Flagstaff Visitors Center in an historic train station
Most people that live in Flagstaff, Arizona are big on enjoying the outdoors. The same can be said for the visitors! One look around and you’ll see all kinds of fit and athletic types toting gear essential for recreating in the great outdoors, including backpacks, hiking boots, sun hats, water bottles, bikes–from road to mountain to fat–and even skis, snowboards and snowshoes. (Yes, it snows on average one hundred inches in Flagstaff every year.) People that live and visit here love to get out and experience the Coconino National Forest, the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest within the entire United States.
Add to that a terrific climate that’s warm and dry enough to spend long periods of time outside and also cool enough (especially at night) to make it quite pleasant to play outdoors every season of the year, and you understand why this southwestern destination attracts so many outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Plus, its location can’t be beat.
Consider this:Flagstaff is approximately eighty miles from the Grand Canyon. You can do a loop to the Grand Canyon, so you can see new scenery on the way up (HWY 89), and on the way down (HWY 180). Sunset Crater National Monument lies just northeast of Flag. And you guessed it–that, too, may be accessed within about a thirty-minute drive. If you continue along the road inside the Monument, you’ll see views of the Painted Desert off to the east and will eventually reach Wupatki National Monument, which offers spectacular examples of above-ground ruins and buildings. No wonder Flagstaff ranks as a center of the universe for outdoor fun. If you complete the loop, you’ll find yourself back on Highway 89 headed for the east rim of the Grand Canyon, which connects to the more well-known south rim.
If you travel south via picturesque Oak Creek Canyon, you can reach stunning, red rock-filled Sedona in less than an hour; from there, drive another half hour or so to the charming old mining town of Jerome. Or, if you head west along the historic Route 66, you’ll find yourself in Williams, Arizona, another gateway community to the Grand Canyon. Just east of Flagstaff–also about a half hour away–you can take in Walnut Canyon National Monument and hike along the top of the canyon or venture down the 240 steps to view the cliff dwellings of the Sinagua peoples.
Since the Grand Canyon is usually tops on everyone’s list, consider a professional guided tour with one of the local guide outfits. Information for this and more can be obtained at the Visitor Center.
You can find out about most of your options for recreating within the region and more at the Flagstaff Visitor Center in the historic train station at One E. Route 66. Arizona’s Winter Wonderland is well represented as well and like many new to the area, you’ll be amazed about how much of a winter scene can be found within and around Flagstaff. A visit to Flagstaff any time of year should always include lots of layers as temperatures and weather can change very quickly. And because Flagstaff is technically high desert, with generally low humidity, be sure to drink more water than you think you need.
Arizona Snowbowl, just seven miles outside of Flagstaff, situated within the mighty San Francisco Peaks, is the main ski area. It actually boasts about 260 inches of snow a year! (Gotta love those big storms that blow in from southern California.) The lifts run up Mt. Humphreys, an impressive mountain that tops out at 11,500 feet. Now you’re talking! Like most other ski destinations across the country, Snowbowl also offers an array of summertime activities. Some such as hiking, tubing, bungee jumping and scenic chairlift rides are pretty classic; others such as barrel rolling and panning for gold (or other riches!) reveal the traditions of Arizona. Note that a free shuttle from Flagstaff to Snowbowl is provided during season.
Thrill seekers must put Flagstaff Extreme on their to-do list. Experience zip lines and other adrenaline-charged adventures within the trees. Now that’s one way to be up close and personal with Flag’s renowned ponderosa pines.
Or, you can just stay back at your campsite or place of lodging and chill beneath a big ‘ole pine with a good book. That should count as an outdoor activity–shouldn’t it?
You can also stroll through gentle meadows among over 750 species of plants at The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Birders will enjoy seeing some of the 130 species of birds, many of which are featured at some of their bird of prey events. And as always the sassy hummers, steal the show. Fun and informative happenings are offered here year-round, most of which are blissfully presented out of doors.