Things to Do in Flagstaff
Walk in the footsteps of the Native American tribes who built their pueblos in the deserts of the American Southwest at Wupatki National Monument. For thousands of years, tribes like the Anasazi and Sinagua lived in these rugged deserts, and among the myriad pueblos left behind is Wupatki Ruin, one of the largest and most elaborate in the region. It was three stories tall and had almost 100 rooms when the Sinagua people built it about 800 years ago. Along with exploring the ruins of a dozen pueblo villages, visitors can also hike the easy Doney Mountain Trail to the top of a volcanic cinder cone, and the visitor center has exhibits describing the culture and history of the people that lived here.
About 1,000 years ago, outside what is now Flagstaff, a cinder cone in the San Francisco Volcanic Field blew its top, showering the surrounding area with lava and ash. Since then, the minerals in the soil around the rim of the crater rusted, creating a striking red ring that lends the name Sunset Crater. A national monument was created here in 1930 when locals protested the plan of filmmakers to detonate explosives on the side of the slope. The main attractions at the small park are the visitor center, with its interactive volcano exhibits, and the short Lava Flow Trail that loops around the base of the volcano. Visitors can’t climb to the edge of Sunset Crater, but for those interested in scaling a volcano, the Lennox Crater Trail is open to hikers.
The towns of Flagstaff and Sedona both sit within the Coconino National Forest, a 1.9-million acre area of protected land fringed by four additional national forests. Many of the natural attractions around Flagstaff can be found within Coconino National Forest, such as the San Francisco Peaks—including the 12,600-foot Humphreys Peak—and the Sunset Crater National Monument. Visitors can find ample outdoor adventures within the forest, from fishing and swimming holes along Wet Beaver Creek to hiking and biking on red rock trails like those around Carroll Canyon.
A collection of once violent volcanoes dots the rugged high desert north of Flagstaff. Collectively called the San Francisco Peaks, or just ‘The Peaks’ by locals, today they sit dormant, offering a wilderness playground for adventurous visitors keen to hike, climb, bike or ski. The tallest is Humphrey’s Peak towering 12,633 feet, where hearty hikers can tackle a nine-mile, round-trip hike to its top. For wildlife spotting, lower elevation trails like Little Bear Trail wind through ponderosa pine, oak, and aspen forests, and the Lava River Cave offers great views and an exciting walk through a lava tube. The 44-mile Peaks Loop road is perfect for car-based sightseeing, while winter visitors can hit the slopes at Wing Mountain or the Snowbowl Ski Area.
To sample some of Flagstaff’s best craft beers, head to Mother Road Brewing Company. Named after Historic Route 66, which was nicknamed the Mother Road in its heyday, the brewery sits just a couple blocks from the iconic highway that runs through the center of town. The brewery is located in the Milum Building, a former commercial laundromat that has been repurposed in an ideal spot to grab a pint after a day of adventuring in the surrounding mountains and high desert. Their artfully crafted beers include complex flavors like the mesquite honey and British hops of the English Barleywine-style 4th Anniversary Ale or the coffee and orange notes of the popular chocolate stout Lost Highway.
Driving through the Bearizona wildlife park offers the thrilling opportunity to spot a stunning number of wild animals. Watch as a black bear lumbers through the forest or a wolf sneaks slowly through the grass, and see Bighorn sheep, bison, and burros graze in the forested setting.
Filled with American Indian artifacts, fine art, and natural science displays, the Museum of Northern Arizona is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Colorado Plateau. Visit the 200-acre (80-hectare) campus to explore the vast array of exhibits as well as the museum’s majestic surroundings.
A popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike, Beaver Street Brewery is an easy-going bar and restaurant like you hope to find in any town that prides itself on the adventurous nature of its surroundings. During the summers, it’s a hub of river guides, mountain bikers, and road trippers cruising Route 66. Under the warm sunshine, crowds gather in the outdoor beer garden to eat and drink against a great view of the San Francisco Peaks. Come winter, the ski crowd piles inside for burgers, pizzas and fondue alongside bold, award-winning beers like Big Rapid Red and Hopshot IPA.
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