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To the north of Flagstaff are the highest mountains in Arizona

The Lowell Observatory is one of the big attractions near Flagstaff

Flagstaff is a good place to stop on the way to the Grand Canyon

Many Arizonians come to Flagstaff for winter skiing

Being close to large forests, Flagstaff is beautiful in the fall

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Flagstaff is often overlooked by visitors but loved by Arizonians


Flagstaff is a city with a population of 65,000, though it really feels more like a small town and it has a definite rugged American character to it. It's a place often overlooked by visitors as it is only about 80 miles (130kms) from the Grand Canyon, and most visitors simply drive through it on their way to or from the Canyon. It is a city well worth a day or two of your time, however, and people from all over Arizona like to use it as a base for exploring the area. It's popular in summer as it is higher than Phoenix (about two hours' drive away) and therefore cooler, while in winter the snow attracts keen skiers.


Flagstaff also makes a good base if you want to explore Native American sites, the Painted Desert, or the Petrified Forest National Park, or visit the nearby Meteor Crater or the renowned Lowell Observatory. Flagstaff is also a college city, giving it a lively atmosphere, and it has much more the feel of a real American city than, say, Sedona.


Flagstaff is known for being on Route 66, and is mentioned in the song "Route 66" written by Bobby Troup and recorded by many artists including Nat King Cole and the Rolling Stones. Today the old road, which has disappeared in many places, still runs through the center of the city and you'll find some of the old hotels, motels and other buildings still standing.


As well as being close to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff is also just to the south of the San Francisco Peaks, which is Arizona's highest mountain range that rises to 12,633 feet (3,851 m). Close by is also the largest forest of Ponderosa pines in the lower United States, and when the town was first settled in 1876 it took its name from one of these Ponderosa pines which was used to make a staff for the US flag. The scouting party arrived in what is now Flagstaff on July 4th, 1876, and mounted the flag to celebrate the centennial of the founding of the United States. Other people following this trail to the west also stopped at the flag, and a town grew up here known as Flagstaff.


With its higher elevation, its proximity to the Grand Canyon, to mountains and forests, Flagstaff is very different from the desert towns which people expect to find in Arizona. As such, it is really worth visiting for a few days.


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