Hikes in Flagstaff
If you’re planning an adventure to the Grand Canyon State, there’s more than cactus and desert to be found. With peaks reaching over 3,840 m nestled right near the city, Flagstaff is closer in scenery and hiking opportunities to Colorado in some ways, but with its own fascinating perks. Volcanic craters, golden aspen forests, wildflowers and cacti, deep canyons and ruins–these trails have more to experience than you might have thought! With so many trailheads right within city limits, you can access the outdoors from your doorstep in Flagstaff, and there are trails here for every age and skill level.
Wherever your adventures in Flagstaff take you, a few things will remain constant: the San Francisco Peaks dominating the sky, the emerald Ponderosa forests stretching in every direction, and the welcoming charm of this down-to-earth city. Whether you’re exploring Flagstaff’s trails on two feet or otherwise, read on to see some of the top trails in and around the city.
15 Must-Do Hikes in Flagstaff
Ready to start exploring? We’re making it easy to get going with 15 of our favorite hikes in Flagstaff. Our list includes short, easy trails, challenging treks, and everything in between. Work your way through as many as you can on the weekends or make the most of your downtime while visiting the city–you’ll want to keep exploring once you get into that pristine mountain air.
Our top hikes in Flagstaff are chosen to show off the highlights of Flagstaff’s landscape, from mountains to volcanic craters and forests. While starting with these 15 hikes is a great way to get acquainted with Flagstaff’s hiking scene, remember that we’ve got plenty more route guides to keep you adventuring.
- Humphrey’s Peak - Humphrey’s Peak is on the list for many in the Arizona hiking scene, and no wonder: this is the tallest peak in the entire state, standing at 3,851 m. There’s no better view of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness and its sea of mountains, and there’s no higher peak in Arizona you could be standing on. The mountain is sometimes called “Arizona’s Little Colorado” since it seems almost out of place in the state.
- Lava River Cave Hike - The Lava River Cave is one of the most unique and fascinating hikes in the state of Arizona. Climbing down under the earth, you’ll walk (and sometimes crouch) through an underground cave system formed by a volcanic blast over 700,000 years ago. Here, the lava flowed through the earth, with the top, sides, and bottom cooling first while the middle continued to flow, creating the river-like system that exists today.
- Buffalo Park Trail - Buffalo Park Trail is one of many parks that serve the outdoorsy people of Flagstaff, but what makes this one so special? We think it’s the park’s location perched atop a mesa that makes it feel just far enough away from the city. With an imposing view of Elden Mountain, it’s a natural oasis that takes only minutes to reach from many neighborhoods in the city.
- Fatman’s Loop Trail - The Fatman's Loop Trail is a very popular hike in Flagstaff thanks to its ease of access and unique views. This loop hugs the eastern slopes of Elden Mountain, Flagstaff’s defining local peak. There are interesting rocks on this hike that give it its name: two sloping rocks that touch at the top, requiring you to shimmy through… But there’s lots of room.
- Lockett Meadow Inner Basin Loop - For hikers and campers spending time in Lockett Meadow, the views just can’t disappoint. This basin is tucked within the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff, remnants of stratovolcanoes from many years past. The Inner Basin is on the eastern side of some of the highest mountains in the state (including the highest, Humphreys Peak). The aspen forest on this trail is a real gem in the fall.
- Mars Hill Trail - Mars Hill Trail is a relaxing route in every sense of the word. This hike leads you through a pine forest, and the dappled light and sound of the wind in the trees is enough to help anyone disconnect from the day-to-day. The viewpoints aren’t as huge as other hikes nearby, but the serene nature of the trail is definitely worth adding it to your list.
- Kachina Trail #150 - The Kachina Trail is one of Flagstaff’s most popular hiking trails. It can be used as a standalone adventure or it can be used as a connector between the Humphreys Peak Trail and Weatherford Trail #102. On its own, it’s a beautiful meandering trail that hugs the southwestern flanks of some of Arizona’s tallest mountains, Agassiz Peak and Fremont Peak.
- Old Caves Crater Trail - The Old Caves Crater Trail hints at northern Arizona’s volcanic past. Around 700,000 years ago, a volcanic field in this region experienced multiple eruptions and lava flows that shaped the landscape. The San Francisco Peaks are remnants of this volcanic range, but smaller features, like this crater and its caves, are direct results of volcanic activity many years past.
- Sandys Canyon Trail - The Sandys Canyon Trail is an interesting hike not far outside of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest. This hike provides a few lovely photo spots as you make your way down into Walnut Canyon. Appreciate the layers of rock visible in the canyon, which are the same layers you’d observe in the nearby Grand Canyon.
- Elden Lookout Trail - The Elden Lookout Trail is a very popular hike in Flagstaff, thanks to its ease of access and unique views. Starting right within city limits, this hard hike climbs up the eastern side of Elden Mountain, Flagstaff’s defining local peak. Earn great views of the city, mountains, and forests that surround it after a sweaty climb to the top.
- Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop - The Abineau-Bear Jaw Loop is a fabulous hike that climbs up and through two canyons on the northern flanks of Aubineau Peak and Humphreys Peak. This route is beloved for its varied scenery. The star of the show is the Grand Canyon, which is visible from the top of the loop 70 miles away. For this view alone, we recommend trying to hike this route on a sunny, clear day so that you can see as far as possible.
- Aspen Nature Loop - The Aspen Nature Loop is a delightful hike through most seasons, but it’s very well-known as a fall hike when the forests of aspens go gold. Hikers flock to this loop in the fall, and for good reason–it’s beautiful! Speaking of the trees, some of the pine stands and bristlecones you can spot higher up on the Peaks have been living for over a thousand years!
- Walnut Canyon Island Trail - Over 700 years ago, a pueblo community lived within Walnut Canyon. While the community is long gone, their structures still partially stand. Peer into the rooms of their dwellings as you explore this short, interesting historic trail. This is an ideal trail if you want to connect with Native history in Flagstaff.
- Sunset Trail - The Sunset Trail leads you up and across some of the most visible mountains in Flagstaff’s skyline, heading up Little Elden Mountain to the top of T-V Hill, next to Elden Mountain’s summit lookout. This route is used by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers, and is enjoyed for its lovely views, especially when the fall colors start to paint the mountainsides.
- Tunnel Spring Hike - Some hikes are just made for quiet mornings, and Tunnel Spring is one of them. This is a relaxing route through the forest that leads you to the top of Observatory Mesa. With a calm forest and a route that can be customized with added length, this is a great, relaxing hike.
Scroll down to see the full list of hiking trails in Flagstaff.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Flagstaff
Flagstaff experiences very different weather than what you’d expect from Arizona. Throw your ideas of scorching summers and warm January hikes out the window–we’re playing by different rules here!
Flagstaff has four distinct seasons: a cool spring, a warm summer, a pleasant fall, and a snowy winter. The hiking season normally runs from March through November, but some trails will be accessible year-round and some will become snowed in.
We love hiking in this area between May and mid-October. Spring and summer bring wildflowers and the fall colors in Flagstaff are excellent. Keep in mind that Arizona experiences summer monsoons, which are heavy, brief rainstorms that can bring lightning and flash flooding. Monsoons tend to come in the afternoons, so getting early starts on your hikes is wise.
Other Outdoor Activities in Flagstaff
While the trails are excellent, hiking is certainly not the only way to explore Flagstaff! This region boasts plenty of space for other outdoor activities.
Adventurers on two wheels can take advantage of the many mountain bike trails. Those with four-legged friends can explore horse and dog-friendly trails. Campers can set up their tents in sites near the city, and birders and animal lovers will be spoiled with the fascinating variety of species that call the desert home.
How to Plan a Trip to Flagstaff
Planning a trip to Flagstaff is pleasantly less high-pressure than planning trips to some of Arizona’s other outdoor destinations. You won’t find long lines of cars vying for trailhead parking here, nor will you be strapped for places to stay.
Flagstaff has a good selection of accommodation options, from hotels in each corner of the city to short and long-term vacation rentals. If you’re wanting to prioritize hiking, we suggest staying in the northern or northeastern parts of the city to have easy access to the Dry Lake Hills and Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Renting a car will make getting around the city as easy as possible, especially since Flagstaff lacks a well-developed transit system. Trailhead parking is normally easy to find, save for the busiest weekends. You may wish to rent a high-clearance vehicle since some of the forest roads that lead to the trailheads are rough.
Some of the parks and recreation areas near Flagstaff charge modest day-use fees, but many of the routes are free to hike. Check in with each area you want to hike in to plan ahead for possible fees.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Flagstaff
What is Flagstaff known for?
Walnut Canyon, the Arizona Snow Bowl, Grand Falls, Sunset Crater… Flagstaff is known for its incredible landscapes. From volcanoes to canyons, it’s an adventurer’s dream. Flagstaff is also known for very low light pollution (stargazing, anyone?), and its Western culture.
Does Flagstaff get snow?
Oh, yes. Flagstaff averages over 100 inches of snow each year.
What is the population of Flagstaff?
As of 2021, the population of Flagstaff was just under 80,000.
Does it get really hot in Flagstaff?
Flagstaff’s summers are warm but not nearly as scorching hot as the rest of the state. Expect average highs in the 80-88°F range.
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Best Hikes in Flagstaff
Sinclair Wash Trail
The Sinclair Wash Trail is a scenic, easy multi-use trail that begins in Flagstaff, travels southwest out of the city, and then terminates near Fort Tuthill. This is a very nice trail. Most of it takes you through a ponderosa pine forest, and there can be lovely wildflowers in the spring and summer. You can hike, bike, or run on this route, and dogs are allowed on leash. Give it a try next time you want to spend some time outside!
Bismarck Lake Trail
The Bismarck Lake Trail is a beautiful adventure in the Coconino National Forest north of Flagstaff. This hike leads you through a wonderful open meadow that has views of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, including Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in the state. This is a gorgeous trip when the wildflowers are blooming (usually late spring through mid-summer), and it’s easy enough for all skill levels and ages.
Mars Hill Loop
The Mars Hill Loop is a hike is easy to reach for Flagstaff locals and boasts a wide, relaxing trail. This easy route sees moderate traffic. It takes you through a forest to a viewpoint over the city, and the navigation is super straightforward. This is a great hike for families. Note that there is a more direct out and back approach to this viewpoint, the Mars Hill Trail.
Rio de Flag South Trail
The Rio de Flag South Trail is a great option when you want some fresh air and exercise but you don’t want to have to stray too far from the city. This route is gentle and scenic, with ponds, trees, and often elk or deer to see. This is a good option for hikers, dog walkers, and joggers. While it can be too icy and snowy to enjoy in the wintertime, this is a solid pick any other season. Navigation is easy and this hike is kid and dog-friendly.
Mars Hill Trail
The Mars Hill Trail is a hike that’s very easy to get to in the city, making it a go-to for Flagstaff locals when they want to spend some time in nature. This wide, relaxing trail takes you through a lovely forest to a viewpoint over the city. As it’s a very serene route and the navigation is a breeze, the Mars Hill Trail is definitely an awesome choice for families, with kids of all ages being able to finish the hike.
Mars Hill Trail has lots of shade on it, so a summer hike on a hot day is great as you won’t overheat. In the wintertime, you might need to watch for ice on the trail. If this route isn’t quite enough, there are trails on the mesa you can use to extend your adventure.
The Continental Loop is a scenic, quick hike in the Walnut Canyon area near Flagstaff. This hike is easy enough for all ages and skill levels and dogs are welcome on leash. Enjoy a meadow, some ponds, pine trees, and bluejays. If you manage to do this hike when the wildflowers are blooming, it’ll be even better. Expect moderate traffic.
O’Leary Peak Trail
From the top of O’Leary Peak, you have a great view of nearby Darton Dome, Robinson Mountain, the Robinson Crater, and the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The view from the lookout tour is definitely worth the climb, which is moderately difficult and out in the sun most of the way. This is an excellent mid-difficulty and mid-distance hike that gives you an interesting perspective on the volcanic past of the Flagstaff area.
Walnut Canyon via Sandys Canyon Trail and Fisher Point Trail
Walnut Canyon via Sandys Canyon Trail and Fisher Point Trail is a hiking route that takes you into the historical Walnut Canyon, where a vibrant pueblo community used to live. The terrain and surroundings are varied and fascinating, from canyons and caves to the woods. This hike is easy enough for most skill levels and ages and tends to see moderate traffic. It’s a good pick for campers at Canyon Vista.
Fisher Point Hike
Fisher Point is one of the best viewpoints of Walnut Canyon, and it’s reachable on this 12.7 km hike. This hike is rated as moderate and is suitable for strong beginners and older active children (young children might find it to be too long). Most of the route leads you through a shaded forest until the view reveals itself at the end. Expect moderate traffic on this trail.
Old-New Heart Trail Loop
The Old-New Heart Trail Loop is a pretty hike that loops near the base of Little Elden Mountain in Flagstaff. This is a great hiking and mountain biking trail and the scenery will hopefully distract you from the gradual increase in elevation that happens throughout the loop. This hike doesn’t get very busy. Expect a bit of rocky terrain.
Doyle Spring via Inner Basin Trail
This route takes you to Doyle Spring via Inner Basin Trail. This hard hike leads you through a stunning aspen forest to a basin in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. The basin is tucked underneath some of Arizona’s tallest mountains–Humphreys Peak, Aubineau Peak, and Rees Peak. This route leads you through a meadow that’s accessible from the Lockett Meadow Campground, making it a perfect trip for campers. Note that this trail is different from the popular Lockett Meadow Inner Basin Loop.
Chimney Springs Trail
Chimney Springs Trail is a fantastic shorter hike in the Fort Valley Trail System of Flagstaff. This route offers gorgeous views of the nearby San Francisco Peaks and it’s a haven for wildflowers in the spring and summertime. The trail doesn’t get very busy, so try it out when you want classic northern Arizona views mostly to yourself. This route is good for beginners and families.
Griffith Spring Trail
The Griffith Spring Trail is a quick, simple route north of Kachina Village. This is a hike that can be done in less than half an hour by most, but the scenery is nice enough to make it feel like a satisfying adventure. This route is family and dog-friendly, and it can be enjoyed all year )although spring through fall provides the best weather). Expect moderate traffic on this hike.
Lava Flow Trail
If you’re exploring the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, the Lava Flow Trail is a great pick for those seeking an easy, short, simple trail. See the black volcanic rock, the crater, and all the evidence of this region’s interesting volcanic past. This route is easy enough for all skill levels and ages and is straightforward to navigate. Expect heavy traffic.
Paved Lava Flow Trail
If you’re exploring the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and need an accessible path, the Paved Lava Flow Trail is the trail to choose. This is a short, paved route with a grade of less than 3% throughout. You can see the black volcanic rock, the crater, and all the evidence of this region’s interesting volcanic past on this quick trip. Expect moderate traffic.
Strawberry Crater Wilderness Trail
Just outside of the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument near Flagstaff is the Strawberry Crater Wilderness, a similar but smaller area that shows off its volcanic past. The Strawberry Crater Wilderness Trail is a brief, easy hike up and around a small volcanic crater. This hike doesn’t see many visitors, so it’s a good pick if you want to be able to avoid the crowds. Dogs are not permitted in this area.
Upper Schultz Pass Loop
The Upper Schultz Pass Loop is a 8.0 kme easy hike north of Flagstaff, Arizona, in the Coconino National Forest. This hike includes everything you’d want from a northern Arizona hike: mountain views, pine forests, aspen trees, and wildflowers in abundance. It’s a very pretty trail and it’s accessible for most ages and skill levels. Expect light traffic on this route.
Walnut Creek via AZT-Walnut Canyon Trail
Reach Walnut Creek and a viewpoint of Walnut Canyon on the Walnut Creek via AZT-Walnut Canyon Trail. This hike is rated as moderate and is suitable for beginners and active children (young children might need their hands held if you go all the way to the viewpoint). Most of the route leads you through a shaded forest until the view reveals itself at the end. Expect light traffic on this trail.
Wupatki Pueblo Trail
The Wupatki Pueblo is one of the most impressive pueblos in the Flagstaff area, with a well-preserved multi-story structure standing in the middle of this trail. There are also dance plazas, ball courts, and small pueblos to see as you put together the whole picture of the people who lived here in years past. This route is very easy and is suitable for all skill levels. Dogs are not permitted in this area.
Kelly Pocket Trail
Kelly Pocket Trail is a lovely hike through a shaded forest into a low canyon, where sandstone caves, water pools, and wildlife await. This is a neat hike that doesn’t get as much traffic as it deserves, so give it a shot should you be nearby. The route is easy enough for all skill levels and all ages, although you may need to download your GPS route to help with navigation in some spots. Expect moderate traffic.
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