Many cinder cone volcanoes have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit. Lava flows are usually erupted by cinder cones, either through a breach on one side of the crater or from a vent located on a flank. If the crater is fully breached, the remaining walls form an amphitheatre or horseshoe shape around the vent. Lava rarely issues from the top (except as a fountain) because the loose, uncemented cinders are too weak to support the pressure exerted by molten rock as it rises toward the surface through the central vent.
Cinder cones are commonly found on the flanks of shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, and calderas. For example, geologists have identified nearly 100 cinder cones on the flanks of Mauna Kea, a shield volcano located on the island of Hawaii. These cones are also referred to as scoria cones, cinder, and spatter cones. Perhaps the most famous cinder cone is Parícutin, in Mexico in 1943 from a new vent. Eruptions continued for 9 years, built the cone to a height of 424 meters, and produced lava flows that covered 25 km².
The Earth's most historically active cinder cone is Cerro Negro in Nicaragua. It is part of a group of four young cinder cones NW of Las Pilas volcano. Since it was born in 1850, it has erupted more than 20 times, most recently in 1992 and 1995.