When you think of Arizona you probably think of a dry and barren desert with a few cacti scattered around for good measure. While some parts of the state might be like this, the area around Flagstaff, in the northern part of the state, is not that way at all. Nestled against the base of soaring, snow-capped mountains, in the middle of the largest contiguous pine forest in the country, Flagstaff is the quintessential outdoorsy college-town. Mountains, canyons, forests, prairies, and even the Painted Desert are all right around Flag, as locals affectionately call this close-knit town. There are so many amazing places that I would love to introduce you to, but I’m going to start with my personal favorite, our beloved mountains, the San Francisco Peaks.
Exploring the beautiful state of Arizona while trying to establish and grow my own photography business.
Tell us about the place you live:
The San Francisco Peaks, or just “the Peaks” as locals call them, used to be a massive strato-volcano that towered above everything else in the southwestern United States. When it erupted some tens of thousands of years ago landslides from the eruption caused a valley to be formed in the middle, the Inner Basin, thus giving us the many peaks we see today including the tallest point in Arizona, Humphrey’s Peak, which tops out at 12,633 feet high. The Inner Basin is filled with millions of aspen that turn gold when autumn rushes in, and a dense sea of pines covers the steeper slopes all the way up to treeline. During winter the Peaks are blanketed with hundreds of inches of snow which makes for great skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Two meadows, Lockett Meadow and the Inner Basin meadow, both offer 360 degree views of forested peaks and are a quiet sanctuary when life gets hectic. If you should ever visit the Peaks I know they will capture your heart the way they have captured mine.
A perfect day?
An early morning hike up the Inner Basin or Weatherford trail in the Peaks, and if I’m feeling ambitious a longer hike up to the higher elevations is sure to leave me breathless, both from the elevation and the view. After hiking I’d spend the afternoon at one of our many amazing local coffee shops in downtown (I recommend Higher Grounds, Firecreek, or Macy’s) editing photos I took from my hike earlier. Later I’d join some friends and enjoy pizza and homemade gelato at Pizzicletta followed by a drink at one of our local breweries (Mother Road is my personal favorite). Finally, I’d take a short drive out of town and into the forest, pull over and turn off all of the lights, and look up to the heavens to view the Milky Way and an ocean of billions of stars as they twinkle in the dark. Flagstaff was the first designated International Dark Sky City in the world so seeing the stars is a must!
What is the best thing about your spot?
The Peaks are right on the edge of town and are designated as a wilderness area. Enjoying that kind of seclusion with an incredible view so close to home is amazing.
What is the worst?
While the Inner Basin is usually pretty secluded, hiking the Humphrey’s Trail to the top of Humphrey’s Peak can become really crowded during the summer. I recommend the Inner Basin and Weatherford trails as more secluded alternatives, though it will take you a lot longer to get to the top.
What would be surprising about this place to an outsider?
You’re in Arizona but you’ll think you’re in Colorado.
Before I die I want to visit:
Hands down New Zealand. I want to explore every inch of that beautiful country.
Who are three of your favorite artists?
With my love for landscape photographAnsel Adams is my favorite photographer. I have many friends in Flagstaff, though, who are incredibly talented musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, and a variety of other types of artists. Flagstaff is such an artsy town that almost everybody who lives here does something artistic. The First Friday Artwalk on the first Friday of each month is a great way to get a taste for the creativity of this town.