Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.

(Photo courtesy of Lowell Observatory)

By Robert Gundran

July 12, 2023

Central and Southern Arizona have already had an exceptionally hot summer, making it more difficult and dangerous to enjoy the outdoors. Flagstaff lies a mere two-hour drive to the north from Phoenix and has much milder temperatures, making outdoor activities easier. 

Flagstaff is surrounded by lush forests and is only a stone’s throw from the Grand Canyon. Temperatures in Flagstaff topped out in the low 90s in mid-July, according to the National Weather Service. 

Even though the weather is more mild, don’t forget to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen while exploring what Flagstaff has to offer. Here are seven activities to check out in this northern city:

Lava River Cave

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
(Photo by Michael Landrum/Shutterstock)

171B Forest Road, Flagstaff

Hours: Open 24 hours

The mile-long Lava River Cave, which is about 14 miles north of Flagstaff, was created by a volcanic vent eruption.

The US Forest Service said the cave can get as cold as 42 degrees Fahrenheit, even during the summer. 

Though the cave is open year-round, roads that lead to it are closed during rain and snow. It’s a four-mile, one-way hike from Fort Valley Road. 

Once inside the cave, hikers can see the walls, ceilings, and floors entirely covered by molten rock that flowed through the cave. 

Bring multiple light sources when hiking so you don’t get lost in the dark. 

Lowell Observatory

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
(Photo by Stephen Tegler, courtesy of Lowell Observatory)

1400 W. Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff

Hours:
12 p.m.-10 p.m.  Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday
12 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday

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Did you know Pluto was discovered in Arizona? The former ninth planet was first discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in 1930.

Tickets to the observatory start at $17 for kids under 18, $19 for college students, and $29 for adults. A ticket gets you access to a tour of the facility, stargazing events, and science talks and demos. 

For under $30, you can learn what a space journey to Pluto might look like, and then head outside and look at the sun through six telescopes. 

Arizona Snowbowl

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
High angle view of the fall color around the famous Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff. (Photo by Kit Leong/Shutterstock)

9300 N. Snow Bowl Road, Flagstaff

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

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Flagstaff sits at an elevation of 6,909 feet above sea level. Arizona Snowbowl gives customers a way to take in the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon State, and possibly the Grand Canyon itself, at 11,500 feet.

Arizona Snowbowl is known best for its winter season, where skiers and snowboarders dominate the slopes in the state’s snowiest area. 

During the summer Arizona Snowbowl isn’t closed. Their gondola rides start as low as $18 per rider for a round-trip. From the peak you can see Sedona and the Grand Canyon on a clear day. 

Arizona Snowbowl also has smaller scale activities, like bungee trampolines, summer tubing, and rock walls. It costs $10 for one activity or $20 for three.

Lake Mary

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
(US Forest Service Photo)

15257 Lake Mary Road, Flagstaff

Hours: Open 24 hours

Upper Lake Mary is Flagstaff’s largest lake. There’s no motor size limit for the lake, so feel free to break out your power boats and water skis. 

The US Forest Service said the lake is a popular fishing spot, too. It’s populated with northern pike, channel catfish, black crappies, walleyes, yellow perches, and yellow bass. 

The lake has three boat launch decks and two campgrounds nearby.

Grand Canyon National Park

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
(Photo by Gabriel Tovar/Unsplash)

S. Entrance Road, Grand Canyon Village  

Hours: Open 24 hours. Visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

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People from all over the world come to Arizona with the sole intention of visiting one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park is $35 for private vehicles, $30 for motorcycles, and $20 for bicyclists, hikers, and pedestrians.

The Grand Canyon is about an hour north from Flagstaff, but doesn’t have the same mild temperatures. It can reach triple-digits at the South Rim, so remember to dress accordingly and bring plenty of water. 

The National Parks Service said over 250 people are rescued from the Grand Canyon every year. There are plenty of safe trails along the South Rim and North Rim, but there are no easy trails into or out of the canyon. 

There are hikes guided by rangers along the canyon and into the canyon as well as family-friendly programs and talks about the geology of the Grand Canyon.

Coconino National Forest

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
Red Rock Mountains in Coconino National Forest. (Photo by Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock)

Lake Mary Road, Flagstaff 

Hours: Open 24 hours

Coconino National Forest is one of the most diverse national forests in the US, according to the National Parks Service.

There are trails for scenic driving, bicycling, hiking, climbing, and nature viewing. 

If hiking, you can try Devil’s Bridge Trail, Cathedral Rock Trail, or Soldier Pass Trail, the top three trails in the forest, according to the website AllTrails.com.

Coconino National Forest also offers areas for fishing and hunting. 

Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

Feeling the Summer Heat? Head to Northern Arizona to Cool Off With These 7 Activities.
Aerial view of the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. (Photo by Dominic Jeanmaire/Shutterstock)

Meteor Crater Road, Winslow

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Hours: Open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A meteor over 100 feet wide crashed outside of Flagstaff tens of thousands of years ago, leaving a crater about one kilometer across and 550 feet deep.

The Meteor Crater Natural Landmark and Barringer Space Museum sit about 45 minutes east of Flagstaff. 

Tickets to the landmark and museum are $18 for kids 6-13 and veterans, $25 for people 60 or older, and $27 for people 14-59.

Attractions include a lookout point to look into the crater, a guided tour of the rim of the crater, a discovery center and space museum, and an exhibit about the Apollo 11 space capsule.

Author

  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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