5 Days of Fun: Flagstaff Itineraries

Flagstaff is a hub of activity where an eclectic mix of small town charm and endless outdoor adventure beckons.

two bikers riding through downtown flagstaff

DAY ONE: EXPLORE FLAGSTAFF’S HISTORY

Flagstaff’s history crosses through the skies and the forests, down Route 66 and into the ancient past of the area’s original inhabitants, enriched by the variety of people that have brought it to life. Follow this path to walk in their footsteps and explore Flagstaff’s rich history.

The Museum of Northern Arizona provides cultural, anthropological, geological and historical perspectives on the area, from dinosaurs and climate change to Native American arts and craft traditions. After exploring the Colorado Plateau, visit the Pioneer Museum for a trip back in time to Flagstaff’s founding days, where you can walk through old log homes and a steam engine and experience other hands-on historical exhibits. For a well-preserved glimpse into the lives of some of Flagstaff’s founding families, visit the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. The guided tour is a must do, covering everything from Arts and Crafts style architecture to women’s roles at the turn of the century in the west.

A premiere research facility both now and in the early 1900s, the famous Lowell Observatory brings the distant skies up close and personal. Glimpse through powerful telescopes, including the original Alvan Clark Telescope, to see the sun during the day and distant stars, planets and galaxies when night falls.

Travel along a winding dirt road on the western outskirts of town to learn about the native flora and fauna at The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Daily guided nature walks are a great way to explore the gardens and wildlife native to the area. The Arboretum is open April to October only.

Historic Downtown is Flagstaff’s hub of dining, nightlife, shopping and art galleries. Stroll the quaint streets or take in one of the many events and live performances in Heritage Square. Historic Route 66 runs right through Downtown and the Flagstaff Visitor Center offers brochures for self-guided walking tours of both the historic 1890s downtown and the original Route 66.

DAY TWO: A GRAND JOURNEY

sunrise over the grand canyon

Flagstaff is the gateway to the Grand Canyon, making a fun-filled day trip to this geologic wonder easy and convenient. When you arrive at the Grand Canyon you’ll no longer wonder why it is so revered. The red, orange and brown rocks delving down deep into the landscape beg to be photographed, but there’s much more to do at the canyon then merely peer over its side.

The classic three-hour Abyss Overlook tour aboard friendly mules meanders through Ponderosa, Piñon and Juniper to a magnificent cliff and back. Note that these tours book up to 13 months in advance.

Take advantage of Bright Angel Bikes’ Green Bike Tour along the historic Hermit’s Rest Road, traveling from Hopi Point to the Abyss and onto Pima Point and the Hermit’s Rest.

Explore the canyon with National Park Service ranger led walks and talks. Stop by the Canyon View Information Plaza for a daily schedule of events.

Don’t miss the historic yet often overlooked Kolb Studio art exhibits or the simplistic joy of sipping coffee or enjoying an ice cream cone on the swings of the canyon-facing porches of the famed El Tovar Hotel.

Drive back to Flagstaff on the less crowded “locals’ route,” which takes you past the Desert View Watchtower and out the East Rim Entrance with an opportunity to stop at the historic Cameron Indian Trading Post for a Navajo taco or browse Native American crafts.

DAY THREE: HIGH COUNTRY ADVENTURE

horse riding along tree line

Flagstaff is the perfect base camp for exploring the natural wonders of the area, from skiing the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks to hiking the red rocks of Sedona and more.

Arizona Snowbowl is the place to go for downhill skiing in northern Arizona in the winter but also an outdoor lover’s dream other seasons with tons of mountain trails and a challenging disc golf course. Get a bird’s eye view of the whole landscape from their Scenic Skyride (May-October). The Arizona Nordic Village offers cross country ski trails, as well as snowshoeing and snowplay areas every winter, and a full calendar of summer events.

Rent a bike to explore the 50+ miles of trails that are part of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS). Pedal over to play disc golf at one of the several courses in city parks or explore the Coconino National Forest trails.

Buffalo Park is a hidden treasure, offering an easy 2-mile loop for family hiking or biking not far from downtown. The park offers scenic views of the San Francisco Peaks and Mount Elden.

Enjoy some summer fun on the water at Upper Lake Mary. Rent a canoe a few miles further out at Mormon Lake Lodge. They also have summer ATV rentals and horseback riding plus winter snowmobile tours.

DAY FOUR: DISCOVER THE OLD WEST

Northern Arizona’s history is entrenched in the culture of the old west. From cowboys and the frontier to ghost towns and railroad lore, this area is still steeped in old west appeal.

Historic Flagstaff walking tours take you through the haunted tales, railroad history, Route 66 nostalgia and other important happenings that made Flagstaff what it is today. Pick up informational brochures at the Flagstaff Visitor Center in the historic train station downtown.

Descend through scenic Oak Creek Canyon to the famed red rocks of Sedona to see where more than 60 Hollywood movies were filmed since 1923, including many Zane Grey novels turned films like “The Call of the Canyon.” About 20 miles from Sedona is what’s known as the largest ghost town in the US — Jerome, a National Historic District since the 1960s. Once home to gunfights, miners, and bordellos, this former “wickedest town in the west” maintains the character of a late 1890s town and now offers a robust art scene.

Families will also enjoy the old west shootouts and historical re-enactments in nearby Williams. The Wild West Junction has a working blacksmith shop and old-time jail. Visit the Bearizona drive-thru animal park for an up-close and personal look at bears, buffalo and other wildlife.

DAY FIVE: TOURING ANCIENT TREASURES

wupatki ruins near flagstaff

Northern Arizona is held in high regard by the people native to this land. The area has both living traditions and cultures, as well as monuments to the people who came before.

The Museum of Northern Arizona has an award-winning collection spanning 12,000 years of history for Hopi, Navajo, Zuni and other Native American tribes from the Colorado Plateau.

On the eastern edge of Flagstaff, Elden Pueblo is an active archaeological site inhabited by the Sinagua people from 1070-1275 AD. Hands-on programs allow everyone to dig in and explore the past.

Wupatki National Monument gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived in this area around 1000 AD. Stop at the visitor center for a quick history of the pueblos and pick up a brochure to guide you through the monument. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is along the same loop and offers hiking opportunities among the trees and wildflowers that are poking out between the lava flows and cinder.

Walnut Canyon National Monument offers a scenic but strenuous hike along the one-mile Island Trail with premium views of the cliff dwellings up close.

Explore the legacy of the Sinagua people at the Tuzigoot National Monument in the Verde Valley, south of Flagstaff. Short self-guided trails take you through a 110-room ancient pueblo, Tavasci Marsh and nearby vistas. While in the Verde Valley, visit the Montezuma Castle National Monument and Montezuma Well, one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the area.

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The CVB features travel information for visitors to Flagstaff, Arizona and regional attractions like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Navajo Nation and Route 66.

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