Are you looking for some Flagstaff area attractions to visit? In this article you will discover four Flagstaff area attractions for nearly any season. So let’s get started!
#1 Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve
Located 15 mins/4 miles from downtown within Flagstaff city limits and it is home to our only waterfall.
Picture Canyon was purchased from the state in 2012 by the City of Flagstaff, and so the process of converting it into a functional preserve is still an ongoing process. However, they have done a great job over the past couple of years to improve the preserve and in particular the signage. The trails in the park are still a bit rustic, so be sure to do your research before arriving and have a plan. For instance, if you are looking to do the whole Tom Moody loop trail it can get a bit confusing after you pass the petroglyphs. Check out their website to download their brochure and map.
The longest hike you can do on the designated trails within the preserve is 2.8 miles, but you will definitely want to allot time to view all the extras available. This includes interpretive signs, wildlife, a small waterfall and creek, a riparian area with a number of birds and other wildlife, an assortment of Northern Sinaguan petroglyphs, and if you take the Don Weaver Trail there is also a Sinaguan pit house and another set of petroglyphs near the waterfall.
Oftentimes, I like to bring a picnic lunch and find a nice place midway through the preserve to sit and have lunch. Just remember to not feed the wildlife and always practice Leave no Trace. Pets are also allowed on the hikes, but be sure to keep them on leash and pick up after them.
#2 Red Mountain Trail and Geologic Area
Located 45 mins/31 miles northwest of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest out Hwy 180 towards the Grand Canyon.
Red Mountain is a volcanic cinder cone but it is totally unique from the other cinder cones in the Flagstaff area. When Red Mountain erupted about 740,000 years ago it built up in a U shape instead of the typical pyramid shape. The trail actually takes you inside the caldera and the natural features are incredible. You will definitely want to explore the natural amphitheater, enjoy the hoodoos, and keep an eye out for cool crystals that eroded out of the walls. On the Forest service site there is a USGS publication all about the formation of the cone and I highly recommend you check it out before visiting. Get it here.
The hike is relatively easy for the area, although remember that no hikes are easy at high elevations and on days with hot or other disruptive weather. So always be prepared. The trail is about 5.4 miles round trip and takes about 30 minutes in and 30 minutes out. As with Picture Canyon though you will want to allot time to explore the caldera. Dogs are also welcomed on this trail, but be careful on hot days.
#3 Meteor Crater National Landmark
Located 45 mins/45 miles out I-40 towards Winslow and takes visitors back in time about 50,000 years.
Meteor Crater was forms tens of thousands of years ago an asteroid was hurtling towards Earth at 26,000 miles per hour and smashed into the land just outside of future day Flagstaff. The impact left a crater that is 2.4 miles in circumference and 550 feet deep. When visiting, there are definitely a lot of different things to enjoy so be sure to set aside at least a couple hours to do it all. You will want to check out the scenic trails, the many exhibits, and they even have an animated movie so that visitors can experience the impact firsthand.
#4 Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River
Located 1.5 hours/70 miles east of town
Grand Falls features another waterfall, but a much larger one than at Picture Canyon and the water flow is seasonal.
Before we dive in let’s first mention that the falls are located on Navajo Tribal Land, so be respectful of their rules and regulations. You don’t need a permit to visit the falls but don’t speed on their roads, practice leave no trace, don’t interact in any way with their livestock, and don’t go off-road. Now, these are practices that we should practicing anywhere so be respectful.
The Little Colorado River is an ancient tributary of the Colorado River and has been cutting a canyon into the landscape of northern Arizona for a very, very long time. Around 20,000 years ago an eruption of nearby Merriam Crater sent a lava flow into the Little Colorado River Canyon and dammed the flow of the river. It is likely that a seasonal lake was created at the lava dam until the river could carve its way around it. The falls that we see today are the result of the river being rerouted around the lava dam and then cascading back down into the original canyon.
The falls are 181 feet high, which makes them higher than Niagara Falls but they flow when there is sufficient run off into the channel. The best time to view is in March and April to take advantage of the winter runoff or sometimes in late June through early September the falls will flow if there is sufficient monsoon activity. No matter when you go always be careful of flash floods.
So that’s 4 more of our favorite Flagstaff Area Attractions, what’s yours? Tell us in the comments below.
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