Northern Arizona is home to some of the most stunning landscapes and interesting towns in the West and Flagstaff is perfectly positioned for Day Trips to several of these treasures.
Flagstaff has been called the City of Seven Wonders due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon, The San Francisco Peaks, Sunset Crater, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments, Oak Creek Canyon, and Coconino National Forest. These awe-inspiring locations can be visited via scenic drives around Flagstaff. To find inspiration for photography of these wonders, check out our cool spots on Pinterest.
Scope Out the Seven Wonders
1. Grand Canyon
81 miles north of Flagstaff · (928) 638-7888
Flagstaff is the gateway to the Grand Canyon, making a fun-filled day trip to this geologic wonder easy and convenient. Seeing it in a movie is one thing, but the breathtaking beauty that rushes at you the moment you peer over the edge is something entirely different. Grab the camera and explore this majestic canyon from every angle.
Source: Explore Guide
2. Wupatki National Monument
39 miles north of Flagstaff · 928-679-2365
Head 18 miles north of Flagstaff on Northbound Highway 89, and you will find a 35-mile scenic loop that connects two national monuments – Sunset Crater and Wupatki.
This picturesque scenic loop gives a glimpse into the past and provides impressive photo opportunities to make all your friends jealous. The first of these is between the two monuments. Looking out to the east, you will see the enchanting layers of colors that make up the Painted Desert in the distance. As you make your way to the northern portion of the loop you will begin to see the red rock walls of 800-year-old pueblos of Wupatki National Monument dotting the landscape and giving insight into the lives of the ancient people that lived in this area around 1000 AD. This area was home to thousands of people and was along an essential trade route. A stop into the Visitor Center will teach you how these ancient people survived by farming, hunting and gathering, and trading.
3. Oak Creek Canyon
Coconino National Forest Red Rock Ranger District · 29 miles south on Highway 89A · 928-282-4119
Travel south 29 miles on scenic Highway 89A from Flagstaff and descend 2,500 feet navigating a breathtaking series of switchbacks into stunning Oak Creek Canyon. From the top of the switchbacks, at Oak Creek Vista, you can stop to gaze at the canyon below that you will soon be meandering through. There are local Navajo and Hopi artisans set up with booths to purchase authentic Native American jewelry, rugs and other artwork. Coconino National Forest rangers are on hand to answer questions and discuss the mountains in the distance. Through the switchbacks, the landscape changes to lush creek-side vegetation with a canopy of trees and the crystal-clear water of Oak Creek begins to appear alongside the road. There are many stops along the way for a quick photo or a hike deeper into the red rock canyons. Hear the Call of the Canyon at the West Fork trail which follows the main tributary of Oak Creek as it winds around the red rocks. If you are lucky enough to visit in the summer, you can experience mother nature’s water slide at Slide Rock State Park. As you near Sedona and the end of this scenic drive the canyon will open to views of the red rock mountains in the distance.
4. Sunset Crater Volcano
18 miles north on Highway 89 · 928-526-0502
Born in a dramatic series of eruptions only 900 years ago, Sunset Crater is still the youngest volcano on the Colorado Plateau. Visitor Center exhibits explain the powerful geologic forces and their aftermath. See for yourself on the one-mile, self-guided Lava Flow Trail.
Sunset Crater Volcanic National Monument was preserved after a movie company wanted to blow up part of the crater to create a landslide for their film. The public knew that this site was too special to allow for this and it was declared a National Monument by President Hoover in 1930. Since then, it has remained an important location to preserve natural and cultural resources of the area. This was one of the areas that the astronauts with the Apollo Missions came to train. In fact, the surface of the moon was mapped in the cinders around Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to allow training astronauts the opportunity to test drive the lunar rover and identify geological features in preparation for the 1969 moon landing. Watch the scenery change from volcanic lava flows and black cinder from Sunset Crater’s eruption around 900 years ago to high desert juniper and sage bushes of the Wupatki basin.
5. San Francisco Peaks
31 miles north on Highway 180
The San Francisco Peaks are a quiet volcanic mountain range with six summits including Mount Humphreys towering at 12,633 feet, the tallest peak in the state. Once an active stratovolcano, presumably as high as 16,000 feet, the San Francisco Peaks serve as one of the most distinct geological features of the Colorado Plateau. Often described as a forested gem, in the crown of a great desert state, to some the Peaks are a sacred place, to some they are a place of recreation and to others, one of introspection. But to all they are a place of awesome majesty and beauty that is unrivaled throughout the region.
Activities include multiple hiking trails with various degrees of difficulty, downhill skiing and an archaeological dig site.
6. Coconino National Forest
Flagstaff boasts many superlatives, but perhaps the most appropriate one is the fact that the town is located in the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in the world. The ecosystems that surround Flagstaff span from piñon-juniper woodland to alpine tundra, but it is the Ponderosa pine forest in-between that dominates the area. This towering tree only grows at elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, making Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation the perfect home.
7. Walnut Canyon National Monument
9 miles east of Downtown Flagstaff on I-40 · 928-526-3367
A short nine mile drive east of downtown Flagstaff will bring you to Walnut Canyon National Monument, named from its walnut trees, this area was once home to the Sinagua people. From the Visitor Center you can gaze down into the canyon and explore the displays to get a glimpse of what life was like for these people who called this canyon home hundreds of years ago. Walk among the cliff dwellings and pueblos where people lived only 800 years ago. Experience the dramatic geology, varied vegetation and wildlife that made their lives possible. Visitor Center exhibits explain their daily lives. To experience these ruins even closer, you can take one of two hikes in the monument. The strenuous one-mile Island Trail descends into Walnut Canyon and walks just inches from the dwelling inhabited 800 years ago. For an easier hike, there is the shorter Rim Trail that offers overlooks into the canyon below and a pithouse display.
Explore More Wonders
42 miles east of Downtown Flagstaff on I-40
Don't miss out on witnessing the best-preserved meteorite impact site on the planet, where real astronauts go to train! Standing by the giant crater will make you feel like you're on the moon yourself, and so will the new immersive 4D Space Adventure experience. This "space flight" aboard the STS Barringer will take you on a mission to save Earth from impending doom. There are also guided rim tours and an interactive museum to check out.