bugsy running on lone rock beach with the airstream and f-150 in the background

Five Days in Flagstaff, AZ (visit #1)–Big Trip #1

We visited Flagstaff in late March 2016, as part of Big Trip #1. Read about our second visit in 2018 here and our third in 2023 here.

Flagstaff is winning the “Could you live in this town?” game, tied with Asheville, a town with which it has many similarities. It has fun, funky downtown area with good restaurants and breweries, and the natural setting is to die for, with Sedona just to the south and the Grand Canyon to the north. We planned to be in town for just a couple days, but kept extending our stay, we liked it so much.


flagstaff koa
dog with pinecone on head

We stayed at the Flagstaff KOA, about 12 minutes from downtown, backing up to the Coconino National Forest. From our site, it was just a few steps to the trailhead for the Elden Lookout Trail, which we climbed the morning after we arrived for a soaring view of the city and snowy mountains beyond. We had enough space at our site to set up our yard with mats and Bugsy’s fence, and we got a couple loads of laundry done while staying there. The internet was too weak to use at our site, but it was the price we paid for staying at the far side of the campground near the forest.



elden lookout trail

We ran-hiked the Elden Lookout Trail, a steep 5.2 mile out-and-back. Starting by 9 on a weekday, we saw only a few other groups on the trail.

sp crater
sp crater
sp crater

How often do you get to climb a volcano? SP Crater was a steep, slow slog up, but the views at the top were incredible, the crater itself was neat, and the rocks were unique–large, dark chunks rimming the top, and smooth, tiny pebbles along the sides allowing us to sort of skate down the side of the volcano on the descent.

Grand Canyon

grand canyon south kaibab

The bartender at Flagstaff Brewing Co recommended the South Kaibab Trail over the more heavily traveled Bright Angel Trail, as the scenery changes more on the South Kaibab than on the zig-zagging Bright Angel. We ran the South Kaibab down to Skeleton Point and hiked back up, for a total of 6 miles. I wrote more about our Grand Canyon visit here.


sedona hike cowpies hangover

The road to get to the trailhead for the Cow Pies-Hangover-Munds Wagon loop is the second-hairiest road I’ve ever driven on (the first was in Canaan Valley, WV, a ride which P&D will undoubtedly remember). After a very slow-going few miles, we parked next to a single other car, which was glorious after driving through Sedona and seeing the throngs of people at every trail, viewpoint, and pulloff along the main road. The 5.2 mile hike is gorgeous and fun; if your car can handle the road, you should check this one out.


The second hike we did in Sedona, Brin’s Mesa to Solder Pass, was much more crowded. The scenery was lovely, of course, but we prefer more solitude. This post has more pictures and details about our Sedona hikes.


mother road brewery

We visited Beaver Street Brewing CompanyDark Sky Brewing CoFlagstaff Brewing Co, Historic Brewing Co, and Mother Road Brewing Co in Flagstaff; Grand Canyon Brewing Co in the quaint town of Williams on the way back from the Grand Canyon, and Oak Creek Brewing Co in Sedona. J has written up his thoughts on the breweries and beer here and here. To summarize: Dark Sky was our favorite spot to hang out with Bugsy and get some free internet, and Mother Road had our favorite beer.


diablo burger

On our wild (not really–we were beat from the Sedona hike and drive) Saturday night in Flagstaff, we had a beer at our favorite brewery Mother Road, and then burgers at Diablo Burger. If you know me, you know that I am VERY particular about eating meat. I have to know that the meat came from a local farm where the animals were raised naturally and humanely. Diablo’s burgers are made from local, grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free cows from their partner ranches. They source as much as they can from “local farmers, ranchers, bakers, cheese-makers, brewers, vintners, and other producers… from within a 250-mile radius.” So I consented to eat a burger there, and it was scrumptious, and paired with a local beer, of course.

martanne's breakfast palace
martanne's breakfast palace

The other memorable meal we had in Flagstaff, on a recommendation from our well-traveled friend Al, was a huge Mexican breakfast at MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace (apparently they are rebranding it as a Burrito Palace, now that they serve dinner too). The decor is colorful and fun, and the food was delicious, but it was a tough breakfast to foist upon one’s gut before a morning of hiking!

We ate at a couple breweries, but the meals aren’t worth mentioning here (other than yummy pizza at Beaver Street); J has comments on his brewery pages. And, of course, we cooked many meals at home. I’ll write a post at some point on cooking on the road; it has been a lot of fun!

farewell snowstorm

After several days of warm, sunny weather, Flagstaff sent us off with a little farewell snowstorm. Mad at us for leaving? Don’t worry, we’ll be back! (Read about our next visit here!)


6 responses to “Five Days in Flagstaff, AZ (visit #1)–Big Trip #1”

  1. […] honestly underwhelmed overall by the city itself (maybe that’s in retrospect because we loved Flagstaff, which was our next […]

  2. […] off the interstate between Santa Fe and Flagstaff lies Petrified Forest National Park. We drove through, Airstream in tow, stopping for a few […]

  3. […] like Flagstaff, is a town that we could see ourselves living in. Super outdoorsy, with breweries and restaurants […]

  4. […] Alternatively, you could drive up to the National Park from Flagstaff, a 90-minute drive. That’s what we did on our first Big Trip. […]

  5. […] Flagstaff was one of our favorite cities on Big Trip #1, and we were excited to return for the many, many hiking and beer drinking opportunities! […]

  6. […] We visited Flagstaff in December 2023 as part of our Tucson for Christmas trip. Read about our second visit in 2018 here, and our first in 2016 here. […]

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