Northern Arizona is home to many of the state’s most notable attractions including The Grand Canyon, the majestic red rocks of Sedona, and the beautiful San Francisco Peaks (which at 12,633 feet are the highest mountain range in Arizona). As Flagstaff is located along both I-40 and Route 66, it’s the most popular road trip stop in the region, and hence, one of the most congested areas in the state. Despite the crowds, the wilderness surrounding the city provides a natural escape.
You may just find yourself stopping here for a night (or several) en route to a national park or a major Southwestern city like Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Las Vegas. As the area is basically a hub for travel within the Southwest, it’s more than likely that one day you might just find yourself passing through (or maybe you already have!).
Flagstaff, with a unique high desert, 4 season climate, offers a variety of year round recreational opportunities. Additionally, the city offers a surprising number of attractions for its’ small size. Not to mention, it is conveniently located within close proximity to many beautiful places like Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified National Forest, amongst many others. Driving into the city and seeing all the business and traffic, it’s quite hard to imagine that only 60,000 year-round residents call this small city home!
To help you decide which Northern Arizona attractions are worth your time (and those to skip), I’ve devised a helpful guide highlighting the regions 10 best attractions (based on my personal experiences), along with those 10 that I just do not feel are worthy of the time/price/etc.
Enjoy the suggestions and feel free to suggest a few of your own!
To Visit/Do in Flagstaff and surrounding areas in Northern Arizona
1. Explore Walnut Canyon National Monument
Walnut Canyon, a wonderful place to get in some exercise for the day and learn about the lives of the Singua (ancient people who inhabited the area from 600-1400 AD), is without a doubt one attraction worth visiting.
The 20 million year old canyon is quite an amazing sight at 20 feet long, 400 feet wide, and 1/4 mile wide. Two trails will take you past the diverse high desert scenery, including everything from prickly pear cacti to pretty pine trees. The Island Trail is steep and moderately challenging (you will climb up and down 185 steps!), although a much more scenic option that the Rim Trail (if you only have time for one, check out the Island Trail).
The 2 mile long Island Trail journey will take about an hour and a half, depending on how good shape you are in and if you are used to the higher elevation (take it easy as hiking in 7000 feet is much harder on your body!). The hike will not seem all that long when taking in the incredible vistas and diverse plant life along the way.
25 ancient cliff dwellings can be found within the canyon. You will see many of these during your visit, including this 2 bedroom pueblo (from AD 1100) along the Rim Trail.
Aside from a regular daytime visit, you must sign up for a guided stargazing tour if your visit falls during the summer season. Flagstaff is an International Dark Skies City (the world’s first) and the stargazing opportunities (at Walnut and elsewhere) are simply spectacular!