Flagstaff is northern Arizona's center for outdoor activities. Chief among them is skiing at Arizona Snowbowl (tel. 928/779-1951; www.arizonasnowbowl.com), on the slopes of Mount Agassiz, from which you can see all the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. There are four chairlifts, 32 runs, 2,300 vertical feet of slopes, ski rentals, and a children's ski program. With an excellent mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes, and as the ski area that's most easily accessed from Phoenix, Snowbowl sees a lot of weekend traffic from the snow-starved denizens of the desert. Conditions are, however, very unreliable, and the ski area can be shut down for weeks on end due to lack of snow. All-day lift tickets are $49 to $57 for adults, $26 for seniors and children 8 to 12, and free for children 7 and under and seniors 70 and over. In summer, you can ride a chairlift almost to the summit of Mount Agassiz and enjoy the expansive views across seemingly all of northern Arizona. The round-trip lift-ticket price is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and children 8 to 12. To get here, take U.S. 180 N. from Flagstaff for 7 miles and turn right onto Snow Bowl Road.
When no snow is on the ground, there are plenty of trails for hiking amid the San Francisco Peaks, and many national forest trails are open to mountain bikes. Late September, when the aspens have turned a brilliant golden yellow, is one of the best times of year for a hike in Flagstaff's mountains. If you've got the stamina, do the Humphreys Trail, which climbs more than 3,300 feet in 4.5 miles. Needless to say, the views from the 12,633-foot summit are stupendous. After all, this is the highest point in Arizona. To reach the trail head, take U.S. 180 N. out of Flagstaff for 7 miles, turn right on Snow Bowl Road, and continue to the parking area by the ski lodge. This is my favorite Flagstaff area hike and is nearly as awe-inspiring in its own way as hiking down into the Grand Canyon.
If you'd like a short hike with a big payoff, hike to Red Mountain. This hike is only about 2.5 miles round-trip, but leads to a fascinating red-walled cinder cone that long ago collapsed to reveal its strange interior walls. To find the trail head, drive north from Flagstaff toward the Grand Canyon on U.S. 180. At milepost 247, watch for a forest road leading west for about a quarter-mile to the trail head parking area.
For information on other hikes in the Coconino National Forest, contact the Flagstaff Ranger Districts, 5075 N. U.S. 89, Flagstaff 86004 (tel. 928/526-0866; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.