Adventure Activities in Flagstaff -- Try if You Dare
Here are five adventure activities in Flagstaff we dare you to try:
1. Hike to Humphreys Peak
To start off a trip to the Southwest, why not make your way to the highest point in Arizona at an elevation of about 12,000 feet? Humphreys Peak is a difficult and breathtaking hike that involves dense pine trees at the beginning and eventually evolves into a grueling trek over some of the only tundra in Arizona. The base of the hike is only a 30-minute drive up Highway 180 and a few miles up Snow Bowl Road. (You won't even need a four-wheel drive, since it is a completely paved road.)
This is the most rewarding hike you can take in the Flagstaff area. Once you have survived the difficult end of the hike over the gravelly and slippery tundra and ascended to the top, you will get a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and the canyons of Sedona. The hike to the summit is only about 4.5 miles -- but don't let the distance fool you; those 4.5 miles are some of the most challenging uphill hiking you will ever do. At times, you may feel that it isn't even worth it as the summit eludes your every step, but I recommend that you keep going, you'll feel like you're in another world once you get to the top and you can't find a bigger sense of accomplishment anywhere.
Starting point: The Snowbowl lower parking lot
2. Eat like the natives do
After you've exhausted yourself hiking in Arizona, you might want to give yourself some sustenance before heading out again. Flagstaff has great dining options -- and one of the most unique, and filling, options is MartAnne's, a quaint New Mexico-style restaurant n the heart of downtown. When you enter MartAnne's you'll be transported to the southwestern Mexican tradition of bright food and decorations. Our favorite item on the menu is the chilaquiles, a plate full of crisp tortilla strips, eggs, pork and either red or green chile sauce. The dish will leave you full for the rest of the day.
Location: 10 N. San Francisco St.
Another Southwestern treat that you should check out while your in Flagstaff is Burritos Fiesta. Their tortas, made with beef, jalapenos, cheese and guacamole on a toasted roll, will leave you a little heated up and ready for another order. Top off your meal with an order of horchata, a sweet and soothing rice and milk drink to wash away the heat from the jalapenos.
Location: 1530 S Riordan Ranch St.
3. Search through a lava cave
For a change from the bright sun in Flagstaff, take a trip to the Lava River Cave, about 15 miles north of downtown Flagstaff off Highway 180 (a 45-minute drive). These lava tubes were formed 700,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption, and these caves capture some of the last trickles of lava that solidified underground. This is a dark and difficult adventure and is meant for those who have no claustrophobia or fear of darkness. This hike is famed for travelers running out of juice for their flashlights and waiting for hours (or days) before someone found them. Bring flashlights, batteries, and snacks. I also recommend a helmet for the times you forget that you can't stand up straight without hitting your head on jagged volcanic rock.
Once you've gone a few hundred feet into the lava cave there will be no other natural light for you the rest of the way. Utter darkness sets in and takes some getting used to. The lava has jagged edges so be sure to feel your way carefully and slowly. The walking is difficult but worth the fight to witness ancient lava flows and icicles as they have been for thousands of years.
Location: Coconino National Forest
4. Raft the Colorado River
Here's yet another adventure activity in Flagstaff. If you have done enough hiking and wondered where the water might be, then head out of Flagstaff about an hour and you'll find yourself at the Grand Canyon. The famed Colorado River cut its way through the Grand Canyon and now forms one of the most challenging whitewater rafting trips that any true river runner can find. This trip is best done with one of the tour guide companies, such as Arizona Raft Adventures, which offers trips from six to 16 days with either motor-operated boats or oar boats.
To experience the full grandeur of the Grand Canyon's rocks, crevices and colors, we recommend going without motors and take some time to enjoy the ruggedness of the river and the canyon. The Colorado runs through high walls of massive, ancient rocks in an array of browns, reds and ivories that can only be imagined. Travelers feel small in the vastness of the canyon and find camaraderie with their fellow rafters as they work together to set up camp and make it through the extremely hot days at the floor of the canyon. This is a river rafting trip that is not for the weak of heart, with many rapids rating at a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1-10. Rafting through the Grand Canyon is a life-changing adventure.
5. Hike to Phantom Ranch
If you find that you enjoy hiking more than rafting, try exploring the majesty of the Grand Canyon on foot. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is less than an hour outside of Flagstaff and can be reached by driving north on Highway 180. Phantom Ranch is an oasis at the bottom of the rugged, hot and challenging canyon. You can reserve rooms there in advance and rest once you have made it to the canyon floor. (Note: Reservations are normally made a year in advance, so you'll have to plan ahead for this one). The crew that run Phantom Ranch have mules carrying in and out supplies constantly and they'll make you feel at home while you rest up for your trip back up the next day. They are noted for their fantastic and refreshing lemonade.
The hike down to this destination is only for those who are physically ready for the demanding trail. The temperature rises as you descend into the canyon and the rim seems farther and farther away. Don't forget that you have to hike back UP to make it out again. Most hikers do not recommend this hike between May and September, as the heat in the canyon can be brutal with temperatures reaching around 100 degrees in the summer months. The shapes and colors of the rocks change quickly as you descend, as does the foliage. Be ready for one of the most intense hikes of your life on this one and make sure you train well in advance; you don't want to be helicoptered out.
Starting point: Top of the Bright Angel Trail