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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.
Located north of Flagstaff near the Wupatki National Monument, this volcano last erupted a little before the Norman Conquest on the other side of the world in 1066. The volcanic eruption scattered ash and black cinder for miles around the area. Serendipitously, the ashen soil allowed subsequent tribes to inhabit the area due to its ability to retain water. Alongside the volcano, visitors can examine fascinating geologic features such as 'Squeeze-ups' and 'Hornitos,' which are bulbous mounds of lava and droplets. Hike along one-mile Lava Flow Trail and discover hidden wonders or climb a nearby cinder cone on the Lennox Crater Trail and enjoy the astounding views. Unfortunately, hiking to the top is prohibited.
Inhabiting Flagstaff's northeasternmost frontiers, Wupatki National Monument is a hidden gem of a park that contains some of the oldest architectural gems in the entire North American continent. Studies conducted after examining the site's archeological findings confirm that numerous American Indian races namely Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni inhabited this area all along the southern Colorado flatlands for almost a millennium. This 35,422 acre (14,334 hectares) semi-arid expanse is dotted with an intricate system of incredible prehistoric pueblos that are infused with architectural sensibilities from various tribes, most notably from the Kayenta Anasazi, the Sinagua, and Cohonina. The Wupatki ruins are by far the largest and most noticeable structure in the park, with over 32 separate dwellings under its wing.
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.
Many travelers are surprised to learn that the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in North America 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 is home to a variety of wildlife, which includes the black bear and American bald eagle. Explore elevations of up to 12,633 feet (3850.5 meters) and watch the flora change from cactus to alpine tundra along the way.
Located seven miles north of Flagstaff at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, Snowbowl is a popular skiing spot for locals as well as tourists. The lodge offers 25 one-room cabins with front porches and gas fireplaces. The longest run is two miles and top elevation is 11,500 feet, which can be reached with the Agassiz Chairlift. The season runs from December through March (sometimes it is extended, however it depends on snowfall).
Among the verdant Ponderosa Pines, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course offers zip-lines, ropes, traps, nets, bridges and suspended contraptions for those not afraid of heights. There are two different courses, one for adults and the other for kids, but both provide thrills and great views above the canopy. It's located in Fort Tuthill County Park, one of the many park gems among the larger Coconino National Forest.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is the premier facility for the study and exploration of native people and natural sciences which feature exhibits on the evolving cultures and climate of the area. Ever-changing exhibits cover anthropology, biology, geology and archaeology, as well as a variety of fine arts media. Throughout the year, Native American artists are showcased, and in the spring, an annual exhibition of Zuni, Hopi and Navajo artworks and crafts draw big crowds.
Lumber barons Timothy and Michael Riordan built this 40-room mansion in 1904 to house their massive families. Its architect, Charles Whittlesey, also designed the magnificent El Tovar Hotel located at the Grand Canyon. What's most interesting about the structure is that the two sides are mirror images, with a huge common area in the center, to provide each family with identical private quarters and shared living spaces. The park also includes picnic areas and a visitors center that contains exhibits. Guided tours of the mansion and grounds are held at regular times throughout the day.
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.