If you’re looking for a fun day-trip from Scottsdale, consider heading for Flagstaff in the pine-studded, high-country mountains of northern Arizona. Flagstaff is an easy two-hour and 45-minute drive from Scottsdale and is known for its college-town feel and casual outdoor lifestyle. Here are a few Flagstaff highlights you won’t want to miss.
Flagstaff’s large stands of aspens and Ponderosa pines offer a wealth of hiking options year-round but are particularly beautiful in fall when the leaves turn into a riot of gold, orange and red. Trails range from easy tracks like the Lava Flow Trail and Buffalo Park to advanced hikes on the Kachina Trail and Elden Lookout. If you’ve never tried spelunking, check out Lava River Cave. Once you make your way through the entrance hole in the ground, you’ll have a ¾-mile-long, ancient lava pipeline to explore. Lava Cave Note: Bring several sources of light (headlamps, flashlights, etc.) and extra batteries for each. Even in summer, the temperature deep in the cave can be cool enough for ice to be present; dress appropriately.
Flagstaff’s four lakes offer anglers plenty of opportunities to cast a line out. Lower Lake Mary, Kinnikinick Lake, and Ashurst Lake all boast fantastic trout fishing. While Upper Lake Mary has a variety of different catches such as northern pike, channel cat, crappie and trout.
Northern Arizona’s premier skiing facility is known for thrilling open bowl and tree skiing and snowboarding from mid-November through mid-April. And when the snow melts, you can still take in the scenery during the off season with a ride on Snowbowl’s Scenic Chairlift!
From the entrance to the park you’ll drive through Arizona wilderness and see free-range wildlife including black bears, bison, wolves and bighorn sheep. At the end of the drive, you’ll arrive at Fort Bearizona, a walk-through area housing baby and smaller animals. You can also hop aboard Bearizona’s open-air bus for a guided drive through the park with unobstructed views.
One of the oldest observatories in the United States and once named one of “The World’s 100 Most Important Places” by TIME, Lowell Observatory lies just minutes outside downtown Flagstaff. You can experience the Universe through a variety of programming, including guided tours, featured presentations, telescope viewing and outdoor constellation tours. Visit night or day for an experience that’s out of this world!
Does the phrase “high-flying adrenaline junkie” describe you? Then this course is for you. Way up in the tree canopy, you’ll climb, balance, and zip-line through the forest. There are five adult courses and one children’s course. Be sure to leave your fear of heights at home!
Flagstaff photo by Shane Burkhardt.