Post Summary: This post covers the best things to do in Flagstaff, Arizona, for first-timers! Written from local experience.
Flagstaff is entirely different from what comes to mind when one thinks of “stereotypical” Arizona. Pine trees, canyons, log cabins, and – under the right conditions – winter snow are what make Flagstaff, AZ, the beautiful city it is.
The best part about Flag is that it can be enjoyed almost any time of year and has something for everyone. It’s a people pleaser, lol. I’m pulling from my experience as a local to tell you about the 10+ best things to do in Flagstaff! Let’s dive right in.
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Planning Your Trip to Flagstaff, AZ
Let’s quickly discuss some trip planning details before we get into the best things to do in Flagstaff.
- 🌞When to Go: October through April are great times to visit Flagstaff.
- ✈️Fly: You can either fly into the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, which will put you right in the city. Your second option is to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor, rent a car, and drive approximately 2 hours north to get there. KAYAK has tickets starting around $160!
- 🚙Rent a Car: Check out KAYAK for Flagstaff rental cars.
- 🏨Stay: Little America Hotel, Courtyard Flagstaff
- 🛣Around Flagstaff: Great day trip from Scottsdale, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon
Things to do in Flagstaff for First-Timers
Here is where we’ll cover 10+ things to do in Flagstaff for your first visit. Let’s get into it!
#1 Take a Drive Through the San Francisco Peaks
North of Flagstaff lies 6 of the highest peaks in Arizona, and man, are they dreamy! Driving around the San Francisco Peaks is one of the best things to do in Flagstaff, even if you only have a weekend because you’ll get to see the volcanic formations that make Arizona so unique.
There are just about 30 trails in the area if you like hiking. One of the most popular and most challenging ones is Humphreys Summit Trail – the tallest of the peaks in Arizona. The views will blow you away!
The Humphreys Peak area in summer because it is littered with wildflowers!
You can also opt to explore the Lava River Cave Trail, which will take you through a natural lava tube (hollow) for thousands of years ago. Bring a flashlight with you!
#2 Explore Historic Downtown Flagstaff
Downtown Flagstaff is one of the cutest city centers you’ve ever seen. It’s full of historic Flagstaff buildings, and Route 66 runs right through it. So downtown is a great place to start your Flagstaff trip!
Sprinkled around Flagstaff, you’ll also find lots of local breweries. OH, and if you visit downtown Flagstaff during New Year, you can watch the famous pinecone drop!
#3 Sample a Muffin at Macy’s European Cafe
Macy’s European Cafe is a rustic coffee shop serving up vegan muffins and scones, among other treats. Not to mention, their lattes are pretty tasty too!
Macy’s has some of the traditional roasting equipment sitting inside the cafe so you can see the bean roasting process they used when they first opened.
It’s the perfect place to eat after a hike!
#4 Hike or Mountain Bike Inner Basin Trail
Known for its aspens, the Inner Basin area is probably one of the most popular hikes in Northern AZ, so it most definitely needs to be on your list of things to do in Flagstaff! While Inner Basin looks its best in the fall as the aspen leaves change color in whats called Lockett Meadow, this spot is also a good option in the summer seasons.
The trees make for a great hammock setup as well.
AND of course, if you’re not the hiking type, mountain biking up the Inner Basin trail is a popular thing to do.
Inner Basin Trail Info
- Location: 15 miles north of Flagstaff; 35°21’23.2″N 111°37’22.6″W
- Distance: 4 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 757ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
#5 Go Back in Time at the Volcanic Fields
So you know about the San Francisco Peaks and Humphreys Peak, but did you know that Flagstaff also has volcanic fields you can visit? The SP Crater volcanic area makes for a beautiful drive and Flagstaff attraction.
When I first visited this area, it reminded me of more exotic places like Iceland!
But the best part about the fields? They’re chock-full of vibrant blues and orange that are unique to the minerals in the soil. HIGHLY recommend you add this to your list of things to do in Flagstaff!
#6 Visit Walnut Canyon National Monument
Did you know that Flagstaff, Arizona is also home to a dense population of walnut trees? I had no idea! Alas, that is how Walnut Canyon National Monument got its name. The national monument is famous for its ancient ruins and cliff dwellings left by the Sinagua people 100s of years ago.
A short trail will take you there, and along the way, you’ll be able to admire various dwellings.
#7 Look Deep into Space at the Lowell Observatory
Fun Fact: The Lowell Observatory is home to the discovery of Pluto! Pretty cool, huh? Visiting the observatory is a great thing to do in Flagstaff, Arizona, especially if you’re a space lover!
And here’s another fun fact: because of the city’s code developed to reduce light pollution around Flagstaff, you can admire stars just about anywhere in town!
#8 Get Your Game Fix at the Geekery
While outdoor adventure may be Flagstaff’s most popular attraction, there are other fun indoor options as well! Visiting the Geekery is one of the best things to do in Flagstaff when it’s raining.
The Geekery is close to the university, and you can spend a whole day playing games there with friends, family, or complete strangers! While it sounds a bit out of the ordinary, I do believe the Geekery is a great way to relax and have some no-nonsense fun after you’ve been exploring for a few days.
#9 Read a Book and Hang a Hammock at Lake Mary
Believe it or not, Lake Mary is actually two lakes! Upper Lake Mary is the largest of the twins and popular for boaters and water skiers. Typically, the Lower lake runs a bit dry, but if you’re lucky, you might catch it with some water!
You can opt to take a swim in the lakes, but my favorite pastime is hanging a hammock and relaxing the whole day. There are countless trees in the area, so you’re bound to find a secluded spot to relax!
#10 Have a Different Kind of Adventure in an Obstacle Course
The Extreme Adventure Course is one of the most popular things to do in Flagstaff because, unlike other obstacle courses, it takes you high above the trees! You’ll use zip-lines and ropes to complete challenges that will have you in for an adrenaline rush!
The course is located in Forthill Country Park and is an excellent place for a group if you’re looking for something to do! You can easily spend the whole day here.
#11 Go Off The Beaten Path at Abineau – Bear Jaw Loop
Of course, you can choose to explore the famous Inner Basin Trail, but how does a little adventure off the beaten path sound? The Abineau – Bear Jaw Loop Trail is known for its overlook of Flagstaff’s wilderness and color during the fall season. The hike starts off with a steady incline and slowly gets steeper as you go along.
Abineau – Bear Jaw Trail Info
- Location: 35°23’33.0″N 111°40’12.7″W
- Distance: 6.9 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,876ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
#12 Feel Like Willy Wonka at Flagstaff’s Grand Falls
Grand Falls, aka Chocolate Falls in Northern AZ, is one of the most unique things to do in Flagstaff. It’s a natural waterfall in the middle of the desert and is actually taller than Niagra Falls!
The water flows into the Colorado River in a giant cascade formation when there is ample snowmelt. You won’t believe your eyes when you go!
Map of Things to do in Flagstaff, Arizona
In the hopes of making your life easier, below is a map of the listed things to Do In Flagstaff, Arizona. Save this for your adventure!
Other Adventures in Flagstaff
Here is a shortlist of things to do in Flagstaff that we didn’t cover but are just as fun!
- Explore Wupatki National Monument
- Go rock climbing or hiking near Sandy’s Canyon
- Camp at A1 campsite
- Drive to Scottsdale
- Head to Sedona for 3 days or however long you want
My Final Thoughts on Things to do in Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Arizona, is full of adventures and a fantastic day trip from Scottsdale. If you make it up to Flag, you’ll undoubtedly notice just how much the state of Arizona has to offer! If you plan on exploring more of AZ, make sure you read my other Southwest blogs:
- The Best Sedona Hikes for Sunrise and Sunset
- The Perfect Sedona 3 Day Itinerary
- Hiking Doe Mountain Trail
- Hiking Cathedral Rock Vortex for Sunset
- Devil’s Bridge Sunrise Hike
- Sedona Travel Guide for First-Timers
- 30 Most Instagrammable Places in Sedona
- 12 Day Trips From Scottsdale That Prove Southwest is Best