There are numerous artificial and natural wonders in Texas, but volcanoes? That’s not a term you hear every day, and you’re in for a treat, dear reader. Although Texas has no active volcanoes, volcanoes such as Pilot Knob, Three Dike Hill, and Paisano Peak are open to the public for exploration.
So, the answer to the question “Are there volcanoes in Texas?” is a resounding yes!
Chisos Volcanic Complex (Big Bend National Park)
Several of the best geology in the state is found in ash flows, lava domes, and calderas. The western caldera wall soars steeply from the valley floor, and the Casa Grande’s grand lava dome dominates the landscape through the Window, an erosional notch in the wall. As the sun sets in the east, the reddish hue of the ignimbrites and rhyolites adds to the rugged volcano impression.
Mitre Peak (Eleven miles west of Fort Davis)
This intrusive, freestanding mountain was sculpted over time by erosion and possessed a Davis Mountains complex’s 35-million-year-old rhyolite lava. It gets its name from its distinctive shape, which resembles a bishop’s miter (headgear).
Cornudas Vents (Texas-New Mexico Border)
This remarkable cluster of “intrusive alkaline igneous bodies” (developed underground and revealed by erosion over time) rises from the Chihuahuan Desert and is between 31 and 35 million years old. El Capitan can also be seen from Dell City to the east (it’s especially beautiful at sunrise).
The mountains are best viewed from the New Mexico corner, but they can also be seen from U.S. 62 as you drive west toward El Paso.
Davis Mountains (Fort Davis)
Magma from two volcanic centers, the Buckhorn Caldera northwest of Fort Davis and the Paisano Volcano west of Alpine, formed the 35-million-year-old Davis Mountains. The varied and extensive pyroclastic strata and flows are well exposed in Wild Rose Pass and Limpia Canyon.
The site’s highlight is the 75-mile scenic drive through the mountains on Texas highways 161 and 118. Another is the hiking trail that connects Davis Mountains State Park and Fort Davis National Historic Site. Tuff cliffs surround the old fort.
Paisano Pass (U.S. 90 between Marfa and Alpine)
You can see light-colored syenite, which resembles granite, as you drive over Paisano Volcano’s collapsed crater, which erupted around 35 million years ago. An earlier eruption’s rhyolite lava, or “paisanite,” is exposed in neighboring highway roadcuts.
Check out the Big Bend Snapshot of History Project’s information display at the U.S. 90 rest area, which contains a QR code to access videos and photos about the site’s geology.
Quitman Mountains Caldera Complex (Hudspeth County)
This caldera series traces back to the Eocene (35 million years ago) and consists of intrusive and volcanic rocks. High above the desert, distinct sedimentary strata loom folds. Craggy volcanic peaks break up lighter-colored, long linear folds of Cretaceous sedimentary rocks.
Driving west on Interstate 10 from Van Horn, the distinctive sedimentary rocks and folds of this volcanic mountain range skyrocket. This section of highway also passes by the Eagle Mountain caldera.
Pilot Knob (Southeast Austin)
Pilot Knob was a volcano in the Balcones range, which once expanded from Waco to Uvalde (a lot are underground). It is 8 miles south of Austin, near McKinney Falls State Park and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. This volcano is one of approximately 75 late volcanoes in Texas, but it is by far the largest, with a diameter of more than two miles.
Many Texas beaches were formed due to volcanic activity, and one of these beaches is responsible for the falls seen at the state park. How cool is that?
The Pilot Knob Volcano, like the rest of Texas’ extinct volcanoes, hasn’t erupted in a long time – nearly three million years, to be exact. You can still climb the rocky remains and envision hot, scarlet lava spewing out of them all those years ago, making for one of Texas’ most unusual hikes.
Three Dike Hill (Southernmost Big Bend Ranch State Park)
Dark basalt dikes cut through multi-colored softer tuff layers to graze lava flows at the hilltop at this 27-million-year-old site. A feeder dike that supplied basalt to the upper lava flow will also be visible.
Three Dike Hill is the last volcano to erupt in Texas 27 million years ago. You can camp nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park at places like the Gaule 2 Campsite or the Arenosa Campground. They’re a few miles away from the volcanic rock, so you’ll wake up to some spectacular views.
Travel west on the River Road (FM 170) from Lajitas until you see road signs for Arenosa Campground. Proceed west from the campground for another 3.6 miles; the Three Dike Hill parking and pullout area are on the northeastern corner of FM 170.
Tuff Canyon (Big Bend National Park)
The Chisos volcanoes expelled the pyroclastic debris and basalt lava rocks seen here 29 to 30 million years ago.
Admire the volcanic glass draperies made from melted volcanic glass. There is a pullout and parking lot, as well as several viewpoints that are easily accessible. Longer walks and shorter, family-friendly hikes to the canyon floor are available.
Uvalde Volcanoes (U.S. 90 between Brackettville and Knippa)
When Pilot Knob was formed during the Cretaceous period, the Texas Hill Country was rife with volcanic eruptions. In the Uvalde area, several lava bodies can still be seen. They include two prominent volcanic domes at Knippa: Mount Inge, a volcanic plug near historic Fort Inge, and a roadcut three miles west of Sabinal, where dark volcanic breccia rocks weathered by white caliche can be seen.
Mount Inge (140 feet) is a broad, dark dome that precedes the state historical park.
Where in Texas Can You See Volcanoes?
Texas has approximately 75 late-Cretaceous Period volcanoes along its borders, ranging from Waco to San Antonio, Austin, and Del Rio, most of which are located near San Antonio and Austin. Extinct volcanoes have existed on the planet for millions of years.
Travelers to Texas continue to discover that the Lone Star State contains nearly every natural landform. The existence of volcanoes in Texas is the most recent surprising discovery.
Don’t worry; they’re all extinct, but you can still see them up close. Although it is a secret, visitors hike the area or even camp out to enjoy the volcanic views.