Early December – The Perfect Time to go Hiking in Flagstaff
Our Amtrak outbound trip’s final destination was Flagstaff, Arizona. From there, we traveled by car to the Grand Canyon. After spending three days exploring and taking in awe-inspiring views, we returned to do some hiking in Flagstaff.
Flagstaff Base Camp
Flagstaff is a marvelous “base camp” for day trips to Sedona, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and numerous hiking trails. Surrounded by volcanic mountains and in the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff’s trails range from easy to difficult, and offer scenery from loose volcanic rock and lightly grassy areas to huge Ponderosa Pine forests and rocky outcroppings.
We stayed several days at a tiny cabin we rented through Airbnb. To save $40 on your next adventure you can use this referral link for your first Airbnb stay. Please be aware that I receive $20 if you use my link 😊 Though a very small cabin without major features, it was clean, cute and one could climb a small ancient volcanic hill behind the residence. The hillside started out with sharp, red, volcanic rock, and as we climbed gave way to a thin layer of topsoil covered with grasses. A mile or so away, it was interesting to note that a company mines the volcanic rock used in barbecue grills, fireplaces, and landscaping.
The San Francisco Peaks
Hiking in Flagstaff is wonderful in the delightfully cool weather of early December. Flagstaff is at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, so be sure to stay well hydrated and avoid altitude sickness, particularly as you ascend the surrounding mountains. The San Francisco Peaks are located just north of Flagstaff on U.S. 180. The tallest, Humphrey’s Peak, rises to a height of 12,633 feet and is the tallest mountain in Arizona. Though elk and antelope are said to roam these areas, we saw only a jackrabbit on our trip, as well as many birds. The Peaks are a popular destination for camping and skiing, as well as enjoying a quiet hike.
Trails on Mt. Elden offered superb rock, cliff, and bluff features accompanied by the smell of pine. Mt. Elden rises to about to about 9,300 feet. We took portions of Fatman’s Loop trail and Oldham Trail. They are popular hikes, and though we did not continue to the peak, we were well exercised and refreshed for our efforts.
Elden Pueblo is located near the foot of Mt. Elden. The Pueblo is the ruins of a prehistoric Native American village, and worth a quick stop as it is just a few hundred yards off the highway. To learn more about the multitude of trails for hiking in Flagstaff, you can stop in to the park service office or visit the Coconino County website.’
Daytrips When You Need a Break from Hiking in Flagstaff
The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert
The Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert are about 126 miles or roughly 2 hours east of Flagstaff. Despite the lateness of the season, the Painted Desert is still remarkably colorful, with a multitude of different plants and wildflowers. This trip is well worth the effort!
A 33 mile trip south to Sedona, AZ provided vistas of mountains with red cliffs and ravines, running water and resorts for those wanting to stay near the bottom of a cliff. The winding mountainous road might give some travelers a moment of vertigo. There are gift shops and a museum.
Sedona is quaint southwestern town of fashion and art with good places to eat and have a drink. Strolling through the well-kept streets to the various shops and restaurants is a pleasure, as it has been landscaped with beautiful annuals, evergreens, and rosemary.
We ate lunch at the 89Agave restaurant which offers “Senoran-Style Mexican Cuisine in the Heart of Sedona.” This colorful and brightly lit restaurant in the heart of Sedona offers both indoor and outdoor seating. We sat at the outside terrace, enjoying the sounds of the birds, and the delightful weather, while enjoying one of the best meals ever. The Ceviche Del Mar offers an unusual and delightful combination of shrimp, sea bass, and octopus, and should not be missed! The Sonoran Quesadilla was also different than the usual quesadilla, you should try it!
Flagstaff – Parting Thoughts
Hiking in Flagstaff was great fun, but Flagstaff offers so much more! From a quaint Amtrak station on Rte. 66 to a lovely downtown, the Northern Arizona University to the plentiful daytrips, Flagstaff is both a lovely place to live (on the other hand, see my post about Tucson!) and a fantastic vacation destination.