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Tourism

tourism

It’s no surprise that tourism is one of Flagstaff’s main economic engines. The area is filled with gorgeous mountains, clean air and spectacular scenery. It is conveniently located near many major northern Arizona attractions, from the Grand Canyon to Sedona to the Painted Desert, and also has museums, galleries and numerous historic sites, making the city a tourism destination for thousands annually.

Drive into town and you are quickly on Historic Route 66, the “Mother Road” made famous by the 1960’s television series featuring Nelson Riddle’s iconic song “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66.”

Known for its numerous observatories and the depth of its astronomy community, one of Flagstaff’s most stellar attractions is Lowell Observatory, west on Route 66 and up Mars Hill. Founded in 1894, making it one of the oldest observatories in the United States, the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered here in 1930. Tours and lectures are available along with numerous nighttime stargazing opportunities. For a program schedule, call (928) 233-3211.

The Arboretum at Flagstaff offers botanists, horticulturists, bird watchers and others extensive gardens and public research facilities on native plants and the climate on the Colorado Plateau. Wildly popular public classes, bird walks, nature programs, plant sales and other activities take place at the Arboretum. The Arboretum is open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, from April to October. Please call (928) 774-1442 for information.

The Native American culture is closely tied to Flagstaff, and Navajo and Hopi lands are a close drive from the city. Many tribes once inhabited areas around Flagstaff. Walnut Canyon National Monument, 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff off of Interstate 40 exit 204, is the ancient home of the Sinagua Indians. Gain an understanding of the people and their lifestyle by walking through the informative visitor center before descending the 240 steps to ancient cliff dwellings. Visitors walk along a path next to the ruins of homes built into the mountainside. The Canyon is open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. November to April and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. May to October. Please call (928) 526-3367 for more information.

Just east of Flagstaff on Highway 89 is the Elden Pueblo. This Pueblo is thought to be 800 years old and is still being excavated. Archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of artifacts providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of the people who once lived there. Guided tours of the site are available. For more information, contact the program manager at (928) 527-3452 or the Peaks Ranger Station at (928) 526-0866.

Continue 15 miles northeast of Flagstaff on Highway 89 and you will come to Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monuments. Sunset Crater is part of the San Francisco Peaks volcanic field. It is the youngest, least-eroded and one of the longest-lived cinder cone volcanoes. Public hiking to the top of the crater is closed due to deterioration, but a variety of paths are still open for visitors to walk along the volcanic rock or take a ranger-guided tour. Follow the 36-mile loop through changing scenery into the Wupatki ruins. These ruins have been well-preserved and cared for, offering visitors the opportunity to explore them. The areas around the ruins are still being studied in efforts to discover other historical sites and information. Sunset Crater and the Wupatki National Monument are open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m.–5 p.m. in the summer. You can find out more about Flagstaff area national monuments by calling (928) 526-1157.

The result of a violent meteor impact some 59,000 years ago, Meteor Crater, located 40 miles east of Flagstaff on I-40, reaches a depth of 550 feet. It is considered the world’s best preserved meteor crater site. In addition to tours around the crater, and an interactive discovery center, the facility features an Astronaut Hall of Fame. For more information call (928) 289-2362.

And, of course, no trip to Flagstaff would be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon, just 80 miles outside the city by car (Highway 180 to Highway 64, or Highway 89 to Highway 64) or by train, via Williams on the Grand Canyon Railway. There are also private tour companies that provide transportation services to the canyon.

You can design your own tour with help from the experts at the Visitor Center, (928) 774-9541, where resource materials and recommendations are available. A variety of escorted tours to numerous northern Arizona destinations with trained guides can enhance your trip. The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce has listings of tour companies in Flagstaff and northern Arizona, (928) 774-4505.

Day Tripping

The Navajo & Hopi Reservations Tour
In Flagstaff, head north on Highway 89. A mile or so north of the Flagstaff Mall, turn right on Townsend Winona Road, and head east to Leupp Road (Navajo Route 15). Turn left and head northeast 50 miles to the intersection of State Highway 87. Six miles or so after turning left onto Leupp Road you are on the Navajo Reservation. Watch for the small round buildings, called hogans—the traditional Navajo home. Turn left on 87 and head north for 30 miles to the intersection of State Route 264 at Second Mesa. (You enter Hopi Reservation territory once you pass the village of Seba Delkai.) Turn left and head west, watching for the Hopi Cultural Center (928-734-2401) on the right. Here you will find food, restrooms, galleries and a shop. Inquire as to which villages are open to tourists, what dances are scheduled and open to the public, and where local Hopi craftsmen and artists may be observed working. Do not attempt to visit any village without first receiving permission at the Cultural Center. Photography is strictly forbidden. After leaving the Cultural Center, head west on 264 for 17 miles, returning to the Navajo Reservation. 20 miles further on, just above the junction of 264 and U.S. 160 is the town of Tuba City. Visit the Tuba City Trading Post, where you can walk through an authentically furnished Navajo hogan. Take U.S. 16 west to U.S. 89, turn south toward Flagstaff. Total miles: Approximately 245. Allow a full day for this trip.

Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument
From Flagstaff, follow Highway 89 north approximately 15 miles to the Sunset Crater turnoff, turn right (east) and enter the park (fee required). Here you will find strange rivers of lava from an eruption, which occurred 900 years ago, but what looks like it could have taken place yesterday. There are numerous trails and viewpoints along the way, but visitors are cautioned to remain on established trails to avoid being injured on the sharp and brittle lava flows. Immediately east of the flows is the impressive and well-formed Sunset Crater, so named by John Wesley Powell for its red-orange hue near its peak.

From Sunset Crater, continue north on the same road to Wupatki National Monument. In this park are several well-preserved Indian pueblo-style ruins, and a unique and rare “ballcourt.” There is a Park Service Station and Interpretive Center, which explains the history and geology of the area. The self-guided trails are easily accessible to visitors for close-up inspection of the sites. From Wupatki, continue on Highway 89, turn left (south) and return to Flagstaff. Total miles: Approximately 70. Allow one-half day for this trip.

Grand Canyon Tour
The world-famous Grand Canyon is located just 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff. By train: Catch the Grand Canyon Railway at Williams. Daily trips to and from the Grand Canyon on historic trains are not only fun and eco-friendly, but are also a good way to avoid traffic delays during peak seasons. By car: Follow Highway 180 north to the junction of Highway 64, then continue north to Tusayan and the park entrance. At Tusayan, you will find helicopter and airplane tours of varying lengths and routes, as well as spectacular Grand Canyon movies and guest concessions. Just north of Tusayan is the park entrance (fee required) and Grand Canyon Village.

At the Village, you can visit museums, take self-guided or guided rim walks, or hike down into the Canyon itself via Bright Angel or Kaibab Trails. Hikers should remember that the canyon trails can be quite strenuous, and you should allow twice as much time coming out as going in. Mule pack trips and overnight hike trips are available but require advance reservations. Contact the National Park Service at (928) 638-7888 for details. From Grand Canyon Village, follow Highway 64 toward Cameron. Along this scenic route are numerous rim viewpoints and, as you descend from the Colorado Plateau, spectacular views of the high desert regions of the Navajo Reservation and the Little Colorado Valley. At Cameron, you will find visitor services and Native Americans trading at the Historic Cameron Trading Post.

From Cameron, head south across the reservation on Highway 89 and into the cool Ponderosa pine forest surrounding Flagstaff. Total trip miles: Approximately 185. Allow a full day for this trip.

Meteor Crater/Petrified Forest/Painted Desert Tour
Take I-40 east from Flagstaff to Exit 233 for Meteor Crater. The result of a violent impact some 50,000 years ago, the crater reaches a depth of 550 feet and is among the best preserved craters in the world. The Apollo Astronauts did lunar training here. On-site is an Astronaut’s Hall of Fame, the Museum of Astrogeology and a visitors center. There is an admission fee. Return to I-40, head east 75 miles and exit at 311 to visit the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert sightseeing road is five miles long and the Petrified Forest Road is 20 miles long. Both parks have visitor centers, ranger talks and conduct tours. Return to Flagstaff via I-40 west (110 miles). Total trip miles: 275. Get an early start and allow a full day.

Oak Creek/Red Rock Tour
From Flagstaff, take Highway 89A (located at Airport turnoff on I-17 south of town) and head south. Approximately 13 miles south, the road leaves the lush pine forests of the high country and twists and turns down through geologic time to the spectacular inner regions of Oak Creek Canyon. The road follows the course of Oak Creek past famous Slide Rock State Park and Indian Gardens, then into the town of Sedona and, just beyond, the Verde Valley. In Sedona you will find numerous shops and galleries in a dramatic red rock setting. Continue southwest on 89A to the town of Jerome. Once a booming mining town, Jerome is now but a ghost of its former being. Perched precariously on the edge of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley, Jerome today is a haven for artists and a living museum to early industrial activity. Returning north on 89A, be sure to visit the well-preserved Indian ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument.

Near Cottonwood, take the 260 cutoff to I-17 and Camp Verde. At Camp Verde you will find the restored U.S. Calvary Fort of Fort Verde State Historical Park and, nearby, the ancient and well-preserved cliffside ruins of Montezuma National Monument.

After Montezuma, return to Flagstaff by following I-17 north. Total trip miles: Approximately 145 miles. Allow a full day for this trip.

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