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Flagstaff is a small city located in the north central Arizona, situated at the base of San Francisco Peaks, a 12,633-foot-high dormant volcano. Flagstaff is located at the intersection of US Interstate 40 and US Interstate 17, making it a hub for transport in the Northern Arizona area.
At 7,000-foot elevation, be prepared for abrupt weather changes in any season. Expect windy conditions most of the year. Spring is usually mild but heavy snowfall can occur. Winter brings plenty of snow with cross-country and downhill skiing. Three national monuments are nearby, and a little further away are the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest national parks.
Not many years ago, a
traveler would select colorful Route 66 for the drive west from Albuquerque.
Though that picturesque trail has been replaced by rapid transit Interstate
Route 40, the experience of seeing Flagstaff for the first time has not
changed. For mile upon mile the desert plain stretches out. Finally, in the
distance, mountains can be seen. And what mountains they are! The San Francisco
Peaks rise far above the pine forests of Flagstaff, majestic and blue. These
are the mountains, just north of the city, that are the site of the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, one of the state’s main winter playgrounds. In summer, miles
of trails through these same mountains attract hikers and mountain bikers, and
it is even possible to ride the chairlift for a panoramic vista that stretches
70 miles north to the Grand Canyon.
The three San Francisco Peaks
are immediately north of the city, which is encircled by the Coconino National
Forest. The peaks are the remains of an extinct volcano and are considered
sacred by many Native American tribes in the area. Before the volcano erupted,
the San Francisco Peaks were thought to have been over 15,000 feet high.
"Flag" (as it
is known locally) is the largest population center north of Phoenix. It is the
home of Northern Arizona University and gateway for many of the state's northern
travel attractions. At 6,970 feet, Flagstaff's climate is much different from
that found in the Arizona desert regions. Enough snow falls for skiing at the
Arizona Snowbowl. With or without snow, the sunsets seen from the Snowbowl are
memorable at any time of year.
With its wide variety of
accommodations and restaurants, the great outdoors at the edge of town, three
national monuments nearby, one of the state's finest museums, and a university
that supports a lively cultural community, Flagstaff makes an ideal base for
exploring much of northern Arizona.
The Grand Canyon is located
approximately 120 miles North of Flagstaff. Meteor Crater, the world's largest
intact meteor impact crater is located 35 miles East of Flagstaff.
Coconino National Forest provides many scenic views, trails and outdoor
recreation opportunities. Northern Arizona University is one of the three state
universities in Arizona.
Also in town,
is the Lowell Observatory from which astronomers first viewed the planet Pluto.
A visitor center is located at the observatory, and guided tours and telescope
viewings are available. In February, Flagstaff hosts a Winter Festival with
dog-sled races, arts and crafts, wine tasting and storytelling.
For a good
understanding of the region, visit the Museum of Northern Arizona, which has
exhibits exploring the geology, paleontology and biology of the area, including
a nature trail that offers an easy and enjoyable hike. It is especially
impressive in the spring and fall because of its lush trees, plank bridges and
huge blocks of basalt.
downtown historic district features refurbished late-Victorian and art-deco
architecture. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park preserves the 40-room home
designed by Charles Whittlesley. It is built of logs and is an excellent
example of the Craftsman style of architecture.
Be sure to
consider a side trip to Sunset Crater National Monument, 20 miles northeast of
Flagstaff. It is the site of an inactive volcanic cone. Visitors can walk
across a hardened lava flow which is said to resemble the surface of the moon.
Meteor Crater, fifty miles to the east, was when a giant meteor crashed to
Earth some 50,000 years ago. The meteor left a huge hole, about 570 feet deep
and 4,150 feet across. The interior of the crater was used for training the
Apollo astronauts. The site is also home to the Museum of Astrogeology (meteor
exhibits) and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
What an exhilarating experience it is to visit
Flagstaff with its nostalgic downtown historic area filled with reminders of the
railroad and Route 66 days, its rugged, incomparable landscape, and its
opportunities for nearly every outdoor recreational pursuit from skiing and
hiking to hunting and fishing, all in one location.