This morning, as I was scrolling through my photo album, I came to a pause as I reached pictures of the small, Arizona college town of Flagstaff.
Immediately I felt overcome with a powerful sense of longing. In 2015 Flagstaff, a city that barely registered in my mind a year prior, suddenly developed a magnetic pull. Within the year I visited it on three separate occasions, and each time I fell more in love with the city. Some places just stick with you, and Flagstaff is one of them.
It’s not hard to see why.
What to do in Flagstaff and surrounding areas:
If it’s your first time visiting, you may be wondering what to do in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas. Luckily, there are a ton of options, no matter what time of year it is. Here are a few popular options.
Flagstaff is situated at the base of an extinct volcano, the tallest peak of which is known as Humphrey’s (it’s not the only volcano in the southwest either). It’s thanks to this mountain that Flagstaff enjoys a distinctly different climate from the surrounding desert — seeing all four seasons regularly.
Depending on what time of year you visit, Humphrey’s Peak offers skiing and hiking, with absolutely stunning views of Arizona. My own attempt to conquer Humphrey’s on foot was a bit of a failure, but it remains one of my favorite hiking experiences of all time.
There are a number of other hiking trails throughout Flagstaff, some of which include
2. Walk the streets downtown
Flagstaff is a college town, and the downtown area is nice and walkable (albeit a bit cold in the winter!). There are a ton of shops to explore, and the restaurants boast everything from vegan-only menus to the famous, definitely-not-vegan diablo burger. Being Arizona, there’s also plenty of craft beer to go around.
If you can, I highly recommend snagging an Airbnb near downtown. It’s so much easier to get around without a car to worry about. Besides, who wouldn’t want to stay in an Aibnb like this:
Historic Route 66 runs right through Flagstaff (making the city a perfect road trip stop). With all that history comes some interesting stories.
For one of my favorites, head just a few miles east of the city, to the ghost town known as Two Guns. Once it was a gas station road stop with a murky past. Now, you can poke around its dilapidated remains.
While you’re out in that direction, you may want to go one more exit and visit Meteor Crater. Yes it’s exactly what it sounds like.
This is the only thing on the list I haven’t done myself, but it’s high on my priorities for next time and a great stop for astronomy nerds. According to its website:
Lowell astronomers have discovered Pluto, collected the first evidence of the expanding Universe, and measured the motions and properties of stars, among many other achievements.
That’s not a bad resume, and visitors to the Observatory can enjoy daily tours, solar viewings, and stargazing events. For a full schedule, check out their website.
If you’re in the mood for the (meta)physical, Sedona won’t disappoint. It’s probably one of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen, with the famous red rocks towering over city. Only twenty minutes away from Flagstaff, you can easily make it to Sedona for a day trip, and there’s quite a bit to do once you get there.
I would definitely recommend hiking Cathedral Rock if you make the trip. It’s not a long hike, and the views are spectacular. If you’d rather go off the beaten path a bit, there are dozens of other hiking trails to choose from.
Sedona is also well known for its role as a new age hot spot. If you’re into crystals, energy reading, and other metaphysical pursuits, Sedona is for you.
It’s a slightly longer drive than to Sedona, but if you’re willing to sit in a car for an hour and a half you can witness the Grand Canyon for yourself.
The 270 mile long rift in the Earth’s crust is genuinely mind boggling — one of those places that is simply too awesome (and I mean that in the traditional sense of the word) to fully comprehend. Well worth the visit, there are plenty of hiking trails that cover a range of difficulties. Just be careful — if you’re planning to descend into the canyon, make sure you take time to prepare.
Still not sure what to do in Flagstaff?
I recommend heading on over to the city’s official website, as well as the Visit Arizona website. Both will be able to provide you with up-to-date information about what’s happening in Flagstaff when you visit.