Located in Northern Arizona, Flagstaff is close to the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, which runs throughout the southwest region.
The town is one of the most historic places in the area and is popular with tourists looking to grab a piece of southwestern culture.
There are also plenty of active experiences available from Flagstaff, including cycling, hiking, and even skiing.
It is often used as a gateway to some of the natural attractions of Arizona, and there are plenty of day trips available from Flagstaff – both to these attractions and to more unique cultural experiences.
Here are the 15 Best Day Trips that can easily be made from Flagstaff, Arizona.
1. Grand Canyon
One of the most famous sites in the country, the Grand Canyon is an area of natural beauty and gives unparalleled views over the canyon and river.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon is easy to reach from Flagstaff with a day trip.
It is split into two sections; the easier to access South Rim is more touristy.
If time allows, the North Rim is much quieter and will give you a more peaceful experience.
There are plenty of viewpoints, restaurants and gift shops in the area, as well as hiking trails for the more adventurous traveler.
Recommended tour: Grand Canyon Classic Sightseeing Tour Departing Flagstaff
2. Monument Valley
Another great natural attraction, Monument Valley is located entirely within the Navajo Nation.
As such, you will need a different kind of permit to visit this area than you would for national parks in the state.
There are plenty of hiking trails and tours through Monument Valley, where you can discover the large rock formations and experience the backdrop of many western movies.
You can also opt to splash out on a hot air balloon tour of the area, giving you a unique perspective.
As with other natural attractions in the state, there are plenty of restaurants and gift shops available.
3. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is an attraction in its own right and is well worth a day trip.
It is an area where the Colorado River bends in a horseshoe shape, and there are many spectacular viewpoints over the bend.
You will need to hike to the spot from Route 89, so bring some good shoes and plenty of water with you.
At 4200 feet above sea level, it is one of the most spectacular – but slightly less touristy – viewpoints in the region.
The most popular times to visit are at sunrise and sunset.
You can also opt to hire a raft through the Colorado River in the nearby town of Page.
Included in: Cathedral Slot Canyon Hike from Flagstaff
4. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a series of narrow gaps where you can walk around freely and experience the unique landscape of the Navajo Nation.
This is a great spot for photographers to experiment with the unique shapes and lighting of the canyon.
There are bridges and water holes throughout the park that add further interest to the landscape.
Nearby, Lake Powell is a popular tourist hotspot, with water sports available on the lake and barbecue sites.
You can also enjoy many of the restaurants and tourism facilities along the edge of the lake.
Recommended tour: Antelope Canyon Full-Day Tour from Flagstaff
Sedona is a small city located right in the heart of the natural beauty of Arizona.
The Red Rocks are popular rock formations and are connected to the city by a series of hiking trails that are suitable for a range of abilities.
The Church of the Holy Cross is a unique site; it is a chapel that has been built into the rock formations with a protruding cross.
The town itself also has bike hire places, restaurants, and bars.
You can rent kayaks and canoes, or unwind at one of the many spa facilities in the city.
If you are interested in golf, there are a couple of courses here with great views over the natural scenery.
Another popular gateway for visitors to the Grand Canyon, Williams combines local culture with natural beauty to give a great mix of experiences.
The town lies at the foot of the Bill Williams Mountain.
You can opt to hike up the mountain to take in the breathtaking views from the top, or you can drive if you are a very cautious driver.
There is a historic city walk starting from the Visitor Center that explains the history of the region.
You can also visit the Wild West Junction, which is a reconstructed Wild West-style village with a museum and restaurants.
7. Petrified Forest
The Petrified Forest provides a completely different experience from the other natural attractions close to Flagstaff.
The entire park was formed by a forest which used to exist in the area, however, desertification has turned the flourishing, ancient forest into a desolate landscape filled with the bright colors left behind by the dead trees.
There are many trails throughout the forest, some of which are more secluded than others.
You can also see petroglyphs left behind by ancient Native American tribes.
There are ranger-guided tours available if you need some peace of mind; these usually depart from one of the inns or taverns nearby.
This town is a great way to experience Arizona culture.
You can witness the world’s oldest rodeo right in the heart of the city and take in the local atmosphere.
There are plenty of saloons lining the streets, adding to the Wild West vibe that Prescott gives off.
There is a paved hiking trail that will give you great views over the town; it’s also a great place to spot peregrine falcons during their mating season.
Restaurants are relaxed and American in style, with grilled meats being the town specialty.
Once one of the largest cities in Arizona, Jerome had turned into a ghost town by the 1950’s.
However, the area was completely transformed recently by local artists and tourism to the city, which has given it a new lease of life.
If you are in the area on the first Saturday of the month, there is an Art Walk in the town, where around twenty galleries showcase their best artworks and allow you to buy them.
When the Art Walk is not on, you can still go visit all of these galleries individually and tailor your visit to your specific artistic interests.
There is a small museum dedicated to the town’s previous copper mining industry.
The state capital of Arizona is also the sixth-largest city in the country and has plenty to offer tourists – even if you are only visiting for a day.
The Desert Botanical Gardens showcase some of the most vibrant plant life you can see in this arid region.
There are also plenty of art galleries and museums to keep tourists with culture in mind occupied.
The city is full of great Mexican restaurants and you will find the best southwestern cuisine within Phoenix’s suburbs.
More active travelers can enjoy hiking trails, bike rental facilities, and regular sporting events.
11. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tonto Natural Bridge is a travertine natural bridge that can be viewed from both the top and the bottom.
You will need to have a good level of fitness to view it from underneath, but all visitors should be able to experience the views from the top.
There are other trails with man-made bridges leading from the natural bridge, which can expose you to even more unique landscapes.
There is a historic lodge within the state park where you can learn more about the geology of the natural bridge, as well as about the Arizona climate and the cultural history of the park.
12. Las Vegas
The entertainment capital of the United States, Las Vegas is a little further from Flagstaff than other locations but is still doable as part of a day (or overnight) trip.
Most famous for its casinos and bars, Las Vegas has a lot more to offer the casual tourist.
The main strip is famed for its recreations of famous world monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty.
There are a variety of shows and performances available every night in the city, and the dining scene is expanding to rival most major US cities.
There are even some beautiful natural sites nearby, with hiking trails available.
13. Navajo Nation
Though the Navajo Nation contains many sites of natural beauty, it is also a great place to experience Native American culture as part of a day trip.
The Hubbell Trading Post National Historic site is a good place to meet Navajo people and the best place to pick up traditional handicrafts and goods.
Most towns within the reserve also have galleries which display local crafts and go further to explain some of the cultural contexts behind them.
The nation itself spans Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, and you can visit other sites such as Ship Rock and the four corners monument where all four states meet.
14. Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
The Apache Sitgreaves National Forest is a rare sight in the southwest, which features lush forests and beautiful cold water lakes.
There are many hiking trails throughout the forest which can be taken solo or with a guide.
It can be quite mountainous at points, so make sure to bring plenty of water and only tackle the hikes if you at least have a moderate fitness level.
If you are able to tackle the mountains, you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the entire forest.
There are also lake swimming opportunities; with a permit, you can bring a kayak along.
This is a popular area for obtaining Christmas trees.
15. Camp Verde
Camp Verde combines most of Arizona’s main attractions into one small town packed with fun experiences and interesting sites.
You can visit archaeological cities left behind by the native Hohokam people and learn more about the ancient history of the region.
There are also heritage attractions detailing the history of white settlers in the area.
If you are into outdoor adventures, you can opt to hire a kayak and tackle the Verde River.
The unique town is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails and there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the town center to keep you fed and occupied.