A lot of positive things can be said about Arizona and its entirety. It is a haven for both locals and tourist alike and that is why we can’t help but tell you about some of the cities we’ve been in, in this diverse state. However, there are still many more areas to visit and explore. Arizona is one of those states that we don’t recommend exploring all in one go. As such, we’re taking this Arizona adventure one step at a time. This time around, we are going to set our sights and foot on Flagstaff, a city in Arizona and the county seat of Coconino. If you are a fan of great sights and diverse surroundings, then you are in for a treat.

The first settlers that made the area we know now as Flagstaff as their permanent home landed in 1876. The group was led by Thomas F. McMillan who built a cabin at the west side of town. More specifically, it was built on Mars Hill. It was a slow start for the community when it first opened but by the 1880s, it began to attract more settlers. In time, it was able to have its own post office and it was also able to become a part of the growing railroad industry. Flagstaff thrived on timber, sheep and cattle. However, its biggest economic driver at the time was the Arizona Lumber and Timber company.

Despite its humble beginnings, Flagstaff was able to become a prominent part of the railroad by the late 1880s. In fact, it was one of the largest stops in the train that ran from Albuquerque to the west coast of the United States. This helped the settlement flourish even further as it was easily accessible by anyone.

Because of its strategic location and elevation, Flagstaff became a huge part of the U.S.’ astronomical endeavors. It is the location of the famous Lowell Observatory that was installed during the late 1890s. By 1930, Pluto was discovered courtesy of one of the observatory’s telescopes. Another discovery made by the observatory was Pluto’s satellite Charon. Due to its prominence in the U.S.’ astronomical presence, the government established the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station.

The Flagstaff that we see today began to be built from the ground up during 1987. By that year, the city created a plan called as the Growth Management Guide 2000. This focused on turning downtown Flagstaff into a regional center. As part of the plan, the city government created a new city hall, library and the Coconino County Administrative Building. By the 1990s, the downtown area was fully revitalized with decorative bricks, shops, restaurants and more. During this rebuilding process, the managing team behind the work avoided destroying the historical facade of Flagstaff.

The most recent achievement of the city was when it was named as America’s first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) community by then acting mayor Jerry Nabours.

Flagstaff’s rise to modernism is a great story to behold. From a humble settlement into becoming a great city and one of Arizona’s best areas. Before you pack your bags to visit this place, here are some of the crucial things you must know about it first.

How to Get to Flagstaff

Getting to Flagstaff from other parts of the U.S. or the world is generally easy as there are a few flights that go directly to the city. There is only one airport in Flagstaff and that is the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. The only major airline that functions through here is American Airlines. You basically need to book a flight that passes through Flagstaff Pulliam Airport if you are coming from international cities. Ideally, you may want to transfer flights over at Tucson International Airport to get to Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.

If you are coming from other states or in areas near Arizona, your best bet is to pass through the infamous Route 66. Flagstaff is one of the cities that the route goes through so it is unlikely for you to get lost when going through Route 66.

Once you are in Flagstaff, getting around is easy. Aside from cabs and hailed cars, there are many modes of public transportation. The most common of which is the Flagstaff Urban Trails System. This is a set of pathways that could be used by bicyclists, runners and more. It will take you to all the important spots in Flagstaff so if you want to fully enjoy the city, take this route.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are also readily available in the city and this is another convenient albeit expensive way to get around the city. We recommend either renting a car or taking public transportation. These are especially recommended if you are hoping to travel while on a tight budget.

When is the Best Time to Visit Flagstaff

The best time to visit Flagstaff is during May. During this month, the temperatures are mild and the weather is still relatively dry. Rain doesn’t come by very often during this month so you can expect to stay dry during this month. The temperatures play around the mid-50s. On the other hand, the coldest it could get is when it reaches the 70s. What is great about this month is that rooms and flights are relatively cheaper as well. If you book rooms and a flight during this month, expect some crazy deals as well.

If you are one of the many travelers who are not fond of heavy crowds, then you need to avoid Flagstaff during the summer. Aside from competing with travelers from around the world, you’ll also need to brush shoulders against the students who are on summer break. As expected from most busy seasons, the hotel and airfare rates are relatively more expensive during this time of the year. However, if you have no other choice but to travel during this month, then it is best to book your tickets ahead so you can still save up on your money.

If you want to see what snow season is like in Flagstaff, then you must visit it during November to April. Flagstaff doesn’t turn into a winter wonderland during these months but snowfall is common and the temperatures are cooler than usual. Unless you are visiting during Christmas season, then don’t expect a heavy crowd during other days in winter. This means rates will be lower and lines at attractions will be significantly smaller as well.

Now that we’ve got you covered on all that there is you should know about Flagstaff, let us talk about some of the attractions you should be visiting instead.

Things to Do in and Near Flagstaff, Arizona to See the Best Views

Arizona is known as the mecca of cultural and natural history. This is because this place has a lot of sites that will definitely let you get closer to nature. To see a piece of the rich natural and cultural history that Arizona has to offer, Flagstaff is one of the cities in Arizona that you need to visit. Flagstaff, alone, can fill your eyes with hundreds of landscapes and other breathtaking sights of nature that are worth the travel. In case you’re traveling to this place, here are some of the things to do in and near Flagstaff that will make you see the beauty of nature even more.

1Visit Roden Crater

The view of the sky from inside the Roden Crater (Source)

If you want to take a good look at the pristine sky, visiting the Roden Crater is one of the best things to do in and near Flagstaff. Don’t be fooled by its name, though, you’re not actually going inside the mouth of an active volcano… well, sort of. This place is, apparently, an observatory that’s made in a volcano. Don’t worry, though, the volcano where it stands is already dormant.

Here, you can get to see natural and created light in varying contexts as it serves as a “gateway” to observe time, light, and space. Interestingly takes the cultural depiction of artifice out into the natural surrounding. It functions as a monument of land art and, at the same time, a naked-eye observatory. It’s definitely an experience not to be missed.

When it comes to unique adventures and memorable sights, the Roden Crater is one of the best places that not only Flagstaff, but the entire state of Arizona has. Be sure to take your time when visiting this place as it will be very worth it.

2Get a closer look at the moon, Mars, and Pluto

Lowell Observatory under a sea of stars (Source)

Speaking of observatory, seeing the moon, Mars, and Pluto is one of the best things to do in and near Flagstaff, Arizona. Yes, it’s possible as this city has Lowell Observatory (which is, by the way, one of the oldest observatories in the United States) that allows you to do so. In fact, this place is known for its Pluto discovery and investigations into Martian life. This place has an altitude of more than 7,000 feet, has lesser cloudy nights compared to other areas, and it has a good distance away from the city lights. That said, you can get a clear view of the night sky here, aside from seeing Mars, Pluto, and other celestial bodies.

Both kids and adults will surely enjoy this activity. The reviews can say it all. The observatory offers tours that will allow you to know more about the celestial bodies too.

Before you visit this observatory, be sure to check on updates regarding the weather first. Since this activity will mostly rely on weather conditions, be sure to visit during a time when there are fewer clouds in the sky. That’s why it would be best to visit this place during the summer so that there will be no obstructions in the sky. You’ll be rewarded with an amazing view if you visit during the summer. Don’t worry about the temperatures as it is cool in Arizona during the night time when its the summer season.

3Feel what it’s like to be in the moon

An explorer vehicle getting around the Cinder Lake Crater Field (Source)

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to walk in the moon? Fret not as Flagstaff, Arizona can make you experience what it’s like to be walking in the moon… kind of. If you’ll go to Cinder Lake Crater Field, you can get to experience it – well, of course, minus the moon’s atmosphere. This is because this place resembles the moon’s craters as NASA constructed it to be like that to kind of “fake the moon landing.”

Don’t get us wrong, though. It wasn’t constructed to fool the world. Rather, this place was made so astronauts can have a place to practice before they were sent to space. Here, they tried out their lunar rovers and other pieces of equipment.

The craters still remain today. However, don’t expect that they still exactly look as what it does before. Some of the craters may have been softened into divots or may be filled in already due to weathering and natural erosion. Even so, it’s still a nice spot in Flagstaff where you can get to feel the moon’s craters in some way.

If you have a child who’s hoping to become an astronaut one day, then this place will be one of the places that you can take him or her too. If you’ve noticed, there are many places in Arizona that’s reserved for astronauts in the making. That’s one of the reasons why the state is considered as one of the dream places for future Buzz Aldrin’s.

4Chill at Humphreys Peak

Humphreys Peak topped with snow (Source)

When we say chill, we mean literally as this mountain is, apparently, topped with snow. Arizona might not be the first place that many would think of when hearing the word “snow.” While this place may be known for its desert basin, it still has an area where you can see snow too and Humphreys Peak is one of them. Here, you’ll not just get closer to nature but you can also get to see the beauty of some parts of Flagstaff, Arizona from above. In winter, it’s one of the best skiing destinations as well.

flagstaff arizona
A man made it to the B–24 crash site (Source)

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also get to see the wreckage of B-24 Bomber, which crashed in September 1944, killing all eight crewmen on board. But be warned, though, it’s not immediately easy to find. Traversing the boulder field can be dangerous as well.

This area in Flagstaff can get too cold during the winter so try to avoid it if you aren’t up for extreme weather. In addition to that, note that Humphreys Peak trail is avalanche-prone during winter. If you want to explore this mountain, better do it in summer.

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5Climb the top of SP Crater

An aerial view of SP Crater (Source)

SP Crater is often overlooked. This is because its neighboring volcano, the Sunset Crater, is much more charming with its forest setting. It has a national park status as well. Even so, SP Crater is still worth talking about and climbing it is one of the best things to do in and near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Like its neighboring volcano, Sh*t Pot Crater (the original name given by its landowner, C.J. Babbit, because of how its lava flows on one side, making it look like… well you get the idea it also looks good from a distance. It may not have a forest setting unlike the Sunset Crater but it’s still a unique landform with its nearly perfect cinder cone shape. And if you’re going to climb it, you’d be surprised at how beautiful the view is from above. You’ll get to see the equally perfect lava field, that stretches out to the north, from above too.

However, note that the hike won’t be as easy as it looks. It’s tough as the road is steep and challenging. There is no defined trail and signs to guide you as well. In spite of that, when you reached the top, everything is going to be worth it.

Don’t let the name fool you though as there’s nothing that’s bad about this place aside from the tiring hike you’ll need to take to get up the best view. Once you reach the top, you’ll be asking why this place isn’t called something better.

6See the Grand Falls

The Grand Falls that looks straight out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Source)

A lot of people pass on seeing waterfalls when they travel. We can’t blame them, though. Even if waterfalls offer a tranquil aura, many of them tend to look the same. But you don’t want to miss out anything on the Grand Falls.

Seeing the Grand Falls is actually one of the best things to do in and near Flagstaff, Arizona because you’ll feel like you’re in the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with its muddy color. It has a unique color that offers a one-of-a-kind view of nature. Its unique color is a result of volcanic runoff from the Merriam Crater and created a lava dam.

While it is not as amazing and as historic as the Grand Canyon, the Grand Falls are still a sight to behold and it is still definitely one of the best places to visit in Arizona. Be sure to bring a camera packed with high memory and battery so that you can take all the shots you want to.

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If you want to see this beauty, make sure to schedule your trip during March and April. These are the months when you will see waters flowing. During the rest of the year, the waterfalls often stand still as it is only fed by the snowmelt and rain from the White Mountains. You can get a chance to see it flow during summer too. However, not that it highly depends on the weather patterns.

7See native plants and animals found in northern Arizona

A picturesque view that you can only get to see at The Arboretum at Flagstaff (Source)

If you really want to get closer to nature, what better way to do it than by visiting The Arboretum. Here, you can get to see animals, as well as plants that you can only find in the northern part of Arizona. You can get to see some plants that can adapt to the soil conditions and climate of Flagstaff, Arizona’s environment.

This research center turned tourist destination for nature lovers is definitely a must-see. The best part of visiting this place is that you will not just get to fill your eyes with the beautiful sights of flora and fauna but you can get to leave with your heads filled with a lot of knowledge about nature as well.

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The Arboretum is open from Wednesdays to Mondays from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, they are temporarily closed this Winter. You can check out their website for updates on when they will operate again.

This is an educational adventure for you and your family so be sure to listen to the guided tours well for a deep insight on everything there is to know about the local biology.

Arizona is, indeed, one of the best places to visit if you want to get closer to nature. It has a lot of natural sites and activities to offer that will give you the best views of nature. Whether you are a nature lover or not, you will definitely love it here, especially in Flagstaff.

Have you been here? If not, do you plan to visit this city? Which one of the best things to do in and near Flagstaff do you want to try out? Tell us in the comment section below.