Daytrip to Flagstaff, Arizona

Snowbowl Wildflowers Flafstaff ArizonaFlagstaff Arizona is about ninety minutes (ninety miles) northeast of our home in Prescott Valley. It’s an easy drive, abet uphill going and of course, mostly downhill coming back. We had driven through Flagstaff on a number of occasions since moving to Arizona, but had never taken a day trip solely to visit there.

When we first thought about moving to Arizona, our parameters were quite clear. We wanted a location that was cooler than Phoenix in the summer, but much warmer than Flagstaff in the winter. I remember listening to a radio call-in show shortly after our move. A gentleman complained about retiring to Flagstaff and discovering it was every bit as cold as the Chicago he left behind. In case you don’t know this, let me clearly articulate that Flagstaff is cold in the winter. It can easily snow many feet which is why they have a ski resort.

Summer is beautiful in the Flagstaff area. On the recommendation of friends, we decided to start early, drive another 30 minutes beyond the town to ride the chairlift at Snowbowl to the summit of Agassiz, one of the San Francisco Mountains that Flagstaff nestles into

Prescott Valley is approximately 1 mile high and Flagstaff is at 6900 feet, with the base of the ski area at 9500 feet. As long as we’re doing elevations, the top of the chairlift is at 11,500 feet with the summit of the mountain is 12,356 feet. As I said, there was a fair amount of climbing from our location in Prescott. This is a great travel idea for retirees, but breathing was definitely labored at the ski resort.Snowbowl-chairlift-Flagstaff-Arizona

We headed east on Highway 69, then took 169 to Interstate 17. We quickly descended to 3000 feet into the Verde Valley, home to a number of small communities, including Sedona. Leaving the Verde Valley is a constant climb to Flagstaff, but the highway makes it an easy climb.

I’m always intrigued with the change in plant life as one drives through Arizona. Most people think there is only desert. While desert is certainly the dominating ecosystem, there are many other forms of vegetation. On this drive, the scenery changes from low chaparral to the ponderosa pine and aspen outside of Flagstaff. The drive to the ski resort was beautiful as wildflowers of a multitude of colors dotted the forest floor.

Snowbowl summit Flagstaff, ArizonaWhen were arrived at Snowbowl, it was 70 degrees at the base and 50 degrees at the summit. We arrived at 10:30 on a Monsoonal August morning. There was one dot of cloud in the sky. (Tickets are $30 per person, but groupon and online sales provide discounts.) The ride to the summit took about 30 minutes.

We thought there was a restaurant at the top, discovered there wasn’t, walked around for about 30 minutes, took pictures, then headed back down the mountain. By the time we got to the base, the sky was dark with clouds, and we started to feel raindrops. We’re so glad we went down when we did. If you try this, make sure you carry waterproof ponchos.

By the time we got back to Flagstaff, it was pouring rain. It continued throughout our lunch at Colliers Irish Restaurant. Of course, this is still Arizona and we never, ever complain about rain.


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