Flagstaff, Arizona is the central location for some of the most beautiful desert formations in the United States. A few days here will enable you to see some of the most unique and best things the West has to offer. Check out our list of the top 10 best things to do in Flagstaff and start planning your next trip!
1. Walnut Canyon National Monument
The highlight of Walnut Canyon is seeing the homes of the Sinagua peoples, a group that lived here from 1100 to 1250 CE. They were experts in conserving water, dealing with droughts, and trading with other groups as far away as Central America. When they mysteriously left in 1250 CE, they left behind around 80 cliff dwellings.
Today, visitors can see 25 of these rooms via a 0.9 mile (1.4 km) loop trail, that descends 185 feet (56 m) into the canyon. Other things you might see on the trail include the 387 species of plants that live here or some of the native animal life.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Address: 3 Walnut Canyon Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Website: Walnut Canyon
2. Wupatki National Monument
The Wupatki National Monument is famous for its rich Native American history and ruins. This protected land includes three buildings and 29 structures on 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) of land. All the settlements here were built by the ancient Pueblo people, who lived here between 500 and 1225 CE. They harvested rainwater and produced maize and squash.
While Wupatki appears abandoned today, it is still cared for by the park service and the Hopi clans. They tell stories of their ancestors and believe that the people who lived and died here, remain as spiritual guardians.
Visitors today can hike on designated paths and see some of the ruins. If you time it right, you can enjoy a ranger-led hike to backcountry sites that are normally off-limits.
Wupatki National Monument
Address: 25137 N Wupatki Loop Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Website: Wupatki National Monument
3. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Around 1085 CE, a huge eruption shook this area. Lava spewed and flowed over 4 miles (6.4 km), and a blanket of ash and lapilli, or rock fragments, covered over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) of land. Today, the volcano is extinct and partially re-vegetated, but the evidence of its violent past remains.
Visitors can get a great view of the crater and enjoy a spectacular hiking trail, found here. The trail is below the summit and goes around the Bonito Lava Flow. Admire the hardened black lava and imagine how devastating it was to the area in the past. There is a small lava tube, but it is now closed to the public. Hiking to the summit is also not permitted.
Sunset Crater Volcano
Address: Coconino County, Arizona, U.S.
Website: Sunset Crater
4. Flagstaff Extreme
Flagstaff Extreme has tree top suspended obstacle courses, for both kids and adults, at varying difficulty and experience levels. Come walk across ropes and wiggly bridges, swing through the tree tops and enjoy an amazing view and adventure. This is a great place to build confidence and have fun.
Address: Fort Tuthill County Park, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Website: Flagstaff Extreme
5. Lowell Observatory
Established in 1894, the Lowell Observatory is one of the oldest observatories in the United States. In fact, it was here that Pluto was discovered, in 1930. The original telescope used for this discovery is still in use today, for public education.
The observatory sees over 85,000 visitors per year, who come to take both day and night time guided tours, to see the stars and learn about the galaxies above their heads. They also host various special programs such as “Meet an Astronomer,” and many events around astronomical phenomena, such as meteor showers or eclipses.
Address: 1400 W Mars Hill Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Website: Lowell Observatory
This tour is a great way to conveniently see the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. You will be picked up from your hotel in the city and then proceed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here, you will stop between six and eight times and be given the opportunity to walk to some less visited outlooks.
Visitors will also get to see historic buildings, such as the El Tovar Lodge and Desert View Watchtower, as well as enjoy a picnic lunch at the Indian Ruins. Finally, the group will get to stop at one of the most famous Navajo Trading Posts in the United States before heading back to Flagstaff.
Grand Canyon from Flagstaff Small Group Day Tour with Guide
Duration: 8 hours
7. Lava River Cave in Coconino National Forest
700,000 years ago, molten lava erupted from a volcanic vent in Hart Prairie. The top, sides, and bottom of the vent cooled and solidified first, allowing the rest of the lava to continue flowing through the ground and create the cave.
Visitors can visit this mile-long (1.6 km), huge cavern, year round, with no fees. You will be treated to a look at the stone icicles, hanging from the ceiling, a fascinating Y-shaped intersection, and pillars of light pouring through holes in the ceiling. Dress warmly – temperatures in the cave are around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 Celcius), even in the summer.
Lava River Cave in Coconino National Forest
Address: 171B Forest Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Website: Lava River Cave
8. Arizona Snowbowl
While you might not associate Arizona with a mountainous landscape, you can find snowy peaks and pine trees at around 9,500 feet (2895.6 meters) above sea level, here at the Arizona Snowbowl. Come and enjoy snowboarding and skiing, during the winter and for an escape from the intense heat and the fun of a scenic chair lift, during the summer.
Address: 9300 N Snow Bowl Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Website: Arizona Snowbowl
9. Grand Falls Arizona
Thousands of years ago, lava flowed from the Merriam Crater into the Little Colorado River, creating a lava dam. This formed the Grand Falls of Arizona. At 185 feet (56 meters) tall, this waterfall is taller than Niagara Falls but much more unpredictable. Heavy rains and snowfall will cause torrents of water to pour over the dam, while at other times of the year, there will be barely a trickle. The water is known for being extremely muddy and has been likened to the chocolate waterfalls in Willy Wonka.
This formation is a little difficult to get to, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle, a hiking permit from the Navajo, and a hike that is a little over a mile (1.6 km) long, but adventurers will be rewarded with a beautiful natural formation, that most others miss.
Grand Falls Arizona
Website: Grand Falls AZ
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon, formed by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone due to flash flooding. The water swirled and churned through the canyon, forming stunning curves along the walls. Because of the danger of flash floods, especially in the late summer months, access to this canyon is granted only to approved tour companies.
Upon your arrival, a guide from the Navajo Nation, who own the canyon lands, will help you explore the depths of this natural wonder. Next, the group will proceed to an amazing view of Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. You will be hiking around 2 miles (3.2 km) on these excursions, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Day Tour from Flagstaff
Duration: 9 hours
Flagstaff - The adventure of a lifetime
These 10 excursions are just what you need to get in touch with nature, history, and thrill – are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? If so, start packing your bags and plan a trip to Flagstaff, today!
Frequently asked questions about best things to do in Flagstaff, Arizona
1. What are the top attractions to visit in Flagstaff?
If you’re planning to have a holiday in Flagstaff and looking for its top attractions to visit, then you should visit Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and Lowell Observatory.
2. What are the best outdoor activities in Flagstaff?
There are plenty of activities to choose from here in Flagstaff, including hiking at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, trying exciting obstacle courses at Flagstaff Extreme, and skiing at Arizona Snowbowl.
3. What are the best day trips from Flagstaff?
In case you’re in search of the best day trips you can take from Flagstaff, then you should travel your way to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. For other day trip options, you can also visit Sedona, Williams, and Prescott.
4. What are the most popular things to do in Flagstaff with kids?
Flagstaff boasts many things to do, but if you’re after the most popular kid-friendly activity, then you should explore the Flagstaff Extreme. It has numerous obstacle courses suited for many ages.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.