Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

Living in Flagstaff

Iyna Bort Caruso

Flagstaff, Arizona, is located high in the treetops among the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest. At an elevation of 7,000 feet and surrounded by national forest lands, wilderness areas and the mountains of the San Francisco Peaks, the city enjoys a green buffer from adjacent towns.

Some say it has five seasons if you count an early dry summer followed by a late wet one. 

The city is a Northern Arizona hub within easy distance of the so-called Grand Circle, a region that encompasses the country’s largest concentration of national parks and monuments. This bucket list-caliber of sites includes Grand Canyon National Park – just 75 miles away – Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Lake Powell and Glen Canyon.

It’s no surprise that camping, backcountry hiking, cave exploring and mountain biking are go-to activities. The Flagstaff Urban Trails System extends more than 50 miles city-wide. The most famous thoroughfare, however, is a 14.2-mile expanse of Route 66 which once ran 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. The fabled highway borders the downtown historic district.

Flagstaff was named for a flag-raising ceremony that took place on July 4, 1876 to commemorate the nation’s centennial. Growth came by way of the railroad as well as the livestock and timber industries. The latter attracted skilled craftsman and builders to the area.

Today Flagstaff has a small-town university vibe. Northern Arizona University has a student enrollment of 29,000 in this city of 66,000. Festivals, live theater and an increasingly sophisticated dining scene contribute to a vibrant social life. You won’t, however, find a destination of bright lights and flashy neon. Flagstaff was named the world’s first International Dark Sky community, a designation that recognized the city’s efforts to minimize light pollution and preserve the night skies. It’s serious business here. Flagstaff is home to the Lowell Observatory, which is credited with discovering Pluto and the rings of Uranus.

Flagstaff is a desirable second-home destination, particularly for Southwesterners eager to access winter sports or escape summer heat. Properties include magnificent Rocky Mountain log residences, lakeside retreats and golf community estates.