Located within two hours of six national monuments and Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff, Arizona, is a vibrant mountain town with a charming historic downtown. Here are seven things to do in and near Flagstaff, Ariz.
1. Forest Bathe in Flagstaff’s Nature
Why go: If you’ve never heard of forest bathing, Flagstaff, Ariz., may be the best place to try it out and have a Zen moment. With no soap or water required, forest bathing, a longtime Japanese tradition, involves immersing yourself in nature to reduce stress and reconnect with yourself, among other health benefits. Surrounded by the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, Flagstaff’s uncrowded trails offer solitude, easy social distancing, a lot of trees and outstanding views.
Tip: Explore the 2.5-mile Aspen Loop Trail at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort nestled in the San Francisco Peaks. You can make the hike longer by connecting with the Arizona Trail.
Twenty minutes from town, visit Sandys Canyon Trail no.137 in the heart of the Coconino National Forest to be surrounded by thousands of trees, petrified sand dunes and boulders to sit on and enjoy a picnic lunch.
2. Six Nearby National Monuments
Why go: There are six national monuments and Grand Canyon National Park within two hours of Flagstaff, each offering something different. They’re in a desert landscape filled with ancient cities and an extinct volcano with none of the crowds you’ll find at Grand Canyon. Walnut Canyon and Wupatki national monuments preserve 700-year-old pueblos that were once home to thousands of people.
Tip: Head to Walnut Canyon National Monument 10 miles southeast of downtown Flagstaff. The one-mile roundtrip strenuous Island Trail will take you past 25 ancient cliff dwelling rooms.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a training ground for Apollo astronauts in the 1960s, enables you to walk along the Lava Flow Trail to view the impacts of a volcanic eruption 900 years ago.
3. Arizona Snowbowl
Why go: In summer take a scenic chair lift to 11,500 feet at this ski area located in the San Francisco peaks. It’s a great place to escape the summer heat and experience the mountains.
Tip: At the top, you’ll see the red rocks of Sedona and the walls of the Grand Canyon in the distance. Bring layers, sunscreen and water because temperatures are chillier up high and the sun is extra strong.
Getting to Flagstaff is easy. Flagstaff Airport offers non-stop Phoenix (PHX) and Dallas (DFW) routes on American Airlines plus Denver (DEN) flights on United Airlines. If traveling by car on a road trip, Flagstaff is situated at major crossroads, easily accessible from the east, west and south with interstates 40 and 17.
4. Tourist Home All Day Cafe
Why go: Opened in 2014, this fabulous spot still has an old outdoor neon sign from the days it served as a hostel for sheepherders, beginning in 1926. Today, this hip counter-service restaurant is a gourmet food hot spot.
Tip: Have breakfast or lunch, pick up specialty foods and sample the delicious pastries baked fresh daily. Try the quiche followed by the double chocolate espresso cookie. If you sit a the community table, you’re bound to get insider area tips from a friendly local whose sitting next to you.
5. MartAnne’s Burrito Palace and More
Why go: Head to the colorful MartAnne’s Burrito Palace with its imaginative Latin-inspired dishes or Josephine’s Modern American Bistro for new twists on old classics like diablo shrimp macaroni and cheese.
For Italian, head to Fat Olives. Opened more than 25 years ago as a mobile catering company by award-winning chef John Conley, it has become a bustling restaurant full of Italian authenticity located on Route 66. Conley and his recipes have been featured in magazines, newspapers and on television, including “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” on Food Network.
Tip: Proper Meats + Provisions, a butcher shop, serves artisanal meats sourced from Arizona ranches, local cheeses, salads, sandwiches and more.
6. The Museum Club
Why go: One of the only original Route 66 roadhouses still standing, this log cabin attracts national acts like Willie Nelson, features two bars and is home to one of the largest wooden dance floors in the state. Check out the various animal mounts hanging on the walls. Before it became a bar, The Museum Club was a taxidermy. It’s located at 3404 East Route 66.
Tip: Download the Route 66 pedestrian audio tour of Flagstaff and learn other Route 66 secrets at www.flagstaffarizona.org/things-to-do/scenic-drives-day-trips/route-66/.
7. Lowell Observatory
Why go: This world-class observatory is where Pluto was discovered and the moon was mapped for early NASA astronauts. The Flagstaff area itself played a very important role as a training center for astronauts who participated in the Apollo program. Lowell Observatory was a map-making center to create maps of the moon for country’s mission to the moon. For 10 years scientists and illustrators used telescopes, including the 24-inch Clark refractor to view the moon and hand-draw detailed maps of its surface.
Tip: If you go in the evening, you can get up-close views of planets, stars and the moon through Lowell’s telescopes.
For more information:
Flagstaff Visitor Center
One E. Route 66