Flagstaff Travel Guide

Flagstaff, Arizona, is a city of about 70,000 and the seat of Coconino County. The city sits in the midst of the Coconino National Forest, with its famous “ponderosa pines.” The surroundings also include high mountain peaks and desert plains. Flagstaff is a major U.S. tourist destination both for its natural beauty and its historic significance.


Flagstaff received its name from an incident in 1855, when railroad surveyor group led by Samuel Hudson tied a U.S. flag to a tall pine tree and cut off its branches. When a railroad town was later built nearby, beginning in 1876, it was called “Flagstaff” after that “rustic flag pole” of years earlier. During the 1880’s, Flagstaff grew rapidly until it was the biggest town between the California Coast and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Its growth was dependent upon its being a key railroad hub for the region, and in 1926, when US Route 66 was built through Flagstaff, it grew based on automobile traffic as well.

Things to see and do in Flagstaff

Visit the Arboretum in Flagstaff. You will see much native greenery, including highland conifer trees and local wildflower species. There is also a butterfly garden and a raptor show.

Humphrey's Peak – Flagstaff, Arizona

A photograph of Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff in Arizona, as seen from the Meteor Crater. Humphreys Peak is the highest mountain in Arizona and resides in Coconino County, in the northern part of the state. The view from the desert is breathtaking.

Tour the Museum of Northern Arizona, where the geologic and Native American history of the area is chronicled. For hyper-local history, see the Pioneer Museum.

Don’t neglect to stop by the famed Lowell Observatory, which was built on a hill in Flagstaff back in 1894. You can get a guided tour and do some stargazing.

All around town is the Coconino National Forest. You will find there are many camping, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking opportunities.

Just 10 miles north of town, see the tallest mountain in Arizona, 12,633-foot tall Humphrey’s Peak, in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

Go skiing at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, just seven miles north of town, 9,000 feet up in the San Francisco Peaks.

Wupatki National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona

With red rock hills in the background, a young woman explores a 78 foot wide ballcourt in Wupatki Pueblo ruins in Wupatki National Monument at Flagstaff, Arizona.

See five historic Indian village sites in the Wupatki National Monument. And also see the cliff dwellings in Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Other nearby places of interest include Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, 560-foot deep Barringer Crater, and 185-foot tall Grand Falls.

Climate conditions

Flagstaff’s climate is moderated by its high elevation. It is dry most of the year, and humidity is low. The nights, however, are often as much as 40 degrees colder than the days. Interestingly, Flagstaff is considered to have five seasons instead of four. Winter is cold and dry but with deep snowfalls coming every few weeks. Spring is rather windy, and snow still sometimes falls. The early summer months are extremely hot and dry. From July and into September, the “desert monsoons” arrive. Fall is dry with moderate temperatures and only lasts till the first snowfall sometime in November.