Top Things to do in Flagstaff
Attractions, sightseeing, culture, and history. At your doorstep. No need to drive very far. Sure, Flagstaff is the perfect home base to the myriad of Northern Arizona attractions, but there is so much to do, see and experience right here in Flagstaff AZ, or within very close driving distance. Whether you’re just driving through, visiting Flagstaff for the day, or staying at a Flagstaff hotel, take some relaxing time to explore and discover museums, ancient Indian ruins, historical architecture or take a rewarding scenic drive and find out why Flagstaff is such an appealing getaway destination. All of these Flagstaff area attractions and points of interest are either inside the city limits of Flagstaff or within a close 30-mile drive.
The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a botanical garden, research station, and environmental education center. The Arboretum’s goal is helping you better understand the plants and plant communities of the Colorado Plateau, home to such natural wonders as Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. The Flagstaff Arboretum is known for its beautiful collection of over 2,500 species of plants and spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges, meadows, and forests. It features daily guided tours and a Wild Birds of Prey education program. Enjoy strolling its miles of trails, shopping at the gift shop, classes, and workshops.
Directions To The Arboretum
Located 3.8 miles south of Route 66 on Woody Mountain Road, on the west side of Flagstaff. The last portion of Woody Mountain Road is unpaved but suitable for all vehicles.
What a great place to learn about astronomy and experience telescopic views into the depth of the universe. Named after its founder Percival Lowell, the Lowell Observatory was incepted in 1894. Lowell chose Flagstaff, Arizona as the best location for astronomy research because of its combination of the clear dark sky and high elevation.
Lowell created the observatory to explore the possibility of life on the planet Mars using a specially designed 24-inch Alvan Clark refracting telescope. That telescope was sent to Mexico with the expectations the area would provide better views of Mars. The telescope was returned to Flagstaff in 1897 and remains on active display for visitor use today.
The Lowell Observatory is best known for its discovery of the planet Pluto. Ongoing noteworthy discoveries include the co-discovery of the Uranus rings and discovery of asteroids, comets, and extrasolar planets.
The observatory is open year-round with varying seasonal schedules. Visit the Lowell Observatory website for visitation times and program events.
Experience telescope viewing and discussions of the night sky during evening programs when telescopes including the original Clark Telescope from 1894 can be used by the public. During certain times of the year expect viewing of the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, star clusters, double stars, nebulae, and other celestial bodies. During and after the scheduled evening programs, visitors can explore the interactive exhibit hall. Private viewing sessions and school programs are available by reservation.
This is the ideal attraction for a family learning experience.
1400 West Mars Hill Road
Flagstaff, Az 86001
Meteor impact 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater is a meteoric crash site about 40 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona. The ancient blast displaced 175,000,000 tons of rock and earth creating a crater about 3/4 of a mile in diameter and 550 feet deep. Much of the meteor vaporized during its journey to earth, but scientists still estimate the size of the meteorite at impact weighed about 300,000 tons.
NASA astronauts used the crater for training sessions during the 1960s. Today the site is a popular tourist attraction that features a movie theater, restaurant, gift shop, and RV park. Scientists still continue to study the crater which was named a National Monument in 1967.
Directions To Meteor Crater
Take Interstate 40 East from Flagstaff for about 40 miles. Take Exit 233 (Meteor Crater Road) South about 6 miles. Fees apply. Check their official website for schedules and fees.
Upper Lake Mary
There are two Lake Mary’s. “Upper Lake Mary” is the most picturesque and fun. When full, Upper Lake Mary covers about 450 acres at a maximum depth of about 38 feet. Located about 12 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Upper Lake Mary is in the Mormon Lake District of the Coconino National Forest and is surrounded by pine forests with views of the majestic San Francisco Peaks. “Lower Lake Mary” is much smaller than its Upper Twin Lake and is often close to being empty.
Upper Lake Mary has no limit on boat motor size. It is the only lake close to Flagstaff that features unlimited boating recreation. It is popular with power boaters and water-skiers and is often seen full of sailboats, kayaks, rubber rafts, and canoes. There are 3 boat ramp launches. Boat camping is available on the lake’s southern shore.
Picnicking & Camping Facilities
There are two developed campgrounds near the lake, Lake View and Pine Grove which feature a combined 76 single unit campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, cooking grills, drinking water, and toilets. There are lakeside picnic areas for day use. Camping season typically runs from May 1 to the end of September with weather permitting.
Fishing at Upper Lake Mary
Fishing here can be a blast with northern pike, channel catfish, crappie, and some trout. There are excellent facilities for disabled fishermen. Mormon Lake and Ashhurst Lake are located nearby Upper Lake Mary.
Directions, fees, & information
Take Lake Mary Road (FH 3) southeast from Flagstaff AZ for about 12 miles. It is all paved road. Nominal fees do apply and some services are not available during the winter months.
Mormon Lake Ranger District
5075 North Highway 89
Flagstaff AZ 86004
Sometimes it’s a big natural lake. Sometimes it isn’t very large. It fluctuates seasonally with rainfall and snow-melt. When full, the lake covers about 12 square miles with an average depth of only about 10 feet. So in dry seasons, it can become “marshy”. Located only 29 miles south of Flagstaff, it is convenient to those that enjoy wind sailing, camping, boating, fishing, or day picnicking. At an elevation of about 7,000 feet, the Mormon Lake area boasts four seasons of enjoyment including cross-country skiing during the winter snowfall periods. Surrounded by pine trees, views of the San Francisco Peaks, and bounding wildlife, the Mormon Lake Recreation area within the Coconino National Forest is an ideal spot for camping and hiking.
Mormon Lake Lodge resides on the western shore where you can rent snowmobiles, mountain bikes, and cross-country skis. They also feature horseback riding. The Lodge also features a famous cowboy steak house where the brands of local ranches are burned into the log walls.
Dairy Springs and Double Springs National Forest campgrounds are located nearby. and offer great hiking trails of varying difficulty. Combined, the campgrounds have 43 single campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and cooking grills. Toilets are available. The camping season runs from May 1 to the end of September, weather permitting.
Directions to Mormon Lake
Take Lake Mary Road (FH 3) south from Flagstaff AZ for about 25 miles. You will pass Upper Lake Mary. Turn west on Forest Highway 90 for about 4 miles to Mormon Lake.
Mormon Lake Ranger District
4373 South Lake Mary Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Pioneer Museum of Flagstaff
Housed in what originally was the historic Coconino Hospital for the indigent. The Pioneer Museum features exhibits that reflect Northern Arizona history, ranching, and transportation. The Flagstaff Pioneer Museum focuses on the history of Flagstaff featuring over 10,000 related artifacts including vehicles and pioneer memorabilia. The largest exhibit is a 1929 Baldwin locomotive and a Santa Fe Railroad caboose. Other historical items include medical equipment, costumes, household items, toys, textiles, and other pioneer-era artifacts.
Flagstaff Pioneer Museum
2340 North Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Monday – Saturday 9AM to 5PM
Ages 60+ $4
Ages 12-18 $4
Ages 11 and younger free
Arizona Historical Society Members are Free
Free admission the first weekday of each month for Arizona residents.
Riordan Mansion State Park
Built in 1904 by two brothers that married two sisters. Prominent pioneers, Timothy and Michael Riordan married sisters, Caroline and Elizabeth Metz. In 1904 the two families built this large mansion created of two homes each separated by a common billiard room.
The Riordan Mansion was designed by Charles Whittlesey the same person that designed the El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon. Over a hundred years later, the mansion still exists today for all to enjoy as a treasure from the pioneer days of Flagstaff. The expansive home of the rustic exterior, log-siding, and stone arches has over 40 rooms expanded over 13,000 square feet of mansion living area and is still decorated with its original furnishings.
One-side of the mansion is reserved exclusively for guided tours while a visitor’s center permits a self-guided tour. Visitors can arrange for meetings and private events. The picnic area combined with the Mansion backdrop is an ideal setting for weddings and features views of the San Francisco Peaks.
The Riordan Mansion
409 West Riordan Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Sunset Crater National Monument
Just Northeast of Flagstaff Arizona
The Sunset Crater was at one time an active volcano that erupted in 1064AD delivering thick layers of lava, volcanic cinders, and ash across the area. The Sinagua Indians had settled this area in about 675AD with groups of low-density communities. The Sinaguans were peaceful agricultural people that not only network within their own villages but also with other native tribes throughout what is known today as Arizona.
There was a period of intense seismic activity within the volcano before its 1064 eruption that gave the Sinagua people ample time to collect possessions and flee the area. They established new villages in the Walnut Canyon and pueblo villages at Wupatki and others within the Wupatki National Monument about 15 miles north of Sunset Crater.
The Sinaguans mysteriously disappeared from their new pueblo village sites about 1250, but it’s coincidental that the Sunset Crater Volcano remained intermittently active until it delivered its final spew at about the same time as the Sinagua People disappeared from the area.
The name “Sinagua” is of Spanish derivation meaning “without water“. They are believed to be the ancient ancestors of today’s Hopi and Navajo Indian Tribes.
The Sunset Crater has cooled and been inactive since that last explosion in 1250. Today Sunset Crater is a popular Flagstaff attraction where thousands and thousands of annual visitors are intrigued by the opportunity to see nature’s recovery after a volcanic eruption.
There are four primary trails within Sunset Crater National Monument that will give you great views and experience of walking where the Sinagua Indians once lived. Pets are not permitted on the trails, in the backcountry, or any visitor center buildings.
O’Leary Peak Trail
O’Leary Peak is a lava dome volcano whereas Sunset Crater is a cinder cone volcano. Looking down from O’Leary is the only way to look down into Sunset Crater since traffic on the crater is not allowed.
Cinder Hills Overlook
Drive-up to the overlook of great views of Sunset Crater.
Lenox Crater Trail
From the top of Lenox Crater Trail, you can see the San Francisco Peaks, the Sunset Crater and its lava flow.
Lava Flow Trail
Lava Flow Trail is a self-guided loop trail with a furnished trail guide.
If you plan on spending the night in Flagstaff, you’ll find a wide choice of Flagstaff Hotels, Flagstaff Bed and Breakfast Inns, and other Flagstaff Lodging options. There many great Flagstaff Restaurants that will entice those hunger pangs after a fun day of sightseeing.