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A Great Home Base: Flagstaff, Arizona

I’d heard of Flagstaff before we visited, but I knew absolutely nothing about it.

View of Humphreys Peak from just below the tree line

That’s the best way to approach some new places, in my opinion: with an open mind and wide eyes.

If I had known how much I would have felt “meh” about Carlsbad, New Mexico, for instance, I might not have visited its spectacular caverns.

And if I had known how much I would have loved Flagstaff, I might have just moved there from Houston and never gone RVing.

Okay, maybe that’s not true, but suffice it to say we’re now huge fans of this cool town.

What makes Flagstaff so great

Situated on Route 66, there are vintage motels and eateries aplenty for visitors to enjoy, and the historic downtown is a great place to spend a day browsing local shops and dining.

The college town vibe, mixed with nearby outdoor recreation opportunities, means there are also lots of hikey-bikey types, giving Flagstaff a fashionable yet relaxed feel.

Flagstaff itself is gorgeous, with its Ponderosa pines, cool weather and blue skies. But part of its appeal lies in its surroundings. It’s a day trip from Flagstaff to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Montezuma Castle or even Phoenix — and we did all of these.

View of the San Francisco Peaks when driving to Flagstaff from the Grand Canyon on Highway 89

Where we stayed

When we arrived in Flagstaff, our plan was to stay for two weeks. We ended up staying for a month.

Our home during this time was Greer’s Pine Shadows, an RV park right off Highway 89.

Trails within Coconino National Forest extend from the park’s property. A bike path connects the park right to the heart of Flagstaff. A self-guided interpretive trail meanders around Elden Pueblo, a well-excavated Sinagua ruin within walking distance.

Our back yard for a month

The RV park is close to town but far enough away that traffic is rarely an issue. The price is reasonable, and the park managers (at least the ones on duty during the summer of 2015) are wonderful people who love suggesting activities for visitors.

What we did

Flagstaff, itself, provides plenty of opportunities for hiking.

Three times — twice with Josh and once with my best friend, Jessi, who came to visit — I explored Fatman’s Loop, a trail that is in walking distance of Greer’s Pine Shadows. (Not a great name, but it is a lovely trail.)

View of East Flagstaff from Fatman’s Loop

Jessi and I also climbed most the way up Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona. Of the 10 round-trip miles of the trail, we made it 8, and of the roughly 3,000 vertical feet, we made it up 2,000.

It’s difficult to say if the going was tougher up or down. I definitely slipped a few times in the snow and ice, but the views made it worth the effort.

Josh spotted the very first horned toad I’d ever seen on one of our hikes in the Coconino. The little guy was kind enough to pose for a photo.

Although I’ve only heard about horned toads in Texas, it took a trip to Arizona to find my first one.

What we ate

With a brewery on what seems like every corner and no shortage of visitors from around the world, Flagstaff is a great place to be if you’re hungry.

Behind the scenes at Lumberyard Brewing Company

Since we were in the city for a while, we had a chance to try quite a few restaurants. These were my four favorites:

Dine inside or outside
  • Lumberyard Brewing Company: Awesome pub food and local beer with a view from the restaurant straight into the brewery
  • Pita Jungle: Healthy, tasty Mediterranean food; try the cilantro jalapeño hummus with seared ahi tuna. Wowzers.
  • Diablo Burger: Where else can you get a locally-sourced Vitamin B (bacon, beet and blue cheese) burger branded with the restaurant’s logo?
  • Dog Haus: Not only delicious beef hot dogs with generous portions but also the site of the real “Winslow” street corner in “Take It Easy” performed by The Eagles
Also recommended: The Cheech burger from Diablo Burger

Flagstaff won our hearts, and we can’t wait to return. It’s right up there with Chattanooga, Tennessee for cities where we could definitely see ourselves settling down if we ever give up our roaming lifestyle.

Until next time, Flag!

Have you visited Flagstaff? What were your impressions? Favorite places or activities?

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