We visited Flagstaff at the end of our trip to Arizona (you can read about the first 48-hours of our trip in Phoenix here). We loved Flagstaff because of the close vicinity to other areas. I know, you could spend more than four days and never even see or do everything that Flagstaff has to offer but we actually used it as a base for adventures around the area. We didn’t know that we would actually fall in love with Flagstaff itself! Next time we are definitely going to spend more time in the city of Flagstaff and plan on going even further north to explore The Wave and Horseshoe Bend.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Check our disclosure policy for more details. HomeAway paid for our stay at a beautiful home while we were in Flagstaff. Thank you for supporting He and She Eat Clean!
We love renting homes because we have more space (which we definitely need for all of our hiking gear!) and we can cook our own food at least one or twice a day. HomeAway makes it easy because they have more than two million unique properties in 190 countries, so there’s something for everyone and every budget (you know how much we love to save money!). You can read more about the specific property we stayed at below and view on the HomeAway website here.
Trip Dates: March 24-27, 2018
4 Day Outdoor Explorer Guide for Northern Arizona
- Sedona, Arizona
- Bear Mountain
- 4.7 miles, 1,900 feet elevation gain
Sedona is a very short and scenic drive from Flagstaff. In under an hour you can reach the trailhead for many of the hikes in the area. We actually did Bear Mountain on our drive up to Flagstaff from Phoenix (we stayed in Cottonwood in between the two cities). We got to the trailhead really early and were treated to watching a few hot air balloons land literally right next to us!
Bear Mountain is one of the less crowded (but you will still see plenty of people!) trails but absolutely gorgeous! We clocked it at 4.7 miles with 1,900 feet of elevation gain. There are three false summits but each one is gorgeous so they make you just want to keep pushing. You will go through the different colors of the rocks before reaching the top. Once you see the “end of trail” sign you can take a path to your right and go to a more secluded part to enjoy a snack.
Once the trail starts climbing it really doesn’t stop until you reach the false summits. Get ready for a heart beating workout but one where you actually have fun doing it! We were one of the first ones to the summit but on the way back down the trail was definitely getting crowded.
After your hike eat lunch in Sedona and head back to Flagstaff for some time to relax!
Our Trip: We ate at Chipotle for lunch in Sedona and then went to Whole Foods in Flagstaff for an afternoon snack of sushi and while we were there we got a pizza to make for dinner. We went to bed early to get ready for the big adventure of our trip: The Grand Canyon!
- Grand Canyon National Park
- South Kaibab Trail/Bright Angel Trail
- 17.6 miles, 4,900 feet elevation gain
We decided to tackle going into the canyon and back up in one day. The plan was to use the Bright Angel Trail the whole way (down and up) but changed our mind the night before after reading more about it. We took the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon and the Bright Angel Trail back up. I’m glad we did. It was gorgeous! We woke up super early (are you noticing a theme here?!) and got on the trail around 7 am. We finished around 4 pm. If you are doing this in one day (which you probably shouldn’t), you want to make sure you are starting early enough to get out in daylight. The last three miles climbing out are very interesting, to say the least. This is where you will see a TON of people who are venturing down some but they don’t really realize what it’s going to take to get back out of the canyon. We saw many people getting sick and really struggling. Don’t underestimate the canyon, even if you just go down a few miles. What goes down has to come back up! It seems super easy just cruising down and it’s easy to lose track of how far you went without realizing it. Don’t let this happen to you!
I would say this Grand Canyon hike ranked up there as the second hardest hike we’ve done, coming in right behind Mount Whitney (which is the highest peak in the lower 48). There are amazing views the whole time and there was something new each time we turned a corner. You think that it all looks the same when you stand at the top but when you actually get into the canyon it is completely different! It’s not recommended to do it in one day like we did, and for good reason, but if you haven’t already put it on your bucket list – do it and spend a day or two at the bottom of the canyon. Be aware of the weather changes also, when we started it was in the 20s and by the time we reached the canyon it was in the 80s!
Next up on our list is Rim to Rim in one day! We also want to hike down and camp in the canyon.
Our Trip: After sunset, we ate dinner at Wendy’s (yes, Wendy’s fast food – there’s not much to choose from!), which was right outside of the park. We went back into the park after dark for star pictures!
We will be doing a full trip report on just the Grand Canyon hike soon but here are a few teaser pictures:
- Wupatki National Monument/Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
- Flagstaff, AZ
- 2 miles, 250 ft elevation gain
We debated driving to Horseshoe Bend but didn’t want to make that drive for the short amount of time we would have to spend. We decided to take it easy and explore around Flagstaff instead. We ended up going to Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
We were pleasantly surprised that it was a really cool place to visit. There aren’t very many official hiking trails but we did the Lenox Crater Trail where you can basically climb the volcano! It provided great views of the lava flow and the San Francisco Peaks. The trail is short enough to run (if you like to run uphill!) and you can also take on the Lava Flow Trail at the end.
Our Trip: After hiking, we ate lunch at Whole Foods (are you surprised?!). We bought meat and cooked burgers and asparagus for dinner at our townhome.
- Sedona, Arizona
- Devil’s Bridge
- 4.4 miles, 400 ft elevation gain
We woke up super early because we knew that the Devil’s Bridge hike gets extremely crowded. We were the third car in the parking lot! The trail starts as a gravel road for 4X4 vehicles. Once the official trail started it was short but a steep incline the whole way up. We were some of the first few on the trail and didn’t have to wait at all for pictures at the top (we read stories where people waited over an hour…no thank you!). The bridge was really cool. Some people were frightened to go out on it but we just acted like it was a normal trail. We’ve done Half Dome and the Potato Chip hike in San Diego so while it’s scary, I still wanted to go out on the bridge. Once we made it back down and to the parking lot, it was a zoo so definitely start this one even earlier than you planned.
- Rimrock, Arizona
- Bell Trail
- 1 miles, 500 ft elevation gain
We left Devil’s Bridge with the intention of going to Cathedral Rock. It was still relatively early (it wasn’t even 10 am) but the parking lot was full because Cathedral Rock is another extremely popular short hike. We didn’t feel like dealing with finding a spot or the overcrowded trail so we went to Bell Trail instead. Bell Trail is in Rimrock about 30 minutes outside of Sedona. It wasn’t one of our favorite trails but we did see quite a few people on the trail, all different ages, so it’s good for groups or those who don’t like an incline. The first few miles are down a dirt trail that is pretty level and easy but towards the end, you do start to climb slightly (definitely still a moderate climb). At the end, you reach an outcropping of rocks (called The Crack) and a river.
Our Trip: We ate sushi as an early lunch in between hikes at Whole Foods in Sedona. After hiking Bell Trail we made the trek back to Phoenix to fly out the next morning.
Our Exact Flagstaff Rental:
As I mentioned, we stayed in Flagstaff because it was affordable and a great location in order to travel to many different places. The city itself was awesome too! We highly recommend putting Flagstaff on your list of places to visit.
The townhome we rented was on a golf course AND had a view of the mountains – the best of both worlds! It was in a very quiet location so we were able to relax after hiking and even cook a few meals at the home in the gorgeous kitchen.
Check it out here:
- Search the HomeAway Website for Your Own Destination
- Our Exact Flagstaff Rental
- General Flagstaff Area
Tips for a Memorable Hike in Arizona:
- Wake up early and get started before the heat of the day (and the crowds!)
- Only participate in activities that you are physically able to complete
- Always obey the signs at the trailhead and along the trail – they are there for a reason
- The weather can vary greatly – be prepared
- Drink plenty of water and take water with you on the trail
- Eat plenty of food and take snacks with you on the trail
- Tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back
Have you visited any of the places we did on this trip? What kind of exploring did you do? We can’t wait to go back!2