9 reasons to head to Flagstaff for the weekend

Tucked away in northern Arizona, Flagstaff is known for its thriving arts and music scene against a backdrop of thriving outdoor activities. The city itself hosts weekend festivals and brings in desert lovers from across the country, but volcanic mountain ranges, hiking trails and ancient Native American civilizations can be found just outside the city’s boundaries.

Switch it up between Flagstaff’s festivals and flea markets by taking a quick trip to one of these 10 neighboring attractions:

Wupatki National Monument

Located just outside Flagstaff, Wupatki National Monument is rich in Native American history and easy hikes to prehistoric pueblos. The most park’s most famous attraction, the Wupatki Pueblo takes just 30 minutes to see, but visitors with more time can spend a few hours visiting a handful of other prehistoric pueblos or hike one of several trails, all under a mile long.

Coconino National Forest

This expansive 1.8-million-acre park offers more than red rock scenery; visitors can fill their schedule with viewing deserts, pine forests, mesas, volcanic peaks and flatlands as well. Check out Elden Pueblo and discover the ancient trading system where archaeologists have discovered artifacts like shell jewelry and macaw skeletons.

San Francisco Peaks

In the heart of Arizona lies a dormant volcanic mountain range, the San Francisco Peaks, where visitors can hike, ski and explore yet another one of the state’s historically rich attractions. Four of the state’s highest peaks are located in the mountain range and they’re the eroded remains of what used to be one of Arizona’s most explosive volcanoes. Avid hikers can enjoy an intense 9-mile trip up and down Humphreys trail, but the park offers a variety of easier hikes as well.

The Arboretum

Not to be confused with the Washington, D.C. attraction, the Arboretum in Flagstaff opens May 1 with a loaded calendar of events, concert series, camps and festivals. More than 2,500 plants, both native and drought-intolerant, are housed at the 200-acre public garden.

Walnut Canyon

Curved canyon walls mark the remains of what used to be the home of long-gone civilizations. Island Trail, a quick but steep hike, leads to 25 ancient cliff dwelling rooms where inhabitants thrived for nearly 1,000 years.

Flagstaff Extreme

Experience Flagstaff from the treetops at its extreme obstacle course. The park gives adults five courses to choose from, and some options for kids as well. At $49 per guest, the course is more expensive than a day at a national park, but it’s well-worth it to mix Flagstaff’s nature with a taste of adrenaline.

Meteor Crater

This giant crater, measured at close to three-quarters of a mile wide and more than 550 feet deep, is surrounded by observation trails and an air-conditioned viewing center. Believed to have been created by a piece of asteroid nearly 50,000 years ago, the crater is one of the most famous in the world.

Sunset River Volcano National Monument

Adding to the state’s list of volcanic mountains, Sunset Crater isn’t too far from San Francisco Peaks. A one-mile loop trail wraps around the base of Sunset Crater, but hiking to the summit was prohibited 30 years ago after hiking caused too much erosion. The hike shows off the park’s colorful landscape, molded by lava flow and cinders from the volcano’s eruption 900 years ago.

Lava River Cave

About 700,000 years ago, a volcano near Flagstaff erupted and formed a mile-long cave; the top, side and bottom cooled of the lava cave cooled first, leaving a lava river flowing through the new tunnel. Visitors can walk through the cave, which is often icy and wet.