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Best Hidden Gems in Flagstaff

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Many travelers are surprised to learn that the world's largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest blankets the mountains of Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. Aromatic treetops brush the endless blue sky just outside of town, but this panoramic portrait is more than just breathtaking scenery for hikers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts; it's home to wildlife which includes the black bear and American bald eagle. Explore elevations of up to 12,633 feet and watch the flora change from cactus to alpine tundra along the way.

The stunning expanse of Walnut Canyon sits on the Colorado Plateau. An extensive, winding trail commences at the visitor center, showcasing a wealth of outstanding geological marvels along its way, including rustic cliff dwellings that stand under beautiful canyon walls. These dwellings are believed to have been constructed by pre-Colombian people, most notably the Sinagua inhabitants. The Island Trail offers a detailed and strenuous hike which voyages deeper into the canyon, a breathtaking 85-foot descent into the heart of the community at this ancient site. Located within close proximity to Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castles, this site also shelters the Old Headquarters, a rustic, log-built cabin, which is said to be one of the earliest in northern Arizona.

This natural wonder of Arizona is located about 40-miles northeast of downtown Flagstaff and it's one of the best kept secrets of the state. Often overlooked or bypassed in lieu of visiting the Grand Canyon, Grand Falls stands higher than famous Niagara, and at a height of 185-feet, it drops muddy monsoonal waters into the Little Colorado River below. When you visit, don't forget to bring your camera because the falls are extremely photogenic.

Observe the cosmos from the same spot where Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planetoid Pluto in 1930. In addition to cosmological wonders above, the planetarium has interactive exhibits, live shows, a massive theater and knowledgeable guides that explain the universe from below. The Clark Telescope is the main highlight and throughout the year, the observatory holds viewings of celestial events like meteor showers, comets, etc. A great place to visit for all ages and especially for those interested in astronomy.

The scent of wild acorns and fresh air is intoxicating while visitors wander around in the world's largest Ponderosa Pine forest. And perched at a heavenly height of 7,150 feet above sea level, Flagstaff's Arboretum is home to more than 2,000 different species of native flora. The arboretum also holds special aviary programs which showcase Arizona's native eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey. Throughout the summer season it hosts events like the popular Native Herb Festival or the Penstemon Plant Sale, and if you enjoy vino, the Wine in the Woods event every September very popular.

The Northern Arizona University Art Museum is a bright and spacious art space on the northwest corner of the Northern Arizona University campus features paintings, sculpture, prints and ceramics by local, regional and national artists. Supplemented by guest artist lectures, workshops and demonstrations year-round, the collection includes works by Diego Rivera as well as turn-of-the-century furniture.

The Flagstaff Field Center of the U.S. Geological Survey researches and provides information on all aspects of the area's natural resources. It also offers exhibits and displays on Arizona and Southwestern waterways, energy and natural resources, geologic structures and the use and preservation of federal lands. Self-guided tours of the department's facilities and exhibits may be taken Monday through Friday. Group guided tours may also be arranged. Brochures are available to guide you through the displays and self-guided tours are free of charge.

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