texas?
Pilot Knob is the largest extinct volcano in Texas. It was once highly active in what is now Central Texas. But if you were to drive past it today, you would barely notice it. It resembles a small hill like any other country hillside view in the state. What’s on the inside is what is important, though. The material beneath that green rolling hill is a volcanic igneous rock, and its diameter is more than two miles, the largest of all the once active volcanoes in Texas.
Pilot Knob is in Austin, which was once covered in a shallow sea with a tropical climate and abundant marine life. It is the only exposed submarine volcano in the state (that geologists are aware of), and millions of years ago, the hill would have appeared as a shallow lagoon surrounded by lush beaches where dinosaurs may have roamed.
How Can you View Pilot Knob?
Today, Pilot Knob overlooks some housing about eight miles south of Austin and close to Mckinney Falls State Park. You can reach the volcano by driving on Highway 83 and going past the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The hill is visible on your right, just past Onion Creek. You can explore the road margins, but the volcano lies entirely on private land.
Where to See Volcanoes in Texas
Find out how you can hike and explore the other volcanoes in Texas.
Three Dike Hill
Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas and contains Three Dike Hill. This volcano was the last to erupt in the state over 27 million years ago. It is one of the most remote sites in Texas and contains miles of rugged hiking trails. There are a couple of campgrounds where you can wake up to a view of an extinct volcano.
If you drive down US 90, you will see the collapsed crater of Paisano Peak between Alpine and Marfa. The peak is located in the Christmas Mountains, with an elevation of 5,451 feet. The crater is evidence of the volcano erupting 35 million years ago. You can see light-colored granite-like rocks and rhyolite lava from an earlier eruption.
Chisos Volcanic Complex
The Chisos Mountains are the crown jewel of Big Bend State Park. Over 30 million years ago, volcanic activity formed the mountains. But their modern shape comes from unrelenting water erosion, which constantly changes everything in time. These mountains are best viewed at sunset as red hues encapsulate this rugged peak.
The area near Uvalde, Texas (Texas Hill Country) was a hotbed for volcanic eruptions during the cretaceous period. There are many lava bodies, including two volcanic domes. In Fort Inge Historical Park, you will find Inge Mountain, a volcanic neck. A lava neck forms when magma hardens on an active volcano. The mountain appears as a dark, vast dome around 140 feet tall inside the park.
Near the New Mexico border in the Chihuahuan Desert lies 35-million-year-old Cornudas Vents. These vents were once underground where they formed, and erosion eventually exposed them over time. The Cornudas Peak is comprised of igneous rock and makes up a cluster of igneous bodies. You can view El Capitan nearby, an impressive uplifted Permian period reef.
The Chisos volcanoes erupted 30 million years ago and expelled basalt lava rocks and hardened volcanic ash, now Tuff Canyon. It is also located in Big Bend National Park, where there is an overlook and various hiking trails. As you walk through the canyon, you can see the volcanic evidence (check out the volcanic glass melted into the rocks) in the canyon’s walls.
Take a scenic drive through the Texas mountains to get to Davis Mountains State Park. From there, take a hike to the Fort Davis National Historic Site and enjoy impressive views of cliffs, canyons, passes, and mountains. The Davis Mountains are 35 million years old and formed by magma from two volcanic centers, Paisano Volcano and Buckhorn Caldera.
The Quitman Mountains are a rocky range near I10 in Hudspeth County, some ways past Eagle Mountain Caldera. It is a series of calderas from the Eocene period and includes volcanic rocks. Distinctive rock strata are clearly visible from a distance among rugged volcanic peaks.
West of Fort Davis is Mitre Peak, a free-standing mountain. This peak is exceptionally prominent and hard to miss. Sculpted over time by erosion, Mitre Peak contains 35 million-year-old rhyolite lava from the Davis Mountains. You can view it at Clayton’s Overlook or camp near the peak during the summer.
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