Cool down with a road trip to Flagstaff

Author: Nancy

Posted on: June 12, 2013
Last updated on: February 22nd, 2016 at 9:54 am


Flagstaff is a cool summer retreat

It’s a scorcher out there. You know that soon you’ll be seeking relief from the heat. Flagstaff, at 7,000 feet elevation, surrounded by ponderosa pines and quaking aspen trees, offers the perfect reprieve from our searing temperatures. It’s an easy, scenic 158 mile drive from Tempe on I-17.

Hit the road early before the asphalt here reaches near tire-melting temperatures so you can enjoy every last moment of the luxurious cool that awaits you. In about three hours, you’ll be in the in the mountains where reasonable summer temperatures range from the eighties during the day and dip into the 40s and 50s when the sun goes down. During July and August you can anticipate some short, refreshing monsoonal rains that typically arrive in the afternoon.

I lived in Flagstaff for 17 years before moving to the Valley and can say unequivocally that summer time in Flagstaff really is ‘good ol’. The weather is great and there’s plenty to do including hiking,  mountain biking, exploring museums and ancient Indian ruins or  just hanging out in the historic downtown.

Whether you’re looking at a day trip or a weekend stay, here are a few ideas for some cool, satisfying summer fun in Flagstaff.

Historic Downtown Flagstaff and Historic Southside District
For me, a trip to Flag isn’t complete without a walk about in downtown Flagstaff, both north and south of the railroad tracks. It’s a fun and funky mix of clothing boutiques, outdoor outfitters, bookstores, art galleries, restaurants, cafés and microbreweries lining the historic streets dating back to the 1890s. It’s historic, but never grows old.

Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Fort Tuthill County Park
More than just zip lines, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course is an elevated obstacle course set in the pines. Not to worry, everything is securely suspended between the trees at 15 to 45 feet above the ground. I have not personally done this, but it sounds like a zipity doo dah good time for all ages.

Lowell Observatory
This is a fantastic place and truly revered by locals, scientists, astronauts, Trekies and Martians. Founder Percival Lowell was a big believer in life on Mars and made the study of that planet his life’s work. During the day, take a guided tour to learn more about the Observatory’s history and current research. At night view the sky through a variety of telescopes. I love Lowell Observatory. Thank you, P. Lowell, for building your observatory in Flagstaff in 1894 when all those telescope parts had to be hauled up that big hill on horse-driven wagons.

Museum of Northern Arizona
Now celebrating its 85th year, MNA is one of the world’s great regional museums. Nine exhibit galleries cover the diverse Native cultures, tribal life ways, natural sciences, ecology and fine arts. The MNA’s summer festivals highlighting Hopi and Navajo cultures are colorful and so interesting and offer the perfect chance to purchase beautiful works of art.

Arizona Snowbowl Summer Scenic Chairlift
This is a spectacular ride to the top Arizona’s highest point, the San Francisco Peaks. The peaceful chair lift ride takes you to an elevation of 11,500 feet where you’ll be positively gobsmacked by the breathtaking panoramic views. For those who don’t have a fear of heights, it’s 90 minutes of pure heaven.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument/Wupatki National Monument
I’ve grouped these two together because both are located along a scenic drive north of Flagstaff off Highway 89. It’s a beautiful, fascinating must do excursion. Sunset Crater was formed 900 years ago during a particularly active volcanic period in northern Arizona. You can learn all about it in the visitor center and by walking the self-guided Lava Flow Trail.

Hop back in the car and continue on to Wupatki National Monument. The scenic drive drops rapidly from mountain to desert panoramas where you’ll find the rock walls of 800 year-old pueblos that were once home to thousands of people. Short trails lead to Wupatki, Lomaki, and other pueblos.

Walnut Canyon National Monument
Located just 10 miles east of downtown Flagstaff off I-40, Walnut Canyon is another top, must see spot. A winding one-mile trail descends into the canyon where you can actually walk inside 800 year-old cave dwellings. The less rigorous Rim Trail offers overlooks and a pit house display. There are tables and benches perfect for a picnic.


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