Planning a getaway to Northern Arizona? Start your journey off right with the best things to do in Flagstaff, AZ. From its quaint downtown to the high desert landscape of the Colorado Plateau and rugged volcano and mountainscapes, Flagstaff may just be the ultimate Southwest USA holiday for nature lovers.
Outdoor activities abound in Flagstaff. Trek through diverse hiking trails, across lava fields, and into flourishing national parks. Get your heart pounding on the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, soaring through the Ponderosa Pines forests. Then, explore the ancient ruins of the Anasazi people at the Wupatki National Monument.
Can’t quite pinpoint where to begin your Flagstaff travels? Use this as your complete guide to the best places to visit in Flagstaff, Arizona!
Best places to visit in Flagstaff, AZ
Stargaze like you’ve never stargazed before at the Lowell Observatory. Get a lesson in astronomy at this planetarium, whose telescopes first discovered Pluto in 1930. Peer through professional telescopes to learn about our galaxy’s moons, planets, stars, and exoplanetary systems beyond.
Cruise over to this observatory on Mars Hill for a hands-on experience examining the twinkling stars and planets in our night sky. Take stargazing to the next level at Giovale Open Deck Observatory, testing six different high-powered telescopes. Inspect the Andromeda Galaxy through the 5.5-inch TEC Wide-Field Refractor, and be amazed by unhindered views of gas clouds around Swan Nebula with the 32” Starstructure Dobsonian Reflector.
For the grand finale, get access to the 24-inch Dryer telescope. As the rooftop opens, look out at the nebulas and cosmos in our magical starry skies. For an extra layer of history, take a tour to learn about the history of Pluto’s discovery.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
History buffs and architecture admirers: Visit the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park to tour this iconic Arts and Crafts style residence built in 1904. The Riordan Mansion boasts two mirror-image homes with luxurious, country-chic opulence between 40 rooms. This sprawling abode is a time capsule of the early 20th century.
The historic home is designed with nature in mind among the Ponderosa pines. Notice the intricate hand-split wood shingles, and impressive stone arches and foundations. Follow a park ranger through Tim’s side of the mansion. Appreciate the original, ornate wallpaper, vintage Stickley furniture collection, and desks set up as if one of the Riordan brothers had just been working.
Freely explore Michael’s side, examining the museum displays and small details like tulip-themed stained glass. Check out unique features like a swing chair in front of the fireplace and massive portraits of the families on the walls. Afterward, have a picnic on their five acres of property.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Get ready for a living history lesson at Walnut Canyon National Monument. Travel over 700 years back in time as you inspect the cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people who lived in Northern Arizona for more than 1,500 years.
First, watch a film about the indigenous people who built their homes here from 1100 to 1250 CE at the Visitor Center. Then, lace up your hiking shoes and hit Walnut Canyon’s Island Trail. Descend the steps and rocky terrain, enjoying the desert scenery, majestic limestone canyon, and the lizards sunbathing on the rocks.
The rocky route pays off once you come across the first of the 25 pueblos carved into the sides of the canyon walls. Venture inside and explore the living spaces, imagining the people who lived off the land here centuries ago. Note the plaques located around the ruins to learn more about Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Museum of Northern Arizona
Spend an afternoon in Flagstaff discovering Arizona’s natural history at the Museum of Northern Arizona. With a focus on the people and places of the Colorado Plateau, you’ll explore ancient artifacts, art, anthropology, ecology, and more.
Travel to the Precambrian period in the Geology Gallery. Examine fossils found locally and even an almost complete, massive skeleton of a Dilophosaurus.
In the Histories of Clay exhibit, ponder ancient, intricately patterned Navajo and Zuni pottery, reassembled after being found throughout local caves. Browse modern, colorful art by local Native Americans, like Rainbow Light by Baje Whitethorne, bursting with vivid hues and depicting his childhood growing up Navajo.
Take advantage of the 200 acres of trails and gardens on the scenic campus of the Museum of Northern Arizona, strolling along the Rim Trail at the top of the Rio de Flag Canyon.
Or, take the Rio de Flag Nature Trail, following the self-guided tour through the paths carved by lava millions of years prior.
Fort Tuthill County Park
Lovers of the great outdoors will find Nirvana at Fort Tuthill County Park. Perfect for a day trip from Flagstaff or an overnight stay, the park offers boundless opportunities to connect with nature throughout 413 acres of forest. Head up to the Coconino National Forest and embrace Fort Tuthill’s lovely grounds.
In the summer months, test your aim at the Archery Range, mountain bike the day away at the Bike Park, and camp under the Northern Arizona stars. Meander seven miles of trails, from Soldiers Trail, circling the park, to the Highlands Trail, leading to Kachina Village and the Kachina Wetlands. In the winter, bundle up and traverse the property via cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing.
Visiting Fort Tutgill County Park during Labor Day weekend? Chase the playful music and smells of fried dough to the fairgrounds where the Coconino County Fair takes place. Meet farm animals at the Livestock Show, attend a Demolition Derby, and enjoy live music in the evening.
One of the most popular activities in Flagstaff, AZ, is the Arizona Snowbowl. Voyage to the San Francisco Peaks and discover a wonderland of skiing, hiking, and some of the best panoramas around. Whether you’re considering a family ski trip or a romantic getaway, the Snowbowl has something for you.
With 777 acres of land and 55 trails, the Arizona Snowbowl welcomes all levels of skiers. Advanced skiers or snowboarders can zoom down the Rustler while beginners can hit the slopes at the Daydreamer Trail. Somewhere in the middle? Try the Volcano Trail halfway up the mountain.
The fun at the Arizona Snowbowl doesn’t end when the snow melts. Hike the park’s trails, and ride the gondola to witness stunning sunsets, where the thinner air at the high altitude magnifies the spectacular hues. Enjoy dinner at Agassiz Restaurant & Bar with views of the Grand Canyon in the distance.
Historic Downtown Flagstaff
Historic Downtown Flagstaff is the perfect place for a relaxed afternoon in the city center. From local boutiques to cozy coffee shops, and historic buildings around every corner, you could spend hours strolling around the area, finding hidden gems.
Learn about Flagstaff’s railroad heritage at the Visitor Center. Peek through the railroad station-themed souvenirs and displays, or speak with a docent for tips about the area. Stroll down San Francisco Street, passing brick buildings and quaint storefronts. Stop by Old Barrel Tea Company for a tasting of special blends like Apple Empanada or Peppermint Lemongrass.
Peek into Victorian Moon Antiques or Crystal Magic for some New Age goodies. Meander into Heritage Square, following the smells of fresh pastries to Mozelle’s Bakery. Grab an almond croissant and a fresh coffee, and enjoy them in the square. In the summer, munch on your treats to the sounds of live music on the square around you.
Sunset Crater National Monument
The Sunset Crater National Monument isn’t your typical mountain hike, getting you up close and personal with a real volcano. Dedicate an hour and a half to drive to the site of a volcano eruption from 900 years ago at this national park.
Although you can’t climb to the top of the volcano at the Sunset Crater National Monument, you’ll have a blast exploring the Lava Flow Trail by the Sunset Crater. Cross bridges and traverse the miles of lava rock paths. Feel the crunch under your hiking boots of the ancient molten lava rocks.
Carry on to the Lenox Crater Trail, recommended for advanced hikers due to its high elevation. Begin the hike up gravel paths, stopping often to take in the panoramic views of mountains, many of which are ancient volcanos. Let yourself marvel at how magical nature is, flourishing over this land that was once covered in red-hot magma.
Coconino National Forest
Nature enthusiasts will find their bliss at Coconino National Forest. Whether you’re looking to camp, hike, fish, or simply relax in nature, this forest has something for you. Make an expedition about an hour south of Flagstaff to discover two million acres of woodlands, deserts, and more.
Animal lovers, gear up with some binoculars and head to the Kendrick Park Watchable Wildlife Trail. Make your way through this paved hike, looking out for antelope, porcupines, and native bird species.
Avid hikers can tackle the Abineau Bear Drop Loop. Climb the steep mountainside past aspen and conifer trees, and bask in majestic views of the Grand Canyon in the distance.
Interested in spending a night in the natural paradise of the the Coconino National Forest? Pop your tent at The Edge of the World, a campsite on the Mongolian Rim. You’ll wake up to jaw-dropping vistas on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, overlooking Ponderosa Pines dotting the mountainsides and terracotta-colored cliffs.
Wupatki National Monument
Immerse yourself in the Pre-Columbian era at the Wupatki National Monument. Embrace this desert landscape, and take in the vast painted desert scenery while soaking in the history. Spend a day exploring the preserved ancient ruins of the Anasazi and Sinagua people.
Head down the Wupatki Pueblo Trail to inspect the red stone architecture of the dwellings, engineered around massive rocks. Examine their courtyard, imaging the families and community who lived here playing, cleaning, and cooking, over a thousand years ago.
Experience cool winds blasting from a crevice in the earth at the Blowhole, called Yaaponsta or ‘Wind Spirit’ by the Hopi people (descendants of the Anasazi).
Escape to the tranquil, less-traveled Wukoki Pueblo Trail. Wind your way up the bumpy path to the top, and discover the second ancient structure. This is the three-story Wukoki Pueblo, standing tall against the dazzling blue Arizona sky.
Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course
Calling all adventurous travelers! Come conquer the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Children and adults alike can get their hearts pumping, as they soar through the forests on a zip line and beat the intense obstacle courses. Make unique vacation memories at this adventure course.
Adults can choose one or all of the five classic Adventure Courses. Ascend the ropes course, ranging from 15 to 60 feet among the trees. Balance along suspended zig-zagging planks, scoot through tunnels in the air, jump from plank to plank, and pull yourself along on a sky-skateboard.
Traveling with children? Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course has opportunities for explorers of all levels. The Kids Course is perfect for seven to eleven-year-olds with a daring spirit. They’ll take on the zip lines, wiggling tree-top platforms, rope swings, and ladders. Despite the adrenaline, you’ll be totally safe the entire time thanks to extensive safety measures.
Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site
In the northeast corner of Flagstaff, discover the bygone remnants of the Sinagua people’s abodes at the Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site. This fascinating site offers a peek into the past without leaving the city limits. If you’re tight on time, it’s a convenient place to witness an incredible piece of Northern Arizona history.
Fuel up at the Matador Coffee Roasting Company with authentic Cortado coffee, a fresh smoothie, or a breakfast wrap. Enjoy the laid-back, hip atmosphere, then carry on to your next stop up the road.
Journey through 15 archaeological sites, and step through the doorways of each home. Look around at the benches built into the walls, and larger, spherical rocks with an almost ornamental quality.
Although all that remains are the foundations of these ancient dwellings, you can still appreciate the rich history of the community who lived around the Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site.
Journey north out of the city center and stumble upon a world of endless opportunities for outdoor adventure at Buffalo Park. Pack up your bikes, best walking shoes, a picnic, and plenty of water, and begin touring the mesa. This level expanse of land offers incredible mountainous views in every direction, year round.
Make your way into the park, stopping to consider the Flagstaff Urban Trails System Map to get your bearings. Carry onwards to the level hiking trails: Arizona Trail, and the Nate Avery Trail. These both cross an open valley, ideal for bikers, joggers, and casual hikes. Along the way, you’ll come across fitness stations equipt with monkey bars, push-up bars, and instructions about how to do different stretches.
Nature photography fans will love the glorious mountain ranges like Mount Elden and Mount Humphreys soaring into the sky. Get a snap of the gorgeous landscape backed by the blue Arizona sky.
Fat Man’s Loop Trail
Geology aces will want to add the Fat Man’s Loop Trail to your itinerary. Set over 500,000-year-old cooled lava, this wooded trail is a shadier hike in the area. The rocks and boulders strewn throughout the generally flat hike make it a fun trek through nature.
At the entrance to the trail, you also have access to more challenging hikes like the Pipeline Trail and the Elden Lookout. Continuing to the Fat Man’s Loop Trail, you’ll find that this two-and-a-half-mile route is relatively easy. But, be prepared to use a bit of strategy and awareness as you navigate rocky sections.
Soak in the gorgeous geological features and plant life like the alligator junipers, native spiky Yucca, and gangly Ironwood trees. Duck under massive tree branches spanning across the path, and by huge, smooth boulders. Emerge onto a cliffside out of the forest, and breathe in the fresh air while you admire picturesque views.
Dark Sky Brewing Co.
After a day of exploring Flagstaff’s great outdoors, chill out at Dark Sky Brewing Co. with a refreshing craft beer. Dark Sky is known for having some of the highest quality brews around, offering a host of classic flavors and experimental tastes. Beer connoisseurs will find their favorite downtown hangout at this Flagstaff craft brewery.
To experience the epitome of refreshing, try the Cucumber Creekside Blonde Ale, or the Westie IPA for a walk on the hoppy side. Sour lovers can indulge in the WatahMalone fruited gose, and those who like it desserty will want a pint of Biggie S’mores stout.
Take a seat among the bear barrels in the taproom, or grab a frosty brew and stretch out on the patio, the largest eatery patio in all of Flagstaff. Order a pizza from Beaver Street Taproom & Pizzicletta, or a sandwich or shareable dish from the trendy Atmosphere Kitchen to enjoy alongside your craft beer.
Firecreek Coffee Company
There’s nothing like a cup o’ joe made from small-batch, hand-roasted beans. A mug of coffee from the Firecreek Coffee Company will satisfy even the pickiest of coffee critics. Firecreek has grown from a small coffee shop in Flagstaff to opening locations in three more local cities and towns.
Step into the flagship cafe in the heart of Downtown, as the smells of freshly ground beans envelop you. Located in the Donahue Building, first established in 1888, Firecreek Coffee Coffee Company still retains a bit of vintage flare amidst the cozy coffee shop charm.
Nosh on a flaky blueberry turnover or slice of fresh quiche, paired with a frothy latte with intricate foam art, or one of their house blend coffees. Choose from a number of housemade blends. The Box Car blend honors Flagstaff’s railroad heritage with a bold espresso mix, while Lucha Libre delivers a smooth Mexican Altura taste.
Mama mia! On the hunt for the best restaurants in Flagstaff? Fat Olives will wow your tastebuds with authentic pizzas and dishes made from the finest imported ingredients. After just a bite, you’ll feel transported to Naples, Italy. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, you know you’re in for a treat at Fat Olives.
Take a seat in the rustic atmosphere of the restaurant with Southern Italian flare, from the stonework details to the paintings of Italy adorning the walls. Order their namesake Fat Olives salad, bursting with flavor from goat cheese, cranberries, and candied pecans, followed by an antipasti dish like the Bruschetta Board.
Choose from an array of pizza pies like Fennel Sausage, Adovada (with spicy pork tenderloin), or a Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified pie like the Bufala Margherita. Pair your meal with a glass from their extensive wine list and enjoy your night in Northern Arizona’s finest Neapolitan pizza restaurant.