Flagstaff – A Guide to Plan Your Visit

Flagstaff's Forest Meadows Trail with aspen trees.

Nicknamed “The City of Seven Wonders,” Flagstaff, Arizona stands as one of the United States’ most picturesque cities in the country. Surrounded by the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, and Sunset Crater National Monument all while being in the midst of the Coconino National Forest and the San Francisco Peaks, there is not a direction you can look in that wouldn’t offer beauty to your eyes. Mountain enthusiasts, outdoor backpackers, and artists flee to this city for its hundreds of activities in a vibrant, alpine setting with cool weather and blue skies. Moreover, as the closest nice size big city to the Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff offers a quick and direct route to one of mother nature’s greatest marvels. 

Flagstaff’s culture is interesting as it incorporates Old Western vibes and Mexican culture into its northern mountain city. For example, while sitting at a ranch drinking a margarita, you can look at the San Francisco Peaks. This diversity amongst its natural beauties attracts visitors year-round—that, and the fact that it offers more activities than any other Arizona city year-round.  This destination deserves a visit. So, we’ve decided to tell you the top 5 things to know before visiting Flagstaff.  

Surrounded by trees driving through Flagstaff

1. What Flagstaff is Known For

It’s impossible to mention Flagstaff without commenting on how its backyard overflows with national parks and monuments. In fact, there are seven within a 10 to 80-mile radius. While visiting, you can visit the depths of the Grand Canyon, explore the greenery in Coconino National Forest, or grab a glass of wine and watch the sunset along the San Francisco Peaks. It is a destination for cultural enthusiasts, outdoor explorers, and enthusiastic adventurers. 

Amongst its natural beauties, Flagstaff offers one of the best downtown areas in Arizona. It is big enough to offer variation in food, drinks, and atmosphere for its visitors but also small enough that locals feel it still has a home-like ambiance. Flagstaff is also home to Northern Arizona University and thus has thousands of students meandering around town, giving it a youthful feel. In addition to serving as a home for students, it also functions as a training ground for many athletic and U.S. Olympic teams because it is elevated at 7,000 feet. This variety of hosting students, athletes, families, and visitors makes Flagstaff one of the most diverse, open communities in Arizona. 

Beautiful Mountains next to Flagstaff
Beautiful Mountains next to Flagstaff

2. When To Go To Flagstaff

Flagstaff is often called “Arizona’s destination for all seasons,” as it is the one Arizona city that is entertaining no matter the time of year. Flagstaff offers a multitude of colors in autumn, a time to build snowmen in winter, and a chance to look at a myriad of colorful flowers in summer and spring. Be sure to check out here an extensive month-to-month weather description. No matter when you visit, you’ll find adventure and exploration alongside a small-town charm.  


Though the college students may have fled for the summer, Flagstaff remains packed with people as this is one of the most popular times to visit. Keep in mind, then, that this tends to be the most expensive time of year to visit (hotel rates increase). Summer temps usually range between low 80s during the day to low 50s at night. So, it is important to pack layers during this time of year. Be sure to check out the hundreds of events during summer including Concerts in the Park, Walnut Canyon Discovery Hikes, and more.   


Gusts of wind might well as be your main memory on your trip in the spring. Also, don’t rule out the possibility of snow! Basically, this time of year offers incredible outdoor activities such as hiking and even the occasional opportunity to ski but erratic, unpredictable weather patterns. Because Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, the city is keen on celebrating astronomy so be sure to attend the events on National Astronomy Day in spring.


US News notes this as the best time to visit Flagstaff since the summer folk have fled, the trees are alight with color, and the air is crisp and anew. Temperatures range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50s at night. Moreover, with the fall temperatures comes fall fun activities such as Pickin’ the Pines (September). 

Lockett Meadow's amazing aspen forest
Lockett Meadow’s amazing aspen forest


The winter months are a great time for skiers, snowboarders and snow-lovers alike to visit. During this time you can check out the Arizona Snowbowl, a haven for the seasoned skiers boarders and rookies. Temperatures fluctuate from low teens to mid-40 degrees Fahrenheit so be sure to pack warm and in layers so you can easily peel off or add to if need be.

3. Things To Do In Flagstaff

Now that you know what Flagstaff is known for and which season you want to visit, we’ve compiled a list of must-do activities while there… 

See Flagstaff’s Seven Wonders 

Visit, gaze, and potentially hike some of these great “seven wonders” of Flagstaff. From international tourists to Flagstaff locals, these national parks, monuments, and forests offer adventurous outdoor fun for all.

  • Grand Canyon: This National Park, National Monument, and National Historic Landmark District is home to over 5 million visitors each year. While the most visited area of the park is Grand Canyon Village on the south rim (which is also the rim open all year round), others debate the west rim has much to offer with its Glass Skywalk
  • Wupatki National Monument: The natural ruins that were home to thousands of people over 800 years ago now stand as a National Monument visited by thousands every year. 
  • Oak Creek Canyon: Known as the smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon, this canyon is famous for its spectacular, scenic beauty. 
  • Sunset Crater Volcano: Though this volcano is inactive, it is still a beautiful site to see. It is also the youngest string of volcanoes that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks.
  • San Francisco Peaks: This extinct volcanic mountain range offers the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation. 
  • Coconino National Forest: This 1.8 million-acre US National Forest is one of the most diverse in the country with landscapes ranging from the famous Red Rocks of Sedona to Ponderosa Pine Forests to alpine tundra. 
  • Walnut Canyon: See millions of years of history releveled in the geology of the rocks at this scenic hiking area.  A famous hiking trail, the Rim Trail, offers amazing views to all levels of hikers. 

Historic Downtown and Visitor’s Center

Flagstaff’s historic downtown is centered around the old railroad and station. It is a vibrant area to explore, dine, and shop at local boutiques. Be sure to check out the visitor’s center which is packed with information and resources about Flagstaff. 

Wheeler Park

Explore 2.5 acres of the public picnic and festival destination just across from Flagstaff City Hall. Popular in the winter months for offering a local ice-skating rink and in the summer months with grass fields and park benches, locals and tourists find this a great place to visit in the heart of the community. 

Museum of Northern Arizona

Established in 1928 as a repository for Indigenous material and natural history specimens from the Colorado Plateau, this museum brings to life hundreds of years of U.S. western history. In fact, it is home to more than 5 million southwestern artifacts. Note: Hours of operation are Mon-Sat 10AM-5PM and Sunday’s 12-5PM. 

Arizona Snowbowl

This spot offers different views for each season. In summer, be sure to take in the scenic views along the chairlift while in fall be sure to take a stroll along with the changing colors of the trees. In winter, consider skiing or snowboarding at Snowbowl. You will not regret making a trip here in any season.  

Buffalo Park

This 215-acre park offers incredible outdoor views and activities including a picnicking space, wildlife, and scenic mountain views. Moreover, it has a 2.2-mile heavily trafficked hiking loop that features beautiful flowers. Note: this hike is rated easy, good for all levels, and dog-friendly.

The Arboretum

This is Flagstaff’s living museum as it has over 2,500 species of high elevation plants on display in various gardens and natural habitats within the 200-acre grounds. This is a great place to bring kids to see the Butterfly House! Note: Entry is closed during winter months.

Lowell Observatory

At Lowell Observatory, Pluto was discovered in 1930. Now, this observatory is home to the Discovery Channel’s telescope and is a continuing research center open to visitors and scientists alike. Fun fact: in 1989 the city developed a code to reduce light pollution to increase telescope efficiency. This makes any spot in the city great for stargazing!

Meteor Crater

Be sure to schedule a visit to the world’s best-preserved impact site on earth. The crater was created some 50,000 years ago when the Earth crossed paths with a meteor whose impact left this mile-wide crater. This site offers an interactive and educational center where you can learn about these meteors in detail.

Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course

You’ll be sure to get your daily-fix (if not monthly-fix) of adrenaline rush by swinging through the trees in Arizona’s only zip line and high ropes course. As this adventure course is family-friendly, there are obstacle courses for peoples of all ages!

Lockett Meadow 

Located in the vast Coconino National Forest, this is an awe-inspiring, stunning scene in one of Flagstaff’s seven wonders. We recommend strolling along The Inner Basin Trail which offers colorful flowers in summer and spring, mustard-yellow leaves in autumn, and snow-beds of white in winter. If the scenery in front of you isn’t enough to draw you in, the background offers the San Francisco Peaks which you can watch against a beautiful sunset (or sunrise if you’re courageous enough to camp overnight!). 

4. Where To Eat In Flagstaff

Because Flagstaff is home to Northern Arizona University, there is a plethora of budget-friendly, late-night restaurants to accommodate its diverse, numerous college students. Flagstaff has no shortage of international restaurants, either. From Thai food to Mexican cuisine to farm-fresh locally grown greens, this area is bursting with exotic flavors that everyone should try. We’ve made a list of some of the most-talked about and popular restaurants you must try (in no particular order). 

5. Where To Stay in Flagstaff

With the nickname of “The City of Seven Wonders,” you’re bound for a fantastic view from anywhere you stay in Flagstaff whether it be from a campground in the Coconino National Forest or a resort near the San Francisco Peaks. Here’s a list (again, in no specific order) of some of the best hotels, resorts, guest ranches and bed and breakfasts to stay at when visiting Flagstaff. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are other types of lodgings. Be sure to check out Airbnb, GlampingHub, old-fashioned camping tools, and RV renting

Fun Facts

We already mentioned that Flagstaff is home to the discovery of Pluto (how cool is that?!). Yet, there are so many fun facts about Flagstaff and its environment that you just have to know before visiting. 

  • The Grand Canyon is not the deepest canyon in the US: Rather the US Hells Canyon the deepest in the world. Yet, we still think the Grand Canyon offers the best views (as do many tourists). 
  • Northern Arizona is one of the snowiest places in the US
  • Flagstaff derived its name from a flag-raising ceremony on July 4, 1876.
  • America’s famous Route 66 runs directly through Flagstaff. 
  • Flagstaff, Arizona’s cost of living is 16% higher than the national average.

You can see that although Flagstaff is a desert, its the home of much more than cacti. From extinct volcanoes to high mountain peaks to a National Forest, Flagstaff stands as teaming with life, greenery, and activity in a desert-land. Even more, to keep in mind, these are just the five things know before visiting Flagstaff. No matter if you’re an avid hiker or one who would rather stargaze at night, and animal life, Flagstaff has an adventure waiting for you.