51 Fun & Free (or Cheap) Things to do in Flagstaff, Arizona
5. Explore ancient cliff dwellings via the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument
Walnut Canyon is a must visit for anyone staying anywhere near Flagstaff – it’s just a 10 min drive outside of town. The Island Trail, a short & steep trail, features stunning views of the 20 mile long, 400 foot deep canyon as you pass by 21 historic Indian dwellings. If you are up for the challenging of climbing up 294 steps then you’ll be treated to some pretty breathtaking scenery. It’s quite interesting to see how these ancient Sinagua tribes lived and the harsh elements they often faced. A trip to this amazing natural wonder will only set you back $15 (free if you already have an annual nationals parks pass, which is a great investment!).
6. Walk through the inside of a 740,000 year old volcano
Explore the ruins of an ancient volcano on this easy 1.5 mile out-and-back trail, located just 30 minutes outside of Flagstaff off of scenic Highway 180. The Red Mountain trail is one of the most underused trails in the area, thereby, giving hikers the benefit of a quiet nature experience through the ponderosa pines and towering red rock walls. Parking is free, so just a bit of gas is all that will set you back on this journey. To make it a full morning out, stop by for a great espresso at Late for the Train, conveniently located right along the way.
7. Enjoy a nature stroll around Buffalo Park
This easy 2 mile loop around Buffalo Park offers some of the most breathtaking views of the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden mountains in town. To add to the excitement, you’ll find a variety of challenging fitness stations to test your agility, balance, and strength. As one of the flattest and shortest trails in town, Buffalo is perfect for leisurely bike rides (most trails in town are moderate-advanced mountain biking terrain), as well as cross country skiing & snowshoeing. And it sure does look like a gorgeous winter wonderland after a big storm! As it’s one of the most popular trails in town, you will not find much peace & quiet here, however, the mountain scenery can’t be beat!
8. Take a self guided stroll through the historic downtown
Flagstaff’s historic downtown, located off Route 66, is very popular with both tourists and locals as it is the hub of dining, entertainment, and special events. Although the majority of the area is now very modernized, a few historical buildings remain. The Monte Vista, Route 66’s most haunted hotel, stands out as the centerpiece. And the beautiful Weatherford Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Take a stroll, enjoy a lazy afternoon in a coffee house (Monte Vista and Kickstand both serve great espresso), taste local olive oil, check out live events in Heritage Square, browse the shops, and more – there’s plenty of budget fun to be had.
9. Bike, walk, jog, or ski the FUTS
The Flagstaff Urban Trail system, better known as the FUTS, is a network of 50 miles of in-town trails, offering diverse scenery as well as terrain. These recreational paths are great for all sorts of exercise, from biking in the spring and summer, to winter cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Fort Tuthill Park is home to one of the nicest sections in the system, the 5.7 mile long Sinclair Wash trail.
This mostly flat trek (just a few hills mid point) through pretty ponderosas means that it’s a great choice for just about every activity, easy enough for beginner mountain biking, 5k training, and winter activities like cross country skiing. After a monster storm, Ft. Tuthill is the perfect winter fun destination as the quiet setting really makes you feel as if you are in a winter wonderland.
10. Enjoy live entertainment in Heritage Square
Heritage Square, located in the heart of downtown, is the place for free live events and entertainment. During Christmas, the annual tree is the shining centerpiece. On Halloween night it is transformed into a festive fall gathering place with lots of decor and spooky music for the free Halloween Harvest fest. And the summer lineup is loaded with all sorts of freebies including live concerts on Friday nights and Saturday night screenings of new and classic films for the very popular “Movies on the Square.” And the best part is that all these events are offered free to the community!