What to do and see in Flagstaff, United States: The Best Places and Tips

August 26, 2017 Mollie Coke

Astounding natural wonders, invigorating outdoor recreation and fascinating cultural attractions make Flagstaff the perfect getaway to rejuvenate the body and replenish the mind. Set at the base of the beautiful San Francisco Peaks, and surrounded by lush national forests, the city provides ample opportunity for fresh air fun. Spring, summer and fall bring hikers, campers and mountain bikers, while winter draws skiers and ice skaters. But don't let a focus on the "good old outdoors" fool you. Fostered by the local university, Flagstaff is also chock-full of educational and cultural attractions. Be sure to see the award-winning permanent exhibit "Native Peoples of the Colorado Plateau" at the Museum of Northern Arizona. The Pioneer Museum offers a glimpse of what life was like for the early settlers of the region and includes a 1929 Baldwin locomotive in its collection. The city also has an arboretum and a planetarium. The entire area is a living anthropology and geology lesson, with ancient Native American ruins and stunning scenery at the Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments, just waiting to be explored.
Restaurants in Flagstaff

1. Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon Rd #3, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 +1 928-526-3367
Excellent
72%
Good
23%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2 reviews

Walnut Canyon National Monument

See millions of years of history unraveled in the geology of the rocks at this popular scenic and historic hiking area, once populated by the Sinagua Indians.

Reviewed By cris71 - Burlington, Canada

We were surprised and impressed with Walnut Canyon. It is a interesting site with lots of facts to learn about. It is located very close to Flagstaff. Take in consideration that in order to see the whole canyon and walk the entire loop you need to climb up and down 274 stairs one way but is very worth it.

2. Flagstaff Extreme

Fort Tuthill Loop Rd., Fort Tuthill County Park, Flagstaff, AZ 86001 +1 888-259-0125
Excellent
87%
Good
9%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 389 reviews

Flagstaff Extreme

Our Tree Top Adventure course is an elevated obstacle course set in the tall Ponderosa Pines and securely suspended between the trees at 15 to 50 feet off the ground.Some of the features of course include suspended bridges, swings, slides, nets, ziplines and even an aerial surf board.Come on your own, bring a group, or have a party or an event. Take a journey and explore the outdoors like you never have before.

Reviewed By NeoJava3 - Hawaii

This place was AWESOME! If you have teens, this is the best thing to do in Arizona. No time to play with electronics or sulk, your teen will come alive when they start the course. It's an adventure that the entire family can share together. The course is created to get more difficult the farther you go so you may start out shaky but you will soon gain confidence in yourself as you progress until you find yourself about 70 feet off the ground in a tree looking down with no fear. Zip lines in the course get pretty long as well. The experience is challenging and fun.

3. Humphrey's Peak

Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, AZ
Excellent
77%
Good
19%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 145 reviews

Humphrey's Peak

Reviewed By PhlegmMaster - Phoenix, Arizona

This was the first attempt at climbing to the summit of Humphreys Peak for my wife and me. We’re middle-aged, with only a little bit of hiking experience, so I’d say we represent your average weekend warrior/hiker. The sign at the beginning of the trail lists the one-way distance as 4.8 miles (7.7 km); this may not sound like a lot, but it is!!

During our hike up, we would stop periodically to take pictures and eat some trail mix, but we never sat down. We eventually reached the spot that the experienced hikers call “The Saddle,” which I think they said was the point where you are above the tree-line and are now faced with being exposed to the elements because the only things around you are rocks and some minimal plant life (The Knights Who Say "Ni!” would not be impressed with this shrubbery). The real danger at this point is that if the weather turns nasty…and they say it can change quickly up here…your life is on the line as you continue the hike from the Saddle to the summit. Lightning strikes have killed people here. We started the day with totally clear skies, but by the time we got to the Saddle we had seen it turn cloudy, had experienced rain, and even gotten pelted by hail!

We really thought there was a high probability that our quest to reach the summit would fall short. We hung around the Saddle “rest stop” area with a few other climbers, waiting to see if the dark clouds overhead would dissipate, or instead turn into a thunderstorm. Some hikers gave up and headed back down the mountain. Our patience paid off when we saw the sun begin to peak through the clouds, so we continued onward & upward...

The trail from the Saddle to the summit is definitely a lot harder than the first part of the climb up this mountain. You will occasionally be dealing with large boulders to climb over, along with places where it’s easy to misjudge the layout of the pathway.
Beginning at 6:30 AM, when we set out on our adventure from the Snowbowl parking lot, it took us 6 hours to finally reach the zenith of our journey. Standing on the summit of Humphreys Peak is priceless! The sense of accomplishment makes it all worth it! My wife and I took in the splendid view and relished in our achievement, but we only stayed on this highest point in Arizona for a short while, because the clouds were moving back in and we did not want to be walking lightning rods on the trek down!

Normally, hiking down a mountain is quicker than going up. Well, my wife and I have had knee and ankle problems in the past, so we took our sweet time heading down. Guess how long it took us to climb down…8 grueling hours!!! Crazy, right?!? The sun set while we were descending, but we were prepared with flashlights, so we were OK. It felt like forever, but we finally reached the bottom at 8:30 PM.

So, I would say the average person should expect the roundtrip journey to take anywhere between 9 to 12 hours. I’m sure speedsters can do it in under 7. We took 14 long hours. Make sure you come prepared with proper attire, flashlights, plenty of water, and enough snacks to keep up your energy.

However long it takes you to make the ascent & descent, enjoy the experience with all your heart…and aching muscles!

Excelsior!!!

4. Coconino National Forest

1824 S Thompson St, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-2693 +1 928-527-3600
Excellent
75%
Good
21%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 344 reviews

Coconino National Forest

Named after the Coho Native American people, this forest is two million acres of recreational, lumber, and mining land.

Reviewed By Raymond C - New York, United States

We wanted to get an up close and personal hiking experience, but weren't able to do a forced march into the great outdoors. We found and selected the level of hiking we could manage and truly enjoyed our experience. The natural beauty of the area made for some memorable photos!

5. San Francisco Peaks

Flagstaff, AZ
Excellent
70%
Good
27%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 214 reviews

San Francisco Peaks

Located north of Flagstaff, these are the remains of ancient volcanic peaks that may have once reached 15,000 feet above the Colorado Plateau.

Reviewed By Robert H - Dronfield, United Kingdom

On the way back from the grand canyon took the scenic route to flagstaff and had the drive of your life. Scenery is breath taking, you are away from the interstate and you can get out and breathe in the mountain air. If you have the time make sure you drive the route.

6. Wupatki National Monument

6400 N US Highway 89, Flagstaff, AZ 86004-2759 +1 928-679-2365
Excellent
64%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Wupatki National Monument

Explore this fascinating ancient pueblo, located near the San Francisco Peaks, which once housed almost 100 members of the Anasazi and Sinagua tribes.

Reviewed By mrliterature - California

Wupatki is an interesting ruin, located about 13 miles off Highway 89, northeast of Flagstaff. The road to Wupatki is paved and well maintained, but the slow speed limit makes those 13 miles seems endless. I was surprised how many people make the trip out there, and stop at the two smaller ruins at about the 10 and 11 mile mark. There's a nice visitor center and it is well staffed. The trail to the ruins, however, is not gated and even when the center is closed one can still walk to the ruins. It is a fascinating place, with ruins of the pueblo, a large, low, round kiva, a ball court, and the pathway is paved. Make sure to pick up a laminated packet to help explain the various areas. The staff is very helpful and is willing to stop and chat, and to answer questions. I enjoyed going to this monument and would actually like to go again. If you are a photographer, go in the morning when the morning light shines directly on the pueblo. In the evenings the setting sun is behind the pueblo. Also, make sure to take water. It can get hot.

7. Red Mountain Trail

Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, AZ
Excellent
74%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 112 reviews

Red Mountain Trail

Reviewed By MissyC2012 - Houston, Texas

1.5 mile walk in on relatively flat trail with a slow but steady elevation increase. Last section of trail is on loose gravel that reminded me of walking in beach sand. The hike was ok, not overly exciting, but the end was fantastic! The kids loved climbing the lava flows and exploring. They begged to stay longer and preferred this to continuing walking the grand canyon's rim. Recommend bringing climbing gloves if you have them since the surfaces are rough. Can easily spent an hr or more exploring and climbing at the end of the trail.

8. Lava River Cave

Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, AZ
Excellent
66%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 399 reviews

Lava River Cave

Reviewed By SuperTed19 - Madison, Wisconsin

We visited in January, 2018 before the area had any snow, so the roads were open. Also, we went first thing in the morning and did not run into any other humans until we had returned to the entrance.

Yes, it’s ultimately just a long underground tube, but it is a really cool experience to see how the lava created this underground tube.

Tip #1: bring more light than a cell phone. We had headlights (a must!), strong flashlights (very helpful!), and a lantern (not necessary, but useful for lighting the immediate area).

Tip #2: there are some low spots, so a helmet would be a good idea.

Tip #3: take it slow going in and coming out. The rocks near the entrance are tricky, and they can be quite slippery.

Tip #4: if you take your time, it should take 1.5-2.0 hours to go all the way to the end and return.

9. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

409 W Riordan Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-6440 +1 928-779-4395
Excellent
64%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 475 reviews

Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

Built in 1904 for two Riordan families, Riordan Mansion is an impressive reminder of gracious living in a small, territorial logging town. The historic building is an Arizona treasure — a remarkable example of Arts and Crafts style architecture featuring a rustic exterior of log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles. The expansive home has forty rooms, over 13,000 square-feet of living area, and servants' quarters. The Riordan residence was designed by the creator of Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel, Charles Whittlesey.

Reviewed By Sharron G - Minden, NV

The best tours and historic homes are full of personal history - and the Riordan Mansion was no exception. Two lumber baron brothers (and Irish immigrants), married two German/American sisters and build thier mirror image mansions side by side. Homes were lived in by family members from about 1904 through the 1970s. Original craftsman style furniture, photographs and clothing pieces remain. Well worth the $10 guided tour price.

10. Museum of Northern Arizona

3101 N Fort Valley Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-8348 +1 928-774-5213
Excellent
68%
Good
24%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 466 reviews

Museum of Northern Arizona

One of the great regional museums of our world, surrounded by tremendous geological, biological, and cultural resources in one of Earth's most spectacular landscapes. With a long and illustrious history, MNA evokes the very spirit of the Colorado Plateau and serves as a gateway to understanding this unique region. Whatever your time frame, this museum will enhance your experience of the richly diverse cultures, landscapes, and ecology of the Plateau. Nine permanent and changing exhibit galleries present Native cultures, tribal lifeways, natural sciences, and fine arts. Ventures and custom tours explore the Four Corners Region of the American Southwest. Award-winning Museum Shop & Bookstore onsite. Self-guided Rio de Flag Nature Trail.

Reviewed By SYDHIKER - Australia

Good points:

Excellent pottery and jewellery displays.

Well stocked bookshop and gift shop.

Bad points:

David at front desk was very reluctant to let me into the interior garden courtyard high altitude flora display area because he said it was under construction and dangerous. The doors leading into it were all locked. Eventually he did let me in. I saw zero evidence of construction or danger. I think he was just too lazy to get up and unlock the door. David's laziness was a pity because, as well as having the flora displays, the courtyard is suppised to be a memorial.

Geology and paleontology displays are of lower standard.

Ethnology room not open until April 2018.

No cafe.

Recommendations:

Do come, especially after new ethnology room opens in April 2018.

Before paying admission, double check which areas are open and closed and that staff are willing to let you into the open areas.





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