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
Humphreys Peak, Weatherford, and Kachina Loop
Find some of the best mountain views of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness on the Humphreys Peak, Weatherford, and Kachina Loop. This hike combines three of the main trails in the San Francisco Peaks to loop you through some of the highest elevation terrain in the state. The entire loop is possible in a day, but it will test your limits. Rim to Rim hikers often use this route to condition. Note that this hike doesn’t summit any mountains, but you could add on summits if you were backpacking (or just exceptionally fast and fit).
Sandy Seep Trail
Sandy Seep Trail is an easy route in the Coconino National Forest that leads you through an area with trees, mountain views, and wildflowers near the base of Elden Mountain. It’s a scenic hike that isn’t too demanding, and you may also be able to see wildlife on this trail. This is a suitable pick for families with kids. Expect light traffic.
Elden Lookout, Sunset, and Heart Loop
The Elden Lookout, Sunset, and Heart Loop is a hard hike near Flagstaff that leads you up Elden Mountain and near the summit of Little Elden Mountain using three different trails. This mountain is one of the most obvious features of Flagstaff’s sightline and getting on top of it shows you both the city and the surrounding landscape in a beautiful way. This hike is rated as hard, and we don’t recommend it for beginners or children. While there aren’t any significant technical challenges to note, there’s a fair amount of elevation gain required. Expect moderate traffic.
Campbell Mesa to Arizona Trail Loop
The Campbell Mesa to Arizona Trail Loop is a 23.3 km hike that adds distance to the traditional Campbell Mesa Loop. Pick this one when you want to spend all day outside. This route is easy to reach from the eastern side of Flagstaff and it provides lovely views of the pines, big wildflower blooms in summer, and wildlife. You’ll see lots of mountain bikers on this route as well.
Campbell Mesa and Anasazi Loop
The Campbell Mesa and Anasazi Loop is an easy 4.8 km hiking trail that sees heavy traffic. This route is easy to reach from the eastern side of Flagstaff and it provides great views of the ponderosa pines, big wildflower blooms in summer, and wildlife like elk (and the occasional tarantula, for better or worse) to see. This route is family-friendly and dog-friendly and the route is well-defined and well-signed.
Sunset Trail to Brookbank Trail Loop
The Sunset Trail to Brookbank Trail Loop leads you through the Dry Lake Hills of Flagstaff with views of nearby Elden Mountain. 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. Expect light to moderate traffic on this route.
Soldier Loop Trail
Stroll underneath wildflower-dotted pine forests on the Soldier Loop Trail, a picturesque hiking, mountain biking, and running route in the Fort Tuthill area south of Flagstaff. This is a good pick for weekend warriors who want to get outside and be active in nature. The views aren’t sky-high, but the trail has a great ambiance and it’s usually not too busy. Expect moderate traffic.
The Sinagua Loop is a short, easy hiking trail in the Walnut Canyon National Monument near Flagstaff. This hike is easily reachable from the city, and it’s a nice pick for beginners or those with small children because of its accessible difficulty level. Dogs are permitted on this route on leash. We don’t recommend this hike in the winter because the trail gets very slippery. Expect moderate traffic.
Sandys Canyon, Walnut Canyon, and Fay Canyon Loop
The Sandys Canyon, Walnut Canyon, and Fay Canyon Loop explores three canyons. It’s an easy-moderate route that makes for a super convenient adventure for campers at Canyon Vista Campground. While the three canyons make for a satisfying adventure, you can also use some of the offshoot trails in the area to lengthen or customize your adventure if you’d like. Expect moderate traffic on this route.
Skunk Canyon Hike
The Skunk Canyon hike takes you through one of the scenic canyons in the Walnut Canyon National Monument. This hike is easy, requires almost no elevation gain, and offers great canyon views the whole way. It can get hot in the summertime, so make sure you bring water. On the flip side, you might need microspikes in the wintertime. Expect moderate traffic on this hike.
A’Ah Lava Trail
The A'Ah Lava Trail is a quick way to appreciate the interesting scenery of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This area is devoted to preserving and showing off Flagstaff’s volcanic past, and this hike takes you over volcanic black rock from an eruption years prior. This hike is very easy, very short, and good for all ages.
Alfa Fia Tank Loop
The Alfa Fia Tank Loop is a short and sweet hike near the Kachina Peaks Wilderness. This route displays a stand of aspen trees that are gorgeous in the fall when their leaves turn yellow, which is even more of a highlight than the tank, which is a small pond in the grass. With some mountain views to top it off, this is a beautiful hike in a quick, easy package. Expect moderate traffic.
Walnut Canyon Viewpoint Trail
Walnut Canyon Viewpoint Trail is a hiking route that takes you to a viewpoint over the historical Walnut Canyon, where a vibrant Pueblo community used to live. This route mostly travels through the trees until the view opens up. This hike is easy enough for most skill levels and ages and tends to see light traffic.
Lava’s Edge Trail
The Lava's Edge Trail is a great way to appreciate the interesting scenery of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument near Flagstaff. This area is devoted to preserving and showing off Flagstaff’s volcanic past, and this hike takes you over volcanic black rock from an eruption years prior as you hike around Lenox Crater. This hike is good for all ages.
Soldier Trail and Bridge Trail Loop
Hike through wildflower-dotted pine forests on the Soldier Trail and Bridge Trail Loop, a great hiking, mountain biking, and running route in the Fort Tuthill area to the south of Flagstaff. Come for the day or spend the weekend exploring this area at the Fort Tuthill Campground. Expect moderate traffic on this easy hike.
SP Crater Trail
While most hikers are exploring the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a ways outside of the park bounds is the SP Crater Trail, a lesser-known and lesser-explored crater hike with views that are just as impressive. This is a hike that toes the line between moderate and hard because of its rocky, rugged trail. While it might not be a fit for kids or beginners, adventurous hikers will love the remote feel of this one. Expect light traffic.
AZT-Schultz Creek Loop
The AZT-Schultz Creek Loop is a wonderful moderate loop hike in the Dry Lake Hills of Flagstaff. This hike offers a bit of all the highlights in the Flagstaff hiking world, with meadows, forests, mountain views, and water features to see. It’s suitable for families and beginners. This route is best done when the flowers are blooming, which is usually from late spring through mid-summer. Expect moderate traffic.
Lost Burrito Loop
The Lost Burrito Loop is a lightly trafficked moderate hike in the Dry Lake Hills of Flagstaff. With a big meadow at the top, it’s an enjoyable and rewarding hike, but it might not be the best choice for families or beginners. This route is best done when the flowers are blooming, which is usually from late spring through mid-summer. We don’t recommend this hike in the winter as the snow can get very deep.
Sunset Trail South to North
The Sunset Trail South to North covers the whole length of one of the main routes that travels up and over Elden Mountain and its surrounding peaks. This route is challenging, but if you can get a car shuttle arranged, you can hike it as a point-to-point route instead. You’ll find that the beginning is the most demanding, then you’ll be cruising with incredible views as you go. Expect moderate traffic on this route.
Skunk Canyon to Fisher Point
Skunk Canyon to Fisher Point is a hike that leads you through one of the three main canyons in the Walnut Canyon National Monument area. This hike is moderate and offers great canyon views the whole way. It can get hot in the summertime, so make sure you bring water. On the flip side, you might need microspikes in the wintertime. Expect moderate traffic on this hike.
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