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10 of the Best Hikes in Flagstaff, AZ

Explore volcanic craters, dramatic cliffs, hillside meadows, and ancient ruins, or summit one of the Arizona’s highest peaks on one of these 10 classic hikes near Flagstaff.

Hiking Easy, Moderate, Difficult

Humphreys Peak
Photo: Shutterstock


Flagstaff is one of the most idyllic and coveted outdoor destinations in all of the desert southwest. Just an hour and a half from the Grand Canyon, and only half that to reach Sedona, the town of 75,000 residents sits along Interstate 40 and serves as a welcoming destination for weary travelers making their way east or west. Even better, it's less than 3 hours from downtown Phoenix, making it a great weekend or holiday destination for those looking to escape the summer heat or often-crowded urban parks. Whether it’s your first time to northern Arizona or you’re seeking out new adventures on your next trip, here are 10 of the best day hikes close to Flagstaff.

Often referred to as the "City of Seven Wonders," Flagstaff is home to an apparently endless selection of wildlife, plant life, historical artifacts, and plenty of unique geological features. Located in the heart of the San Francisco Peaks, Mount Elden is the most prominent peak near town, towering nearly 2,300 feet above the city below. Two of the best hikes to explore the mountain include the challenging and rugged Lookout Trail to the summit, or you could enjoy a more relaxing hike such as Fatman’s Loop that begins at the same trailhead. Earning its name from a narrow 4 – 5’ passage in a rock formation, sightings of wildlife are common on the hillsides, and the spring and summer wildflowers are stunning.

Snowcapped and looming over the Kachina Peaks Wilderness northwest of Elden, Humphreys Peak holds the title as the highest point in Arizona. For those up to the challenge, the 12,600-foot massif offers commanding views in every direction, some reaching as far as the Grand Canyon nearly 80 miles to the north. If the undertaking seems a bit too daunting, or should the weather not cooperate, the Kachina Trail is an excellent alternative that explores the southern slopes of the peaks while touring aspen groves, dramatic cliffs, rolling meadows, and plenty of views towards town. If you have two vehicles, you enjoy the trail as a point-to-point, rather than the 15-mile round-trip it is otherwise. Of course, you don’t have to hike the entire trail to enjoy its beauty.

Further northwest of town, Kendrick Peak and Red Mountain may be two of the more underrated hikes to make this list, though Kendrick is still considered the 11th or 12th highest peak in Arizona. With an elevation just shy of 10,500 feet, some sources note how the mixture of Colorado Pinyon, Englemann Spruce, and limber pine that tend to grow at the higher elevations are a rare occurrence in the region. Of course, if you’d rather enjoy an easier hike into a volcanic cinder cone, then head a little further to Red Mountain instead. The short and easy hike follows a sandy wash and explores unique hoodoos and sheer rock faces. These vertical pillars line the central cone “and many dark mineral crystals erode out of its walls,” the USFS notes.

Other short hikes around Flagstaff include SP Crater, Lockett Meadow, Old Caves Crater or a hike within the Wupatki National Monument. All relatively short, most are suitable for everyone in the family, though pets are not allowed within the National Monument. Located just behind the main visitor center rests a 900+-year-old ancestral Puebloan site with more than 100 rooms and even a ball court, the park notes. At its peak, it’s suggested that upwards of 100 people lived there and that it was the largest building for 50 miles in any direction. Though unoccupied now, the Hopi “believe the people who lived and died here remain spiritual guardians,” the NPS continues.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagstaff,Arizona https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KendrickPeak

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