The towns of Flagstaff and Sedona both sit within the Coconino National Forest, a 1.9-million acre area of protected land fringed by four additional national forests. Many of the natural attractions around Flagstaff can be found within Coconino National Forest, such as the San Francisco Peaks—including the 12,600-foot Humphreys Peak—and the Sunset Crater National Monument. Visitors can find ample outdoor adventures within the forest, from fishing and swimming holes along Wet Beaver Creek to hiking and biking on red rock trails like those around Carroll Canyon.
A collection of once violent volcanoes dots the rugged high desert north of Flagstaff. Collectively called the San Francisco Peaks, or just ‘The Peaks’ by locals, today they sit dormant, offering a wilderness playground for adventurous visitors keen to hike, climb, bike or ski. The tallest is Humphrey’s Peak towering 12,633 feet, where hearty hikers can tackle a nine-mile, round-trip hike to its top. For wildlife spotting, lower elevation trails like Little Bear Trail wind through ponderosa pine, oak, and aspen forests, and the Lava River Cave offers great views and an exciting walk through a lava tube. The 44-mile Peaks Loop road is perfect for car-based sightseeing, while winter visitors can hit the slopes at Wing Mountain or the Snowbowl Ski Area.
To sample some of Flagstaff’s best craft beers, head to Mother Road Brewing Company. Named after Historic Route 66, which was nicknamed the Mother Road in its heyday, the brewery sits just a couple blocks from the iconic highway that runs through the center of town. The brewery is located in the Milum Building, a former commercial laundromat that has been repurposed in an ideal spot to grab a pint after a day of adventuring in the surrounding mountains and high desert. Their artfully crafted beers include complex flavors like the mesquite honey and British hops of the English Barleywine-style 4th Anniversary Ale or the coffee and orange notes of the popular chocolate stout Lost Highway.
A popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike, Beaver Street Brewery is an easy-going bar and restaurant like you hope to find in any town that prides itself on the adventurous nature of its surroundings. During the summers, it’s a hub of river guides, mountain bikers, and road trippers cruising Route 66. Under the warm sunshine, crowds gather in the outdoor beer garden to eat and drink against a great view of the San Francisco Peaks. Come winter, the ski crowd piles inside for burgers, pizzas and fondue alongside bold, award-winning beers like Big Rapid Red and Hopshot IPA.
There’s a certain thrill when a wild animal suddenly appears on a road trip. In most cases you see it, you reach for the camera, and before you know it, it’s gone. At the Bearizona Wildlife Park, however, outside Williams, Arizona, driving the compound is like experiencing that thrill on repeat every couple of minutes, as bears, wolves, Dall’s sheep, and mule deer appear out the window of your car. On the three mile long, self drive adventure, visitors will experience numerous encounters you would never expect up close—so much so that it’s required you keep the windows up at all times. Watch as a black bear lumbers through the forest or a wolf sneaks slowly through the grass, or Bighorn sheep, bison, and burros graze in the forested setting. In winter, many of the animals are covered in snow and the forest is a whitewashed wonderland, and you can get to experience an American safari and still use the heater in your car.