After spending over a month in Flagstaff last fall, I could easily spend several more weeks exploring the area – when everything opens again.
From national parks and state parks to historic towns and scenic drives Flagstaff offers an abundance of things to do. It’s one of my favorite road trip cities in the USA.
At 7,000 ft elevation Flagstaff is the highest city in Arizona and experiences all four seasons. Flagstaff gets around 100 inches of snow per year, making it one of the snowiest cities in America. The climate is semi-arid with summer temperatures averaging around 80 F (27 C) with rainstorms common in August.
Here’s my list of 17 Best day trips from Flagstaff Arizona. Enjoy!
1. Grand Canyon South Rim
You cannot go to Flagstaff and not visit the Grand Canyon! Of all the things to do near Flagstaff, visiting the Grand Canyon is the most poplar.
The east entrance is less crowded, but it has no restaurants, hotels, or shuttle buses. That’s why I chose to visit via the east entrance on my first visit.
The west entrance is where you can park and then hike a portion of the Grand Canyon via Bright Angel Trail. This is my recommendation if you can only spend one day at the Grand Canyon.
I hiked down to the 1.5 miles mark. It is glorious!
Grand Canyon Quick Facts
- Average Depth: 1 mile (1.6 km)
- Length of Grand Canyon: 277 miles (446 km)
- Width of Grand Canyon: Average rim to rim 10 miles (16 km)
- Elevation at South Rim: 7,000 ft (2,100 m)
- 373 species of birds
- 91 species of mammals
- 6 million visitors in 2019
Sedona is for outdoor lovers! Surrounded by the beauty of red rocks landscapes with abundant hiking and biking trails.
The city is magical and mystical. Do you know about the Sedona Vortexes? These spiritual places are thought to be swirling energy centers conducive to healing and transformation. Sedona is a hub for New-Age shops and spas in Arizona.
Explore Sedona for Native American culture, hiking trails, spirituality, great restaurants, birding, trail running, mountain biking, off road drives, and ancient ruins.
A couple of hiking recommendations in Sedona:
- West Fork at Oak Creek Canyon for a beautiful shaded hike along a creek
- Little Horse Trail for stunning panoramic red rock views
3. Horseshoe Bend
The 270 degree bend in the Colorado River is a stunning sight to see.
Bring your hiking shoes, sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water. It’s an easy hike but it gets hot in the summer so be prepared. Sunset is the most popular time to visit.
For the best photo ops some say you should visit mid-afternoon, others say sunset, but I love the morning light. Horseshoe Bend is stunning no matter what time of day.
It takes about 2 hours to drive from Flagstaff.
Read my full article about hiking to Horseshoe Bend and info on fees and parking.
4. Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki means “Tall House” in the Hopi language. The Native American ruins were occupied until around 900 years ago by Ancestral Puebloans.
There are four pueblos at the site:
- Wupatki Pueblo
- Wukoki Pueblo
- Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos
- Lomaki & Box Canyon Pueblos
This is an extraordinary place to explore ancient ruins in the American Southwest. Read more about visiting Wupatki National Monument.
5. Navajo Bridge
By far one of my favorite road trip stops ever, walk across Navajo Bridge for a spectacular view of the Colorado River and the canyon.
There are two bridges – one for vehicles and one for pedestrians. The visitor center includes a gift shop and information about the bridges.
Plan for a picnic lunch and shop for authentic Navajo souvenirs including jewelry and art work from the vendors across the bridge.
6. Antelope Canyon
Make a reservation! That is my advice when you visit Antelope Canyon. Sometimes you may luck out and catch a last minute seat on a tour. But if you are only in Page for a day you want to reserve your tour in advance.
Lower Antelope Canyon is better for photography, in my opinion. I booked a morning tour to Lower Antelope Canyon and an afternoon tour to Upper Antelope Canyon. Both were amazing but I felt the Lower Antelope tour offered more unique photo ops.
The tours of Antelope Canyon are run by the Navajo Nation and are well organized, with small groups of about 10 people, led by engaging and informative guides.
7. Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon is another of the ancient ruins near Flagstaff, once home to the Sinagua people. The cliff dwellings constructed around 1100 CE and used until around 1250 CE when the inhabitants moved on.
Walk the 1 mile round trip Island Trail to view 25 cliff dwelling rooms and incredible views of the canyon – look for other cliff dwelling across the canyon.
Imagine living in one of these condos in the canyon? What an amazing place to live.
8. Sunset Crater
Almost 1,000 years ago a volcanic eruption created what is now known as Sunset Crater. The top of the cinder cone volcano glows reddish-orange at sundown, hence the name.
The Sinagua people lived in the area at the time, farming the land and living in structures called pithouses – partially dug into the ground. There is no evidence anyone died from the volcano eruption, so they must have left when the ground started to rumble.
After the volcano, the land couldn’t be farmed so the people moved to other nearby places like Wupatki and Walnut Canyon.
You can hike the trails at Sunset Crater – ranging from short easy walks of a quarter-mile up to the moderate Lava’s Edge Trail at 3.4 miles round-trip. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, the lava is brittle and sharp.
Visit Sunset Crater along with your trip to Wupatki.
Winslow is one of the most fun day trips from Flagstaff. Winslow AZ is on the historic Route 66 Highway. The Main Street of America connected Chicago to Los Angeles.
You know the song lyrics “…standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, And such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me….”
Go stand on the corner in Winslow.
Walk around and visit the shops, take some photos of the murals in downtown Winslow.
Visit the Turquoise Room at the Posada Hotel for an amazing dining experience. And tour around the hotel afterwards, view the art of Tina Mion.
Read my full post for more info on visiting Winslow Arizona.
10. Homolovi State Park
Homolovi means “Place of the little hills” in the Hopi language. Located near the town of Winslow, Homolovi State Park is home to over 300 Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites.
There are five hiking trails at Homolovi, ranging from a quarter-mile to one and a half miles. You will see lots of pottery shards (please look but take only photographs) along the trails.
On the fourth Saturday of every month, Homolovi State Park hosts a star party at the park’s observatory – it starts around sunset.
11. Montezuma Castle & Montezuma Well
Visit the cliff dwellings known as Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde Arizona.
A short walk from the visitor center you will see a well preserved cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua people hundreds of years ago.
So why is it called Montezuma Castle? For some reason, the European-American settlers in the area thought the Aztec emperor was the project manager behind the structure. Not really, they just thought it would be cool to name the cliff dwellings after an Aztec emperor, so they did.
After walking the short trail take a drive to Montezuma Well, a sinkhole, an underground limestone cavern filled with water. The water temperature is a constant 74 degrees year round.
It’s a beautiful walk down to the water’s edge. The temperature is much cooler by the water – up to 20 degrees cooler than at the overlook near the parking area. From the trail look up to find the cliff dwellings near the rim.
Spend a day enjoying this picturesque town in the Verde Valley. Start with Main Street and historic Old Town Cottonwood. Be sure to check out Larry’s Antiques and Things for an assortment of unique stuff and a trip down memory lane for some.
Enjoy the outdoors with a kayaking trip on the Verde River. Or spend some time at the oddly named Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
Visit a wine tasting room – Cottonwood is the center of the Verde Valley wine region of Arizona.
Dine casual or upscale with options such as Bing’s Burger Station, Pizzeria Bocce, Tavern Grille, or Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House.
Fall is a particularly beautiful time to visit when the leaves of the cottonwood trees turn bright yellow. Birding is popular in the Verde Valley, bring your binoculars and telephoto lens to get some great photo memories of your visit.
13. Tuzigoot National Monument
South of Flagstaff and near Cottonwood is an important historic site, another pueblo of the Sinagua people. The site is one of the largest pueblos, built from limestone and sandstone, and consisting of more than 100 rooms.
The word Tuzigoot is derived from the Apache word for ‘crooked water’ and was named at the suggestion of an Apache member of the excavation project.
The Sinagua people farmed beans, corn, cotton, and squash and built the living quarters between 1000 and 1400 CE.
Walk the short trail through the historic ruins then take the boardwalk to Tavasci Marsh and watch for birds and listen to birdsong. A wetland in the desert is a rare site.
14. Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Strange name, beautiful place.
The story behind the name is that a family looking to buy a ranch saw a dead horse at one of the locations. After viewing several properties, the parents asked their kids which ranch was their favorite – the one with the dead horse was the answer.
Years later, when the family sold the property to the state, they made it a condition of sale that the name be retained. Voila! Dead Horse Ranch State Park was born.
I visited in fall when the leaves turned golden and reflected in the water. This is a great spot for camping, birding, hiking, and fishing.
15. Petrified Forest National Park
Spend a day at the mesmerizing Petrified Forest National Park, an easy day trip from Flagstaff.
Explore the hiking trails and overlooks with stunning views of the Painted Desert. See the brilliant colors of petrified wood on several of the trails.
Park at the south visitors center and walk the Giant Logs Trail then hike to the Long Logs and Agate House.
Continue your road trip journey following the 28-mile scenic route to the north side of the park. There are 12 stops along the way, like Agate Bridge, Jasper Forest, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, and the old car at Route 66. Be sure to stop at the Painted Dessert Inn, although it is no longer a hotel it is an attractive adobe structure.
Once a booming copper mining town bustling with activity the town of Jerome is a cool day trip from Flagstaff. Located in the Black Hills of Yavapai County, Jerome is 70 miles from Flagstaff and makes for an interesting trip especially for history buffs.
Visit Jerome State Historic Park to see the Douglas Mansion and the carriage house. The museum features historic photos, artifacts, minerals, a video presentation, and 3-D model of the town including the underground mines.
Explore the Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum and take a Ghost Tour in Jerome and find out how it became known as the ‘Wickedest Town in America’.
Spend a day in beautiful and historic city of Prescott in central Arizona.
Downtown is home to historic Whiskey Row, Courthouse Plaza, along with unique shops and restaurants.
Hike the Granite Creek Trail near downtown or do a longer hike at Watson Lake. Fishing and kayaking are also popular at the lake.
For some history and fun, visit the Sharlot Hall Museum. Founded by Sharlot M. Hall in 1928 as the Gubernatorial Mansion Museum, now a living history museum consisting of eleven exhibit buildings and tranquil gardens.
Several annual festivals take place on the museum grounds including Prescott Indian Art Market in June, Folk Music Fest in October, and Frontier Christmas in December.
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