Best in the West for Outdoor Fun

Flagstaff is considered by many to be one of the top destinations out West for outdoor recreation. In Arizona, it is by far the best place for year-round outdoor recreation, spectacular scenery, and adventure. Flagstaff is home to the magnificent San Francisco Peaks, which includes the 12637 foot tall Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona. The Peaks are actually a dormant volcano range which last erupted sometime around 1064. There are many gorgeous hiking trails, both on and around the peaks. These spectacular mountains provide a wide range of recreational activities which you will not find elsewhere in the state including hiking & mountain biking in the warmer months, and skiing & snowshoeing in the in wintertime.

While Phoenix sees temps soar into the 100’s on an almost daily basis in the summer, Flagstaff temps rarely stray out of the 80’s, with barely a day over 90. Flagstaff is one of the highest located cities in the US at 7000 feet, meaning the city sees a 4 season climate unlike the hot dry Southern portion of the state. And, the temps are even cooler along the high altitude hikes (about 15-20 degrees so), making the temps just perfect for summer hiking. Arizona Snowbowl is known to be “the coolest place in Arizona.” And unlike Phoenix, there is plenty of snow during the winter months for all sorts of recreation. In fact, it is one of the snowiest cities in the country with over 100 inches per year on average!

 

Mountain Biking

Flagstaff trails are second to none! If you're looking for somewhere to get fit, it just doesn't get any better than mountain biking at 7000 feet. The mountain biking in Flagstaff consists of scores of shorter trails arranged in a network. This provides unlimited opportunities for making different rides, but also creates a challenge in conveying routes on a web site. We recommend that you stop in and we’ll get you set up with a map and some advice depending upon what kind of riding you want to do. We truly have something for everyone!

Below are only a few highlighted trails and systems that may or may not make up a whole ride alone, but certainly can be part of some rides while you are here. Stop if the shop for a much more comprehensive overview of where to mountain bike while in Flagstaff.

  • Flagstaff Urban Trail System – The “FUTS” is a great way to get around town, a great opportunity for beginner riders and provides access to the surrounding mountain bike trails.
  • The Flagstaff Loop Trail – This work-in-progress will eventually loop the City of Flagstaff, providing connectivity between the FUTS, surrounding neighborhoods and the County and US Forest Service trails systems.
  • The Arizona Trail – The Arizona Trail passes through the Flagstaff area on its way from Utah to Mexico. This recently completed trail offers some phenomenal opportunities to traverse broad swaths of the surrounding landscape. Use other trails in the system to make loops with the AZ Trail.
  • Campbell Mesa Trails – This is a great system of loops for beginner riders or folks just looking for a quick easy spin.
  • Dry Lake Hills Trails – Stemming from the backbone of the classic Schultz Creek Trail, this system includes steep climbs, rocky descents and great views of the San Francisco Peaks.
  • For more trail info, check out MTBProject.com.

 

Astronomy & Stargazing 

Established in 1894, Lowell Observatory just outside of Flag is one of America’s first major astronomical research facilities. Pluto was discovered there in 1930 and, later, Lowell scientists saw the first evidence that the universe was expanding. Today it is the home of the Discovery Channel Telescope, meaning the Flagstaff sky is now the standard image for the hundreds-of-millions of viewers of the world’s most popular interstellar programming. Flagstaff is 

 

...Or Trade in Your Clubs for Discs

With nearly 300 days of sunshine a year, the cool shade of the ponderosa pine and Aspen forests, as well as the high desert environment, it is little wonder how disc golf got so popular in Flag. Flagstaff has four complete basket disc golf courses (as many as any other Arizona city, including the larger ones)—there are even 18 holes on the NAU campus. Poofy-ball hats or pastel-colored khakis necessary.

 

Polish Up Your Golf Game

Flagstaff is home to dozens of public and private golf courses where you can play almost all year. (When we're not golfing - we're skiing!) One of the most popular public courses that offer seasonal and social membership options, is Continental Golf Course. Situated below Mount Elden, this 18-hole championship course designed by Bob E. Baldock offers a remarkable golf and dining experience. A round of golf at Continental is quiet, peaceful and feels like a destination golf club. Staffed with talented and devoted professionals, Continental Golf Club has become the best rated public course in Flagstaff. Our desire is all our members and guests to have a memorable golfing experience.

Flagstaff Fishing 

Grab your tackle box and the fishing rods, and explore Northern Arizona for some excellent fishing. 

Typically by late May or early June, as temperatures warm up and lake levels drop, water quality diminishes and conditions will be unsuitable for stocking fish. Bass, pike, catfish, and crappie fishing are the best during the summer — but now is the ideal time for trout fishing. Get up there while you can.

Stocking trucks from Page Springs Hatchery load up trout into Flagstaff/Williams regional waters every year. Fishing at Lower Lake Mary is refreshing and trout fishing opportunities are abundant.

Top 5 Spots for Fishing Near Flagstaff:

  1. Upper and Lower Mary lakes. A state record channel catfish was caught from Upper Lake Mary, and trout fishing can be good at Lower Lake Mary.  Upper Lake Mary is full.  Lower lake Mary is half full and has more water in it than has been seen in 7 years. See more information from Coconino County on fees and hours of operation at Lower Mary.
  2. Ashurst LakeAshurst  is full and the road is open. The water in the lake is relatively clear so try fishing with lures for the fresh stockers. With the low water level of the lake prior to the spring runoff many fish may not have survived the winter.
  3. Frances Short PondAnglers have been catching fish using flies and lures.  Some have also been caught using corn and worms.  A recent load of trout included some trout measuring more than 14 inches.
  4. Kaibab Lake. The lake is full and spilling for the first time in years. When muddy, try small silver or gold lures for trout.
  5. Dogtown Reservoir. This 50-acre lake in the Kaibab National Forest can be one of the best bets for a high country Arizona trout fishing adventure. Some experienced anglers can catch plump winter holdovers. Effective baits are PowerBait, small spinners, and wet flies such as bead-headed prince nymphs and zug bugs. Make sure the spinners are small — no heavier than 1/8 of an ounce. Some anglers can have success slow-trolling spinners. (There are special regulations at Dogtown: the limit is six trout, two bass at a minimum size of 13 inches, and a limit of four channel catfish). Electric-only motors are allowed.

Hiking Trails

Flagstaff is truly a hikers paradise. There are over 56 miles of trails that offer unforgettable hikes at all levels, through wildflower filled meadows, fern gullies, lovely aspen groves and to high summits. On the western face of Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks, vast grasslands of wild roses, ferns and berries lap up against pine-studded slopes, there are endless opportunities for wildlife spotting, bird watching and nature photography. Although hikers in search of autumn foliage trails around Flagstaff usually flock to big-name places like Inner Basin or the Kachina Trail, where the crowds are as thick as the woodlands, some of Flagstaff's best preserved beauty are the quiet nature trails 'off the beaten' path. With so many Flagstaff options for outdoor trekking, you won't have to venture far to discover your favorite.

Check out the Flagstaff Urban Trail System for a complete guide to Flagstaff hiking trails.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Flagstaff is known as the ski & snowboard capital of the Southwest with a plethora of ski resorts just minutes from your front door. Snowbowl is located in the Coconino National Forest, is only seven miles from Flagstaff. Its 2,300 feet of vertical drop yields enough terrain to challenge even experts. Those coming from sea level, however, may find themselves winded faster as Snowbowl's summit tops out in the San Francisco Peaks at 11,500 feet-the highest of any ski resort in the state.

An average annual snowfall of 260 inches can stretch the ski season from mid-December through mid-April in good natural snow years. Snowbowl finally won the right to add snowmaking, pumping water uphill from Flagstaff. It's has been at least a decade-long battle, but the result is win for snowsports fans.

But Snowbowl isn't just for lift-riders only. The neighboring Kachina Peaks Wilderness has gained a reputation for backcountry skiing, luring telemarkers and all-terrain skiers to skin up to the top of broad bowls. Free permits, valid for the whole winter, are required for accessing the wilderness through Snowbowl.

Three other ski areas are within reach outside of Flagstaff. Elk Ridge Ski Area, a tiny family ski area located in Williams, has two lifts and a single-lane tubing hill. You can zip to the ski hill in a 45-minute interstate drive to the west.

A 3.5-hour drive to the southeast leads to Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains. The resort, run by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, offers skiing on three peaks - Sunrise, Apache, and Cyclone. The highest tops out at 11,100 feet, enough to make those from the coast huff and puff at the elevation. A casino sparks the nightlife, and Sunrise is a favorite of Phoenix skiers and riders for its relative proximity.

The resort features 10 lifts, 65 runs, a special children's ski area with two Mighty-Mite lifts, a terrain park with rails, jumps, and a half-pipe, and cross-country ski trails. Lodging is available at the Sunrise Park Lodge near Sunrise Lake.

Drive 5.5 hours to the south, and you'll reach Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, which hangs high above Tucson in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It has the claim to fame of being the southernmost ski area in the United States, but despite its sunshine, it receives about 200 inches of snow each winter. Its three lifts add up to 950 feet of vertical reaching a summit of 9,150 feet. There is no snowmaking, so always check conditions before heading up the highway.

Find overnight accommodations-lodges, cabins, and B & B inns--in the nearby village of Summerhaven. But an hour's drive at the end of the ski day can put you on the golf courses of Tucson.

Arizona may be the land of sunshine, but it's also the land of snow, too. Its ski resorts are a testament to that.

Ropes Courses & Aerial Fun

If ever you wanted to run off and join the circus, Flagstaff might be the next best place. Conquer your fear of heights Hardcore-Parkour at the Extreme Adventure Obstacle Course. Every obstacle is between 15-60 feet from ground, but don’t expect that to slow down local adventure lovers—the people here live for elevation. Period.

Wildlife, Wildflowers and the Wide World of Northern AZ Nature 

For birdwatchers and wildlife and nature lovers the diverse ecosystems of the Northern Arizona provides the opportunity to view many species of wild birds. You don't have to venture far from your new home at Trails End to admire the wildlife that seasonally migrates through Flagstaff and across Northern Arizona. 

If bird watching is your flight of fancy, the immediate area surrounding Flagstaff offers plenty of birding hotspots. The area is packed with numerous parks and trails,  and even more vantage points can be found along the Upper and Lower Mary lakes, Frances Short Pond and Ashurst Lake. 

While you're out on the hundreds of trails in and around Flagstaff, don't be surprised if you encounter elk, mule deer or coyotes. When hiking in the backcountry, you might be lucky enough to spot a porcupine, badger, pronghorn, black bear or mountain lion.

The wildlife of the Coconino National Forest, dominated by the majestic Ponderosa pine, is as diverse as the scenery. Here, you can find more than a dozen species of bats, black-tailed jackrabbits and bark-eating porcupines. You'll hear coyotes yelping and elk bugling in the fall.

When we say Flagstaff is wild, we mean it!  There are hundreds of species of animals to check off your list like the Steller's jay, northern flicker, pygmy nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, mule deer, porcupine, pronghorn antelope, elk, Abert's squirrel, badger and coyote.

With over 30 designated wildlife watching sites within 30 miles of Flagstaff, you'll want to keep your camera and your binoculars handy all the time. 

Learn more about Flagstaff's wildlife and watching areas here.