Flagstaff/Route 66, Arizona
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Flagstaff was the highest-altitude city on the historic Route 66 (6,900-plus feet).
- Astronomers at Lowell Observatory discovered Pluto, the on-again, off-again planet, in 1930.
- The meteor that created Meteor Crater hit Earth with the energy of more than 20 million tons of TNT.
- More than 250 people are rescued from the Grand Canyon each year.
- The Navajo Nation is America’s largest Indian reservation, larger than West Virginia.
A city for all seasons
Flagstaff, atypically for Arizona cities, enjoys the full play of four seasons, and that includes an average nine feet of snow in winter. Located nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, it sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and is surrounded by the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest.
The small city of nearly 7,000 attracts visitors for quite varied reasons, as follows:
- The climate and mountainous terrain translate into options for outdoor pursuits in all seasons and seem custom made for the traveler who wants to be active outdoors. For starters, the city boasts a 55-mile urban trail system.
- Flagstaff is the gateway to several otherworldly natural phenomena, beginning with the best known, the Grand Canyon 81 miles north. Further, there are more than 600 volcanoes in northern Arizona — Sunset Crater Volcano only 15 miles away is the best known — plus the 50,000-year-old Meteor Crater, 45 miles away and described as the world’s best-preserved meteorite impact site.
- Attracted by skies free of air and light pollution, professional astronomers use Flagstaff as a base for heavenly research, but interested visitors have options to peer through telescopes, too. In 1989, Flagstaff and Coconino County were the first to restrict the amount of light permitted outdoors, thus minimizing glare and protecting the nighttime environment.
- The Flagstaff area is rich with opportunities to explore Native American culture, ranging from tours of Hopi or Navajo country to hikes among abandoned pueblos and cliff dwellings. The Museum of Northern Arizona, site of heritage festivals, provides a good introduction, and the Hopi and Navajo have dedicated museums. The Navajo Nation is home to more than a dozen national monuments, tribal parks and historical sites.
- Finally, for many, Flagstaff is deeply associated with bits of Americana, particularly the fabled Route 66. An annual auto show, Route 66 Days, takes its theme from the old highway, but Route 66’s origins predate the car. It was first, in 1857, a wagon road, taking settlers to California. Even visitors without wheels can feed their nostalgia by walking the Mother Road through Flagstaff, spotting the motels, diners and other relics of the route’s heyday.
Things to do for Venturers
- Rent a motorcycle for a day trip to the Grand Canyon north of Flagstaff, or to see the red rocks of Sedona south of town.
- Consider winter camping with cross-country skiing and snowbiking at the Flagstaff Nordic Center. In summer, combine hiking with the camping.
- Take advantage of the 55 miles that comprise the Flagstaff Urban Trail System, for cycling, jogging, walking and viewing nature.
- Ski at the Arizona Snowbowl, known for its 2,300-foot vertical drop.
- See the Grand Canyon by helicopter or by Jeep, or on a bicycle. Or, raft on the Colorado River in the canyon.
- A lover of the suds? Follow the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail, a self-guided beer-tasting adventure.
Things to do for Centrics
- Revel in snowy activities at the city’s Winterfest, which includes the Dew Downtown Urban Ski and Snowboard competition on the streets of city center. It is held in February.
- In October, participate in one of the city’s Haunted Flagstaff walking tours. Other walking tours focus on the historic town center or Route 66.
- Visit the Canyon de Chelly and Navajo national monuments on Navajo Nation lands. Or drive one of the reservation’s six scenic roads. And, shop at the Navajos’ Hubbell Trading Post, America’s oldest continuously operated trading post (1876).
- Go horseback riding and sign on for a cowboy cookout for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Take a workshop to learn how archaeologists assess ceramics found at the Elden Pueblo Heritage Site, once occupied by the prehistoric Sinagua culture.
- Ride the rails. Use the Grand Canyon Railway, departing in Williams, as your transport to the canyon. Or, choose the Verde Canyon Railroad, at Clarkdale, for the scenic views.
Things to do for Authentics
- Drive part or all of the 370 miles of Route 66 still remaining in Arizona. Or, visit in autumn for a leaf peeper’s drive on the scenic highway 180, or one of several other routes known for good fall colors.
- Go for the culture. Participate in the First Friday ArtWalk, scheduled for the first Friday of each month in Flagstaff’s historic center. Or, hear the Flagstaff symphony or see the local Theatrikos Theatre Company in action.
- Make an evening visit to the Lowell Observatory in order to view the heavens through a variety of telescopes there. Or, study the skies from one of the scopes set up once a month in Flagstaff’s Heritage Square for public sidewalk astronomy.
- Follow the three-quarter-mile Pumphouse Nature Trail at Pumphouse County Natural Area south of Flagstaff to see bald eagles (in winter), plus deer, elk and a variety of birdlife. Or choose the Bearizona Wildlife Park at Williams to see the bears and other critters.
- Step back 800 years to walk among and view cliff dwellings and pueblos at Walnut Canyon National Monument or Wupatki National Monument.
- See the 50,000-year-old Meteor Crater from three different lookout points. It is nearly a mile from one side to the other. For more of the area’s exotic landscape, walk on hardened lava flow at Sunset Crater National Monument.
For more information, consult the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.flagstaffarizona.org