5 Best Photo Opportunities in Flagstaff

by Susan Lanier-Graham, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 19th 2010 04:22 PM

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Photo Opportunities Flagstaff

Lee Van Grack

Flagstaff, Ariz.., is situated at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, which rise to heights of more than 12,000 feet. With its natural beauty and rich cultural history, the photo opportunities Flagstaff has to offer are limitless. Flagstaff is a year-round destination, and its scenic backdrop is ideal for some of the best photo opportunities in the Southwest.


1. Romantic Photo: Riordan Mansion State Historic Park


In the early 1900s, two wealthy brothers built magnificent mansions on Kinlichi Knoll in Flagstaff, now located at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. The same architect who created El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon, Charles Whittlesey, designed these unique, rustic homes. The stone archway leading to the veranda in the front courtyard is a great spot for weddings and provides one of the most romantic photo opportunities Flagstaff locals recommend.

Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
409 W. Riordan Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928-779-4395
Thu-Mon 9:30AM-5PM; tours every hour starting at 10AM. Reservations recommended
Adults $7, children 7-13 $3, children 6 & under free

2. Quirky Photo: Lava flows at Sunset Crater Volcano


Inactive volcanoes surround Flagstaff. The lava flows at Sunset Crater provide great opportunities for unusual travel photography. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is located about 12 miles north of Flagstaff off of U.S. Highway 89 on the Sunset Crater-Wupatki National Monument Loop Road.

You can get the best photo from the one-mile Lava Flow Trail loop. While the lava flow looks fresh, creating a moonscape, wildflowers creep up through the rocks, offering some of the best photo ops at Sunset Crater.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Sunset Crater-Wupatki National Monument Loop Road
12 miles north of Flagstaff
928-526-0502
Scenic drive and trails open all year, sunrise-sunset
Adults $5 for 7 days; Children under 16 free

3. Fun Family Photo: Snowbowl Ski Summit


Year-round, the summit of Arizona Snowbowl provides some of the most scenic photo opportunities Flagstaff has to offer. In winter, the mountain is a snowy wonderland for skiers. In summer, the Skyride whisks families on a ride up to the 11,500-foot summit. Distant views of the Grand Canyon are the perfect setting for travel photography unique to Flagstaff. It's a great backdrop for that family photo.

Arizona Snowbowl
Snowbowl Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928-779-1951
Seasonal hours
Skyride admission: Adults $12; children 8-12 $8; children 7 & under free; Admission prices for skiing vary seasonally

4. Scenic Photo: Humphrey's Peak


The 4.5-mile scenic hike (one way) to the summit of Humphrey's Peak is often called the best hike in Arizona. The strenuous trail to the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet is ideal for the best scenic photo in Flagstaff. From the summit, you can see the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon heading toward Sedona and a 360-degree view of the valley below.

The trailhead for Humphrey's Trail begins at the north end of Snowbowl's lower parking lot, about 14 miles from Flagstaff. The trail is accessible late spring through fall. The terrain is rugged, so be prepared for a workout. However, the most scenic photo opportunities Flagstaff has to offer awaits you at the summit.

Humphrey's Trail to Humphrey's Peak
North of Flagstaff
Drive 7 miles north of Flagstaff on U.S. Highway 180. Turn right on Forest Road 516 and drive 7.4 miles to the Snowbowl ski area. Park in the lower parking lot. The trailhead is at the north end of the lot.
928-526-0866

5. Classic Photo: Walnut Canyon


Flagstaff travel photography is unique because of the area's rich cultural heritage. A great example is Walnut Canyon National Monument.

These cliff dwellings were once home to the early settlers of the area – the Sinagua. Trails along the rim offer nice scenic photo ops, but for a true classic photo, take the Island Trail down into the canyon to visit the 25 rooms of the cliff dwellings. While this trail is only a mile round trip, it is quite strenuous, with 240 steps to climb back out of the canyon. But the trip back in time is worth the climb. Of all the photo opportunities Flagstaff provides travelers, Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of the most classic.

Walnut Canyon National Monument
7.5 miles east of Flagstaff
Go east on Interstate 40 to Exit 204. Go south 3 miles.
Seasonal hours
Adults $5 for 7 days, children under 16 free
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