7 of the Oldest Active Volcanoes (Plus their Last Eruption Date)

Written by Kristen Holder
Published: January 29, 2023
© Alberto Masnovo/Shutterstock.com
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Determining if a volcano is active usually comes down to the time since the last eruption. If a volcano has shown any activity in the last 10,000 years, it’s classified as active though there are always exceptions to the rule. What are 7 of the oldest active volcanoes? Plus their last eruption date? We’ll discuss these volcanoes now.

7 of the Oldest Active Volcanoes Plus their Last Eruption Date

Active Volcano NameAge of Active VolcanoDate of Last Eruption
Popocatépetl730,000 Years OldDecember 19, 2022
Yellowstone Caldera631,000 Years Old70,000 Years Ago
Mount Etna500,000 Years OldMay 29, 2022
Mount Rainier500,000 Years Old1843 CE
Kilauea280,000 Years OldCurrently In Progress
Mount St. Helens275,000 Years OldJuly 10, 2008
Stromboli200,00 Years OldDecember 4, 2022

These are 7 of the oldest active volcanoes:

  1. Popocatépetl
  2. Yellowstone Caldera
  3. Mount Etna
  4. Mount Rainier
  5. Kilauea
  6. Mount St. Helens
  7. Stromboli

7. Stromboli in Sicily: 200,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: December 4, 2022

As one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, Stromboli in Sicily has been steadily erupting since 1932. Stromboli is the northeast Aeolian Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

While Stromboli has been continuously erupting for thousands of years, the last major eruption took place in 1921. There was a pyroclastic flow on August 28, 2019. It is one of four active volcanoes in Italy.

Standing at about 3,000 feet above sea level, two-thirds of the volcano is under the water. The island itself has a diameter of around 3 miles. The way that this volcano erupts is used as an example by which other eruptions are compared.

The island Stromboli near Sicily on Tyrrhenian sea. Stromboli is the most active volcanoes in Europe.
Stromboli near Sicily has been active for 200,000 years.

©Marek Poplawski/Shutterstock.com

6. Mount St. Helens in Washington: 275,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: July 10, 2008

Mount St. Helens in Washington State is the most active volcano in the Cascade Range. The Cascade Range is a mountain range in the western United States that contains various volcanoes. These volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire which encircles the entire Pacific Ocean.

In 1980, 1,300 feet of the summit came down the mountain as an avalanche as a result of a massive eruption. Between 2004-2008, more volcanic activity occurred creating a lava dome in the crater made by the 1980 eruption.

The activity in the early 2000s was considered one elongated eruption. After 5 months without any activity, scientists declared the eruption over.  There are identifiable layers of volcanic ash on Mount Rainier that were created by this mountain and others in the region.

It’s hard to imagine a snow-topped peak erupting, and yet Mount St. Helens has been erupting for 275,000 years, the latest taking place as recently as 2008.


5. Kilauea in Hawaii: 280,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: In Progress

Kilauea is a shield volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s around 280,000 years old and it rose above the waters of the Pacific Ocean approximately 100,000 years ago. In Kilauea’s summit caldera, the Halema’uma’u pit crater has been erupting since September 29, 2021.

This specific pit crater was believed to be the dwelling and body of the goddess Pele. Pele is a fire goddess responsible for the creation of the islands in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain is underwater mountains that culminate in the above-water Hawaiian Islands. Kilauea is the second youngest volcano created in this chain by the hotspot responsible for the Hawaiian islands. As the earth’s plates moved, different mountains were slowly created as the new ground moved over the hotspot.

Kilauea Volcano
The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is currently erupting.


4. Mount Rainier in Washington: 500,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: 1843 CE

Mount Rainier towers over 14,000 feet above sea level in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the tallest mountain in Washington State and it’s the highest peak in the Cascade Range. This volcano is overdue for an eruption and there is a significant human population living around it.

One of the major concerns for 80,000 of the surrounding residents is the fatal lahars that will be created by Rainier when an eruption occurs. These lahars are a mixture of rock, pyroclastic debris, and glacial water that follow water paths down the side of an erupting volcano.

The cause is melting glaciers and Mount Rainier has the most glacial ice out of any mountain on the planet. There are many communities built on the ancient paths of old lahars which may prove disastrous.

Mount Rainier National park
Mount Rainier, pictured, is a volcano that last erupted in the mid-19th century.


3. Mount Etna in Sicily: 500,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: May 29, 2022

There have been around 190 eruptions of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy. Its first recorded activity happened in 1500 BCE. It is almost always active and it’s one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.

An extremely rare phenomenon happened on Etna in the 1970s and was captured on video on June 8, 2000. The volcano sent up smoke rings. The last recorded instant was on April 11, 2013.

Mount Etna
Mount Etna last erupted in 2022.

©Alberto Masnovo/Shutterstock.com

2. Yellowstone Caldera: 631,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: 70,000 Years Ago

The Yellowstone Caldera was created at least 631,000 years ago by a massive eruption resulting from a volcanic hotspot. Over the last 16.5 million years, up to 20 eruptions that formed calderas occurred as the continent shifted.

There is a trail providing evidence of this activity stretching from Yellowstone to western Idaho. Some of these eruptions are the most powerful volcanic events that have occurred throughout all of earth’s history.

Between 631,000 to 2.1 million years ago, 3 eruptions occurred that formed most of what makes up the caldera today. While it’s been about 70,000 years since the last major eruption, the Yellowstone Caldera is considered active by many scientists.

Yellowstone caldera
Yellowstone caldera is sometimes referred to as a supervolcano.


1. Popocatépetl in Mexico: 730,000 Years Old

Last Eruption: December 19, 2022

While Popocatépetl (El Popo) in its most current state formed about 50,000 years ago, the processes that created this active volcano began around 730,000 years ago. The volcano’s name means “smoking mountain” in Aztec. El Popo currently is the third iteration of a mountain in this spot because large enough eruptions destroyed the first two.

It’s known that El Popo erupted multiple times in American prehistory. Since colonialism began, the volcano has erupted over a dozen times. It’s been erupting almost continuously since 2005.

El Popo is part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and it’s the southernmost volcano in the chain. It’s Mexico’s second-highest mountain. It was covered in glaciers until 2001 but volcanic activity and an increased average temperature in the region melted them. It is still covered in ice.

Popocatépetl means “fierce warrior” and is the oldest active volcano on our list at 730,000 years old.

©iStock.com/Eduardo Cabanas

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Mount Etna
Mount Etna
© Alberto Masnovo/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a fact-driven creative with a love of history and an eye for detail. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2009 with a BA in Art History after a STEM-focused high school career. Telling a complex story with real information in a manner that's easy to digest is my talent. When I'm not writing for A-Z Animals, I'm doting on my 3 cats while I watch documentaries and listen to music in Romance languages.

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