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
Bonito Vista Trail
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is full of trails that reveal the evidence of volcanic eruptions in northern Arizona in years past. The Bonito Vista Trail is a very quick, easy route that makes for a nice warm-up for new visitors to the park. This route is completely flanked by blackened rock from lava flows. The trail is family-friendly and sees moderate traffic.
Sparky’s Pond via Lower Brookbank Trail
Sparky’s Pond in the Dry Lake Hills is often accessed from the Schultz Creek side of the hill, but taking the Brookbank Trail makes for a more exciting trek. This route is a bit rockier and is more challenging, but it’s also quieter. The route is rated as moderate, but since it requires some climbing over large boulders, we don’t recommend it for children. Expect light traffic on this trail.
Karen Cooper Trail
Karen Cooper Trail is a 10.8 km out and back route that follows a well-maintained urban route. This multi-use trail is used by walkers, bikers, runners, strollers, and more. It’s a great way to get some steps in and enjoy nature without having to leave Flagstaff. The route is wide, easy to follow, and mostly flat. Expect moderate traffic on this trail.
Schultz Creek Downhill Trail
The Schultz Creek Downhill Trail is a route that hugs Flagstaff’s Dry Lake Hills, a popular hiking and mountain biking area just outside the bounds of the city. This trail is multi-use, so hikers can expect to see mountain bikers and vice versa. The route is undulating and forested with wildflowers in the summertime. Expect light traffic.
Skunk Canyon Loop
The Skunk Canyon Loop 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. Note that this is a shorter, easier approach than the full hike of Skunk Canyon, so we recommend it for families. It can get hot out here 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.
Brookbank to Upper Oldham to Sunset Loop
The Brookbank to Upper Oldham to Sunset Loop is a hike that makes use of three different trails between the Dry Lake Hills and Little Elden Mountain. This hike mixes some work with a scenic overlook on the ridge between Little Elden Mountain and Elden Mountain. It’s a bit rocky, so you’ll want sturdy boots. Expect light traffic on this hike.
Lower Brookbank, Upper Brookbank, Upper Red Onion Loop
The Lower Brookbank, Upper Brookbank, and Upper Red Onion Loop is a hike that makes use of three different trails between the Dry Lake Hills and Elden Mountain and T V Hill. This hike mixes a bit of light elevation gain with pleasant views of the mountains and hills that immediately surround you here. This trail is a bit rocky, so you’ll want sturdy boots. Expect light traffic on this hike.
Humphrey’s Peak via Inner Basin Trail
Humphrey's Peak via Inner Basin Trail leads you through a stunning aspen forest in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness all the way to the highest point in the state of Arizona. While not the typical approach to Humphrey’s Peak, it’s a beautiful way to experience this mountain. This is a very popular hike in the fall when the aspens at the beginning of the hike are in their full fall colors. You’ll need lots of water, nutrition, good boots, poles, and layers to take on this route.
Two Spot Loop
The Two Spot Loop is an easy hike southwest of Flagstaff at Rogers Lake. This route wanders beside the shore of Rogers Lake, which is actually a basin that fills with water when it has rained. This can be a great place to birdwatch or to see wildlife. In the summer, the flowers can be lovely. You might just want to keep exploring in this picturesque spot! Expect light traffic on this hike.
Sandy Steps, Heart, and Upper Oldham Trail
The Sandy Steps, Heart, and Upper Oldham hike makes use of several different trails to create a hike that stretches from East Flagstaff past Elden Mountain, ending past Buffalo Park in the city. This route is rated as moderate and offers varied scenery from the city to the mountains. Dogs are welcome on leash, but families may find this hike a bit long and strenuous. It’s suitable for intermediate hikers and better.
Switzer Wash Trail via Foxglenn Trail
Switzer Wash Trail via Foxglenn Trail is a short but sweet hike in Flagstaff. This 4.5 km hike begins in a great family park (picnic after the hike, anyone?) and travels along a creek, then through a scenic open field with trees and mountains to see in the distance. This is a perfect way to get outside with family and the dogs. Expect light traffic on this trail.
Doney Mountain Trail
Doney Mountain Trail is a short hike in the far northeastern corner of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This route is one that tends to look even better in real life than the pictures, so make sure to spend some time gazing out over the scrubby desert landscape where craters and volcanoes and lava flows show off its volcanic past. This hike is easy enough to serve as a warm-up for a longer day of exploration in the park. Expect light traffic.
Pumphouse Nature Trail
Pumphouse Nature Trail is a short and pleasant walk in Kachina Village, Arizona. This route is only 1.8 km long and it is almost completely flat, making it perfect for all ages and all skill levels. Dogs are allowed on leash and the route only sees light traffic, so come anytime and don’t worry about a busy trail. Expect easy navigation on this hike.
Fay Canyon Loop
Fay Canyon is one of several main canyons in the Walnut Canyon National Monument. This loop hike explores part of the canyon that most hikers don’t visit, so it’s a unique trip with great views in store. This hike is rated as moderate and is suitable for beginners and families. The canyon can be hot in the summer and icy in the winter, so prepare accordingly. Expect moderate traffic on this trail.
Fisher Point via Fay Canyon
Fisher Point is one of the best viewpoints into the gorgeous Walnut Canyon. This route leads you to the point through Fay Canyon. This hike is rated as moderate and is suitable for strong beginners and older active children. The canyon can be hot in the summer and icy in the winter, so prepare accordingly. Expect moderate traffic on this trail.
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