Famous Cinder Cones

Cinder cones are conical in shape with a bowl-shaped crater.
Cinder cones are conical in shape with a bowl-shaped crater. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Cinder cones are the most common and simple type of volcanic structure. They are formed from a single vent through which lava fragments known as cinders are ejected. The buildup of the cinders and other larger fragments called “bombs” around the vent creates a steep, conically-shaped formation that usually has a bowl-shaped crater at the top. Cinder cones do not usually attain as much notoriety as other types of volcanoes, probably because of their relatively low elevations (usually less than 1,000 feet), their commonness and their largely nonviolent flows. However, a few well-known cinder cones have captured the world's attention.


Perhaps the most famous cinder cone is the Parícutin in the Michoacán state of Mexico. This volcano began erupting in a farmer’s field on Feb. 20, 1943, and continued until 1952. The volcano grew very quickly, adding more than 1,100 feet in its first year and ultimately overtaking the surrounding villages. This cinder cone is famous because it is the first that modern scientists were able to observe from its birth to its death.

Cerro Negro

The Cerro Negro, located in Nicaragua, is another well-known cinder cone. It gains its notoriety from being the most historically active cinder cone in the world. Eruptions began in April 1850 and have continued at regular intervals since, making it taller than most cinder cones. Its summit elevation is 2,388 feet.

Pu'u ka Pele

Cinder cones often form vents on larger volcanoes. Pu'u ka Pele is one such cinder cone that gains much of its celebrity from its location on its famous host, the much larger Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Pu'u ka Pele itself is only a little more than 300 feet tall.

Wizard Island

Wizard Island is a picturesque cinder cone located in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Crater Lake is a body of water that formed within the crater of a large dormant stratovolcano thousands of years ago. Within the crater a few cinder cones also formed, the tallest of which protrudes above the surface of the water as an island. This island cinder cone is known as Wizard Island.

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