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11 Best Things to Do in Flagstaff, Arizona

Jam-packed with attractions highlighting the area’s natural beauty, Flagstaff is a unique, family-friendly destination in Arizona. While the Grand Canyon garners the bulk of the attention of visitors in the area, those interested in geological wonders and small-town charm will be delighted to explore the diversity of Flagstaff’s attractions. From blooming spring and summer colors to snowy winters and autumn outdoor adventures, Flagstaff offers an array of activities to enjoy throughout the year. From the hiking opportunities in the Coconino National Forest to the 300,000-ton fragment at Meteor Crater and stargazing at Lowell Observatory, here are some of the best things to do in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Soak in the Scenery at Coconino National Forest Cathedral Rock in Coconino National Forest
Credit: Cathedral Rock in Coconino National Forest by bigstock.com

Soak in the Scenery at Coconino National Forest

What Is It? An impressive two million-acre national forest, Coconino National Forest was originally established in 1898 as the San Francisco Mountains National Forest Reserve. 

Why Do It? Officially a U.S. National Forest in 1908, visitors can now explore the area’s abundance of diverse landscapes and indulge in a variety of outdoor adventures. Here visitors are spoiled for choice with alpine tundra, desert landscapes, flatlands, mesas and awe-inspiring volcanic peaks. 

Good to Know: Perfect for hiking, swimming, and fishing, visitors should also bring their cameras to capture the area’s treasures found on a multitude of scenic drives that are lined with colorful rocks and unique formation views they will want to keep as souvenirs.

Stargaze at Lowell Observatory Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff
Credit: Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff by Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff

Stargaze at Lowell Observatory

What Is It? One of the most impressive observatories in Arizona amongst the oldest in the United States, Lowell Observatory dates back to 1894. 

Why Do It? A designated U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965, it was in 1930 that Clyde Tombaugh had a historic breakthrough when he discovered the dwarf planet Pluto using the telescope found at Lowell Observatory. Now used for public education, visitors can see this famous artifact that changed the course of history. Offering guided tours throughout the day, visitors can learn about this famous attraction and its significance in the field of astronomy. 

Good to Know: Come here in the evening for a truly memorable experience, where visitors can observe the majestic, glittering night sky using one of their expert telescopes.

See Native American Pueblos at Wupatki National Monument Wupatki National Monument
Credit: Wupatki National Monument by bigstock.com

See Native American Pueblos at Wupatki National Monument

What Is It? Home to an array of Native American ruins, the Wupatki National Monument is a U.S. National Monument nestled on 35,000 acres of desert land. 

Why Do It? Originating in 1924, it wasn’t until 1966 that the monument was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Here visitors can browse the ruins of ancient Native American pueblos and catch a glimpse of famous landmarks such as Crack-in-Rock, Wukoki, and Wupatki. Translating to “small house,” Wupatki is a breathtaking multi-story pueblo with over 100 rooms. 

Good to Know: Visitors who stay to explore the area will also find other captivating features, including a ball court and an ancient community room.

Stroll the Gardens at The Arboretum at Flagstaff The Arboretum at Flagstaff
Credit: The Arboretum at Flagstaff by The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Stroll the Gardens at The Arboretum at Flagstaff

What Is It? For a day of relaxation and beautiful landscapes, head to The Arboretum at Flagstaff.

Why Do It? Spread across 200 acres, visitors will find a vibrant range of flora and fauna, with 2,5000 species of plants that are native and drought-tolerant. Representing those typically found in the desert terrain of places like the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, visitors can browse the variety of plants in greenhouses, gardens and natural habitats. 

Good to Know: Sitting 7,150 feet in elevation that was originally a forest and ranch, it is one of the country’s highest public gardens with an abundance of horticultural collections and rare plant specimens, all nestled amongst charming historic buildings and a vast expanse of natural beauty.

Climb to the Top of Humphrey's Peak Humphrey's Peak
Credit: Humphrey's Peak by © Snehitdesign | Dreamstime.com

Climb to the Top of Humphrey's Peak

What Is It? The highest mountain in Arizona, the summit of Humphreys Peak sits at 12,633 feet. 

Why Do It? A 9.5 mile moderately trafficked trail, visitors will find beautiful landscapes while hiking, but it is not until visitors reach the summit that they are truly rewarded with the most magical views of the area. On a clear day, adventurous hikers will be able to soak in views of the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the picturesque White Mountains in all its glory. 

Good to Know: Primarily an area for hiking, walking, and nature trips, the best time to explore the trails here are during late spring and early fall.

Explore Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument Walnut Canyon National Monument
Credit: Walnut Canyon National Monument by MBoe/shutterstock.com

Explore Cliff Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument

What Is It? A U.S. National Monument listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of the best national parks in Arizona

Why Do It? One of Flagstaff’s most popular attractions, you’ll find it located southeast of the downtown area. The Sinagua is a pre-Columbian group that lived in the valley and was responsible for building the famous Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot. After getting educational material from the Visitor Center, visitors will find a scenic trail that leads them to the canyon’s rugged edge with sweeping panoramic views of its floor, as visitors pass by 25 unique Sinagua cliff dwelling rooms where they can get up close and personal with every nook and cranny. 

Good to Know: Visitors can also explore the on-site museum for a fascinating insight into the area’s history.

Browse Artifacts at Museum of Northern Arizona Museum of Northern Arizona
Credit: Museum of Northern Arizona by Museum of Northern Arizona

Browse Artifacts at Museum of Northern Arizona

What Is It? An impressive museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting fascinating Native American artifacts, the Museum of Northern Arizona is a must-see for those interested in exploring the area’s rich history. 

Why Do It? Browse objects from the Colorado Plateau, or read the captivating background behind an array of collections highlighting the anthropology, art, biology and geology of the area. Founded in 1928, this historic gem is worth a day of touring the facility to get a taste of the finest artwork in Flagstaff. 

Good to Know: Soak up the local culture and capture the museum’s famous artwork and photographs, or attend one of the many workshops and programs held here throughout the year.

Visit a Meteorite Site at Meteor Crater Meteor Crater Arizona
Credit: Meteor Crater Arizona by bigstock.com

Visit a Meteorite Site at Meteor Crater

What Is It? The world’s best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth, the Meteor Crater is a fascinating attraction for all ages. 

Why Do It? Nearly one mile across and 2.4 miles in circumference, it is an astonishingly 550 feet deep and the breathtaking result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour over 50,000 years ago. Equipped with telescopes, visitors can view the distant rock walls or hike the trail around the rim on a guided tour. Discovered in the 19th century, the largest surviving fragment can be viewed here weighing 300,000 tons. 

Good to Know: In addition to the crater, visitors will find outdoor observation trails, indoor viewing, a movie theater and a gift shop filled with unique souvenirs.

Ski the Slopes at Arizona Snowbowl Arizona Snowbowl
Credit: Arizona Snowbowl by arizonasnowbowl.com

Ski the Slopes at Arizona Snowbowl

What Is It? The area’s most popular alpine ski resort, the Arizona Snowbowl sits atop the towering San Francisco Peaks. Running since 1938, this 777-acre resort boasts five lifts and a 2,300-foot drop that is the largest in the state.

Why Do It? In the winter, the cool pines and snowy peaks are perfect for a day of skiing down the slopes. Don’t fret if you come to Flagstaff over the summer, as the area boasts an array of activities to enjoy in warmer temperatures. 

Good to Know: Ride the Scenic Skyride chairlift, where on a good day, you’ll be able to capture stunning views of the Grand Canyon situated 70 miles away, while visitors can also indulge in a day of hiking the area’s scenic trails to Humphreys Peak.

Be Adventurous at Lava River Cave Lava River Cave
Credit: Lava River Cave by Wikimedia Commons/Dave Bunnell

Be Adventurous at Lava River Cave

What Is It? A unique lava tube located in the Coconino National Forest, the Lava River Cave is worth a mention on its own for its mesmerizing qualities. 

Why Do It? Discovered in 1915 by a lumberman, the Lava River Cave is the longest cave in Arizona with a length of 0.75 miles. In addition to being a memorable travel experience, it is also an educational one, as visitors are able to gain knowledge of the area’s history and how it relates to the biology and geology of caves in general. 

Good to Know: Perfect for travelers who are looking for a bit of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, since there is no front door to the attraction, visitors will discover a hole that they must climb through in order to explore the natural wonder.

Day Trip to Sedona Sedona has lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation including hiking and mountain biking.
Credit: Sedona has lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation including hiking and mountain biking. by bigstockphoto.com

Day Trip to Sedona

What Is It? Less than an hour’s drive away from Flagstaff, visitors shouldn’t miss out on a chance to take a day trip to nearby Sedona

Why Do It? A combination of art, hiking, and scenic vistas, Sedona offers a gorgeous blend of natural beauty with the glowing red-rock formations it is known for. 

Good to Know: With serene vibes and a charming atmosphere, visitors who are adventurous might enjoy hiking the red-rock buttes at Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Bear Mountain, and Courthouse Rock, while shopping enthusiasts might like to spend a day at the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village and browsing the art galleries and shops along Highway 89A.

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