After spending two nights in Las Vegas, and then a brief tour of Hoover Dam we continued on to beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona. This was our base for 5 days/4 nights while we explored the town and the surrounding area. Home to Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff is a moderate sized college town ( approx 66,000 residents) in northern Arizona and is less than 1.5 hours from the Grand Canyon. Exploring Flagstaff, Arizona was easily one of the best parts of our trip! Read on to see why!
Neither of us had visited Arizona, but we had the idea in our head that Arizona was all desert. It is not. Flagstaff is in the Coconino National Forest so the temperature is more mild and the trees and vegetation are lush and green. There have only been a few places that we have visited where we could see ourselves living. We ended up checking out the college and local hospital here (I’m a nurse) because we honestly thought about moving here, we loved it so much!
Flagstaff is close to nature (including the Grand Canyon!), it has a laid back, college town vibe to it and has local breweries and shops that make it feel like a place you wouldn’t get bored in. Also, it’s location on Route 66 makes for some great road trips! Flagstaff is a great base to go explore some places south, such as native ruins at Tuzigoot or the red rocks in Sedona!
To keep costs down we spent the first 3 nights at the Williams/Circle Pines Kampground of America (KOA) in Williams, AZ. This Kampground of America location was about 20 minutes west of Flagstaff in the smaller town of Williams. I can’t say that we spent much time in Williams, except to eat at a diner and take some awesome pics by their Route 66 sign! My only regret here was not visiting Bearizona, a self-drive through wildlife park. I visited something similar in Winston, Oregon and I know both Jake and I would have enjoyed it.
Getting Altitude Sickness in Flagstaff
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the mild form of altitude sickness that can occur when you travel to over 8,000 feet (although some can have symptoms of hypoxia [low oxygen levels] as low as 5,000 feet). The elevation in Flagstaff is 7,300 feet.
Symptoms of acute mountain sickness often are vague and can include nausea, fatigue, constant headache, dizziness, difficulty sleeping and shortness of breath with exertion. Symptoms can be very minor or they can feel like a miserable never-ending hangover. This mild version of altitude sickness sucks but it can be a precursor for something deadly (increased fluid in the lungs or brain) so it is important to know your body. My symptoms were obnoxious but certainly not debilitating. I had a headache most of the time we were in Flagstaff, I felt nauseous and had no appetite and I felt like I was on the verge of passing out at times.
Tips If You Get AMS:
- Drink plenty of water (many of the symptoms are due to dehydration as well, and with the nausea you may be taking less fluids already, so make a conscious effort to drink 2 liters of fluid/day)
- Avoid alcohol (it will only make you feel worse)
- Take naps and limit activities so you don’t get too fatigued
- Let someone know you haven’t been feeling well (In case something worse happens and you can’t speak for yourself)
- Practice some deep breathing, it actually helped me a lot
Note: I am not able to give out professional advise, this is just my experience. Talk to your primary care provider if you have any questions about altitude sickness, and you can check out this site for more information.
Exploring/Staying in Downtown Flagstaff
This was the best thing we did in Flagstaff! We explored for a few hours and barely saw the plethora of adorable coffee shops, organic food stores, candle shops, etc. While waiting out the summer monsoon rainfall one day, we spent a couple hours re-charging at Rendezvous Coffeeshop/Martini Bar.
We loved the feel of the coffee shop so much we actually ended up staying there a night in the adjacent hotel, the historic Hotel Monte Vista. The bar there was actually the first speakeasy in Flagstaff!
The Hotel Monte Vista has regular rooms, as well as ‘hostel-style’ rooms with a shared bathroom. We opted for the hostel style room and only paid $70/night! The room was affordable and comfortable and in a good downtown location, allowing us to walk everywhere. We would recommend staying here if you are traveling on a budget.
The Lumbaryard Brewing Company was our go-to place to eat in Flagstaff! We ended up going back a couple times because Jake loved their mac n’ cheese and the price was right! The building use to be a lumbar yard but was converted into a micro-brewery/ brew pub. The drinks and late night appetizers were well priced and everything we tried on the menu was delicious.
The last night we were there, on our walk back to Hotel Monte Vista we were caught in a monsoon level downpour! The streets filled with water so quickly it was like wading through a big puddle. We were drenched by the time we made it to our hotel. Cold, but oh so happy!
If you haven’t been to Flagstaff we would recommend adding a few days on your way to the Grand Canyon or Sedona. The town has a great food scene, is well priced and is close to many natural and historical attractions!
*note: there are affiliative links in this post, which means we will make a small commission if you book something but you will still pay the same great price! We only recommend things we have tried ourselves***