10 Must-Do Daytrips from Flagstaff
The Petrified Forest – “225 million years in the making”
The Petrified Forest is a unique Northeastern Arizona national park which houses one of the largest collections of petrified wood in the world. Through the natural process of perimineralization over the course of 225 million years, the organic materials from Triassic era trees have been replaced with minerals like quartz. This gives the wood a unique crystal like appearance. When you look up close you will see an array of colors, the result of the varying minerals present.
History buffs really need to add a trip to the Petrified Forest to their bucket list, particularly if you are already planning a Grand Canyon vacation and staying in nearby Flagstaff. There’s a lot to do here including a scenic drive, several hiking trails, a number of historical attractions, and a great visitor’s center which will give you a full history lesson on the process in which wood becomes petrified. At the visitor’s center, you can pick up a handy map detailing the different trails and historical sights within the park. Be sure to check out one of the trails as this is the best way to get an up close look at this ancient wood! For those interested in unusual and off-the-beaten path attractions, the Petrified Forest is definitely for you!
Distance from Flagstaff: 1.5 hours
Why it’s great: The Petrified National Forest is an under visited historical gem. It’s a unique and eclectic place and a great addition to any Flagstaff trip. The gorgeous colors of the Painted Desert are just amazing.
What to do: Scenic drive, Crystal Forest trail, stop at Winslow (directly on your route) for lunch at the wonderful Turquoise Room, explore the remains of an old zoo in abandoned ghost town 2 Guns (near exit 230 on I-40.
Prescott – “Everybody’s Hometown”
Prescott is a charming small town in central Arizona most commonly referred to as “Everybody’s Hometown,” as almost anyone who visits from anywhere can find something that reminds them of home here. The 4 season climate, charming old architecture, and lively downtown have made it a popular daytrip for Southern Arizona residents fleeing the extreme heat of the desert summer.
Prescott has a lot to offer and is just a quick hour and a half drive from Flagstaff. Plus, you can always make side trips to Cottonwood and Jerome to make it a longer daytrip. Start your day off with a homemade quiche and delicious cup of local coffee at Cuppers, located in a nice historic house downtown. You will definitely want to stroll Prescott’s charming downtown which is loaded with local restaurants, antique shops, galleries, historic Whiskey Row, and the beautiful Yavapai County Courthouse as the centerpiece. The weather is typically nice for strolling around and the city has even been named as having one of the best mild 4 season climates.
Outdoor enthusiasts will want to take a ride on the Peavine National Recreational trail, one of the few rail trails in Arizona. The path is 4+ miles each way, flat enough for easy cycling, and features amazing views of Watson Lake and the Granite Dells formations. If you are up for a challenge, take an invigorating hike up Thumb Butte for a bird’s eye view of the city. Or opt for a leisurely stroll around one of the area’s 4 lakes – Lynx Lake is a great place for water recreation. The Heritage Park Zoo, adjacent to the lake, is small, yet makes for a nice fill in activity.
Prescott is a quick easy day trip from Flagstaff with lots to do, whether you are interested in outdoor recreation, boutique shopping, cultural attractions, or wining and dining.
Distance from Flagstaff: 1 hr 40 min
What to do: Hike the Thumb Butte trail, Explore historic downtown, Breakfast at Cuppers, dinner at Papa’s Italian, Bike the Peavine trail, Take a stroll around Willow Park lake, Tea at the Wild Iris tea house
Why it’s great: Prescott is home to a charming small town downtown not really found in Arizona. The 4 season climate is pretty great with occasional snow in the winter and milder temps in the summer.
Jerome & Cottonwood – “America’s largest ghost town” & “Heart of the Verde Valley”
Cottonwood is a small community about 20 minutes outside of Sedona, and is most well known for its’ small town charm and abundance of wine tasting rooms. It’s really not worthy of a visit on its’ own, but makes a good accompaniment to any Jerome or Sedona daytrip due to the close distance. Exploring the shops, galleries, and wine tasting rooms in Old Town is the main draw here, although seeing a magic show at the Blazin M. Ranch is also recommended. A coffee and dessert break at Paradise Point is definitely recommended.
From Cottonwood, you can take the short scenic drive over to Jerome, which is a particularly attractive small Arizona community with charming historic architecture and a scenic location atop 5000 foot Cleopatra Hill. The surrounding colorful views of the Verde Valley are quite attractive and many of the wine rooms and restaurants have built patios to take advantage of such views.
Jerome is known to be one of the most haunted towns in American, hence its’ nickname. While the population of this copper mining town once dwindled down to almost nothing, it is now a lively tourist destination with numerous galleries, local restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and museums. Ghosts are frequently sighted at locations all around town, most notably the Jerome Grand Hotel, which not surprisingly, was once a mental institution. If you have the time, you must sign up for a haunted ghost tour where you will get to use EVPs and other ghost hunting equipment. If this sounds a bit too spooky for you, simply opt for lunch/dinner in the spooky Asylum Restaurant.
Distance from Flagstaff: 1.5 hrs
What to do: Dine at the Asylum Restaurant, Sign up for a ghost tour at the Grand Hotel, shop, wine, & dine, browse around the historic Liberty theater, visit the Old Sliding Jail, browse the local art galleries
Why it’s great: Nice historic architecture and great views of the Verde Valley, The Asylum restaurant puts on the best Halloween decor in Arizona, spooky ghost tours in a historic setting not found elsewhere in Arizona