Northern Arizona is brimming with national parks and monuments, making Flagstaff known as the “City of Seven Wonders”. If you’re staying in Flagstaff on your trip to Grand Canyon National Park, good choice! Stay a few days longer and check out our favorite things to do in and around the beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.
This story was created in partnership with Discover Flagstaff.
1. Sunset Crater National Monument
Something unique about Flagstaff is that there are three national monuments all within 30 minutes of downtown. Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument are both accessed from the same entrance, off Highway 89. Beginning with the Sunset Crater Visitor Center, the 35-mile loop road takes visitors through both monuments. Sunset Crater is the site of a volcano eruption that happened just 1,000 years ago, when the earth cracked and hot cinders and poisonous gases began spewing into the air. The eruption left the area looking desolate, void of plants, people, and wildlife. Slowly, plants and wildlife are beginning to return to the area, and visitors are able to walk through the cinder dunes and imagine what the area looked like before and shortly after the eruption.
2. Wupatki National Monument
After driving through Sunset Crater National Monument, you will continue on the loop road until reaching the visitor center for Wupatki National Monument—stop there to get a map and to hike to the Wupatki Pueblo, a 104-room pueblo featuring a ball court and geologic blowhole. Wupatki National Monument is home to many ancient dwellings of puebloan peoples, spread out amongst 56 square miles of dry, desert land. The farmers who occupied those lands for 400 years were forced out after the eruption of Sunset Crater, until generations later when families returned to rebuild and grow crops for another 100 years. Stop at as many trails as you can, as they’re all fairly short. Lomaki and Box Canyon pueblos are pictured above.
3. Get a taste of everything and enjoy the culinary scene
Downtown Flagstaff really is a foodie’s heaven, offering everything from farm-to-table fine dining to authentic Mexican street tacos. Unique coffee shops can be found right around the corner from a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, and it’s not hard to find restaurants with pet-friendly patios for our mountain-loving furry friends. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between—Flagstaff has you covered!
4. Play on the high ropes course at Flagstaff Extreme
Whether kids are part of your vacation crew or not, playing on the adventure and zip line course through the trees at Flagstaff Extreme is a blast for every age group! The obstacle course is set in the natural environment throughout the trees at Fort Tuthill County Park and includes more than 30 zip lines. Some of the obstacles found in the course include suspended bridges, scramble nets, swinging logs, and even a skateboard—can you imagine how that is used up there?! Flagstaff Extreme often sells out on summer weekends, so they recommend booking in advance.
5. View the night sky from the famous Lowell Observatory
The Lowell Observatory was established above Flagstaff in 1894 by Percival Lowell, long before Flagstaff was named the world’s first “International Dark Sky City,” in 2001. Just mile up “Mars Hill Road” from downtown Flagstaff, the Lowell Observatory offers day tours and nighttime stargazing tours, where folks get the chance to look at stars, galaxies, and planets through massive telescopes. Plus, learn about how Pluto was discovered right there at the Lowell Observatory!
6. Walnut Canyon National Monument
If you’re into ancient cliff dwellings, Walnut Canyon National Monument is the place to go. Imagine what an ancient “subdivision” or “neighborhood” would look like in a canyon—that’s Walnut Canyon. To put it into perspective, the Island Trail is just a one-mile loop and provides access to 25 cliff dwellings, with a view of many more from across the canyon! Walk beside these cliff dwellings, learning along the way things like how they stayed warm or how they collected rainwater. There is also a paved and accessible rim trail with two canyon overlooks.
7. Complete the Flagstaff Brewery Trail
Find out why Flagstaff is known as Arizona’s Craft Brew City and complete the Flagstaff Brewery Trail to receive a free commemorative souvenir nonic-style pint glass. Pick up your passport and brewery map from one of the breweries, then get all nine stickers by visiting each brewery (no purchase required). Once you’ve finished your trek, and hopefully enjoyed some brew along the way, pick up your pint glass from the Flagstaff Visitor Center or Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau.
8. Hike, Boat or Fish at Lake Mary
Just 20 minutes southeast of Flagstaff, Lake Mary offers some aquatic and sunbathing therapy for when the temperatures begin to rise and being on a boat sounds like the only good way to spend the weekend. Upper Lake Mary is largest and popular with power boaters and water skiers, while Lower Lake Mary is smaller and popular amongst anglers trying to catch the trout stocked by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Hike around the lake, or hike nearby trails like Sandys Canyon Trail or Priest Draw Trail, a popular bouldering area.
When planning your Flagstaff trip, consider whether you will fly or drive. If flying, we recommend landing in Flagstaff’s regional airport to avoid vacation hours spent traveling in the car. Book a hotel in a good location with easy access to the places you want to visit—Little America is a good option and is known as one of Flagstaff’s best hotels. Consider the season and temperatures at places like the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, which can get quite hot in the middle of summer. Finally, leave some of your itinerary free for spontaneous adventure—Flagstaff is built for those kinds of trips!