Great views of pines on the Arizona Snowbowl summer chairlift ride in Flagstaff, Arizona

Skiing, snow, cool summer temperatures, and majestic pine covered mountains…these things do not typically spring to mind when thinking of Arizona. Rather, cactus, brutal 100+ degree summers, and dry, dusty desert scenery are often the only thing people think of when they hear Arizona. However, those who live in or have traveled outside of Phoenix know that there are numerous cool weather escapes. A Flagstaff summer is much more tolerable and there’s plenty to do in the way of recreation.

Scenic pines and mountain views at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona
Arizona snowbowl sign

Flagstaff – a 4 season recreational oasis

Flagstaff is a 4 season high altitude city in the mountains of northern Arizona. The beautiful city is situated at 7000 feet in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the country. The city is home to one of the oldest ski resorts in the West. It’s one of the most popular summer escapes for Phoenix locals due to attractive mild summer weather combined with an abundance of recreational activities, attractions, & restaurants.

Summer aspens on the Kachina Trail in Flagstaff AZ
Gorgeous aspens lining the Kachina Trail at Snowbowl.

Since 1938, both locals and visitors have been enjoying high altitude skiing on the San Francisco Peaks. Hundreds of visitors make the 2 hour drive from Phoenix every winter weekend to take advantage of 2 activities they will never find back home: skiing and snowshoeing. Snowbowl is the most popular ski resort in the state. The resort offers a 2300 foot drop: the largest in Arizona.

Scenic chair lift rides

Update: Enclosed gondola rides now available.

Summertime scenic chairlift rides offer non hikers a means to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery of Northern Arizona. Rides are also offered the first few weekends of fall. However, due to a lack of aspens at this high of an altitude, I recommend hiking instead. The leaf peeping opportunities are much better due to the high presence of aspens.

The Aspen Nature Loop is one of the top fall hikes in the area!
The Aspen Nature Loop is one of the top fall hikes in the area!

A scenic ride to “the coolest spot in Arizona”

A 3 person lift takes you on a picturesque 25 minute ride from a base of 9000 feet, all the way up to 11,500 feet! The temps at the base typically range from 60’s-80’s in the summer, with even cooler conditions at the top of Agassiz Peak, thereby making it “the coolest spot in Arizona.” Anyone coming from hotter cities in the Southwest will truly appreciate the pretty alpine scenery and much needed cool down from the brutal temps of the low desert.

Close up of the beautiful pines from the AZ Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift ride

The ride is long and relaxing. As you travel up over 2000 feet, a gorgeous ponderosa forest surrounds you. It’s quite scary when you look down and see the big drop beneath you! The ski lift ride is so much nicer than the enclosed gondola rides you typically find at ski resorts, as you can enjoy both the scents and sights of nature, in addition to feeling the cool breeze.

The scenic summer Snowbowl Chairlift ride in Flagstaff Arizona
Pretty ponderosa pines and mountain views on the AZ snowbowl chairlift ride

Views at the top are nice, although not outstanding as you are already on the Peaks. You are supposedly able to see the Grand Canyon and Sedona’s red rocks in the distance, however, they are quite far off in the distance.

Enjoying the mountain views at Arizona Snowbowl
Arizona Snowbowl elevaton 11500 sign
No hiking sign at Arizona Snowbowl
At the top, you will be able to say that you used the highest bathroom in Arizona!
At the top, you will be able to say that you used the highest bathroom in Arizona!

Overall, the ride is more of a picturesque, relaxing nature activity, rather than one to enjoy big views. If you want dramatic views of the Peaks, hike the Slate Mountain trail or simply take a relaxing nature stroll around Buffalo Park.

The best views in town can be found at the top of the Slate Mountain trail!
The best views in town can be found at the top of the Slate Mountain trail!

A nice relaxing alternative to hiking

The way down offers a few nice views of the surrounding desert and pine covered mountains. You can kick back and relax on this long ride as you enjoy the super cool summer weather and lovely trek through nature. The Chairlift ride is the perfect option for non-hikers and anyone else looking to take a break from all the intense high altitude recreation. Exercising in a high elevation town like Flagstaff really wears down your body, so a nice relaxing break is definitely in order after a few hikes. The chairlift ride is one of the few summertime activities/attractions worth doing that does not involve intense exercise.

Views of the mountains from the AZ Snowbowl scenic chairlift ride in Flagstaff, Arizona

What else is there to do at Snowbowl?

Other summer activities to enjoy during your visit include disc golf and hiking. There are 3 great hiking trails at Snowbowl: the Aspen Nature Loop, the Kachina Trail, and Humphrey’s Peak. Aspen Nature Loop is an easy 1.5 mile round-trip stroll which offers great views of the mountains and a pretty mix of aspen groves and ponderosa pines. The Kachina Trail is a moderate-hard 10 mile round trip stroll with many ups and downs, although a 1.5 mile out-and-back trek should be the perfect distance for regular hikers. And Humphrey’s Peak, an intense climb up to the highest peak in Arizona, is only for the most fit & experienced hikers!

the many gorgeous aspens on the Aspen Nature Loop in Flagstaff

Great views from the Aspen Nature Loop in Flagstaff Arizona

Location & Pricing Info

Arizona Snowbowl is located at: 9300 N Snow Bowl Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. It’s about 7 miles outside of Flagstaff, however, the scenic drive is just part of the fun! Chairlift tickets start at $18. If you book your tickets online, there is a special $10 discount. Also, I have seen discount coupons on Groupon.

Recommended Summer Itinerary for a Day out in Flagstaff

Start your day out with a great espresso drink and breakfast burrito at Late for the Train, conveniently located on Hwy 180 on the way to Snowbowl. Enjoy a peaceful easy stroll along the Aspen Nature Loop, then take a relaxing ride on the Chairlift. After all this, you will be ready for lunch. Delhi Palace is one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever been to, not to mention a great carb heavy choice, which will help to prevent altitude sickness. Or head downtown and check out one of the many casual restaurants lining the street. It’s the perfect summer day out in Flagstaff!

Update: The Hwy 180 Late for the Train is now closed. However, there is still the original location downtown offering the same quality drinks & food!