Best Flagstaff Activities
Credit: Whitney James

8 Endurance-Building Activities in Flagstaff, Arizona for Amateur to Olympic Athletes

Test Your Stamina and See Some of Flagstaff’s Biggest Attractions With This Guide

Set amidst the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest at an altitude of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff, Arizona, is more than just a charming mountain town—it’s a haven for athletes seeking an edge. Thin mountain air, a magical ingredient for endurance enthusiasts and Olympic athletes preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics, transforms Flagstaff into a high-altitude training destination. Here, runners, cyclists and even Olympians push their limits—their lungs burning a little more and their bodies adapting to become stronger, faster and ready to conquer any competition.

 

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There’s a reason Flagstaff has been a training ground for Olympic athletes for decades. World-class training facilities, from an aquatic center to tartan tracks, dot the landscape. Expert coaches offer guidance, while a supportive community of fellow altitude junkies fuels the competitive spirit. Notable athletes such as US Olympic marathoners Aliphine Tuliamukm and Stephanie Bruce and Japanese swimmer Kosuke Hagino continue to prepare in Flagstaff for upcoming competitions, along with mountain bikers Christopher Blevins and Haley Batten.

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, an Olympian or simply someone seeking a performance boost, Flagstaff’s high-altitude facilities, coupled with the natural outdoor amenities offers the perfect training ground to reach new heights, with a few leisurely stops along the way. Here are eight activities and experiences in Flagstaff for everyone from amateur to Olympic athletes.

 

Grand Canyon National Park

Our high-altitude Flagstaff adventure starts at none other than the renowned Grand Canyon National Park. Among the greatest geological showcases on Earth, this epic canyon is a pure expression of nature’s enduring beauty—almost 200 billion years of geology, in fact. The South Rim is open year-round for visiting historic buildings, hiking the Canyon Rim Trail, cycling its Greenway Trails—even taking a mule trip along the rim. For those wanting more adventure, the seasonally available North Rim offers hiking and camping in more remote areas of the park. Note that a Backcountry Permit is required for overnight camping. Whether you visit for a day or a weekend, be sure to catch a sunrise or sunset in this legendary destination.

 

Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course & Zipline

Credit: Sadie Thorell

If spending a day navigating obstacles is your kind of adventure, then the courses and ziplines at this Flagstaff mainstay were made for you. The circuits at Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course & Zipline include daring feats involving rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges and even some surprises in suspension form. Zip lines are secured 15-80 feet high in the Ponderosa Pines. There’s even a course for children ages 7 to 11 years old. All courses are self-guided, and training is provided before the adventure begins. Hours vary—check their website for booking options.

 

HYPO2 at The Center for High Altitude Training at NAU

HYPO2, a high-performance sports center, collaborates with Northern Arizona University (NAU) to offer comprehensive training support, including physiotherapy, blood testing, coaching, and access to world-class facilities like an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 400-meter outdoor track. The Center for High Altitude Training at NAU, a 77,000 square-foot facility, boasts a long history of hosting athletes from around the world. In preparation for the 2024 Olympics, athletes from nearly 30 different countries have trained in Flagstaff, taking advantage of its high-altitude environment to enhance their performance.

 

Lowell Observatory 

Credit: Whitney James

Take a break from training and still make use of Flagstaff’s elevation when you visit the historic Lowell Observatory. Designated the world’s first Dark Sky City in 2001, Flagstaff is now a cornerstone for astrotourism. At the observatory, where the echoes of pioneering lunar research and Pluto’s discovery still resonate, stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts can peer through impressive telescopes in pursuit of a celestial adventure. Set to open in November 2024, the Astronomy Discovery Center promises an even deeper dive into the cosmos with a universe theater, dark sky planetarium, orbits curiosity zone and an astronomy gallery. This addition will no doubt solidify Flagstaff’s reign as the world’s best destination to explore the universe.

 

Sunset Crater National Monument + Meteor Crater

Best Flagstaff Activities
Credit: Izabel Madaleno

Adventure-seekers in Flagstaff can find a thrilling double dose of geology at Sunset Crater National Monument and Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. Sunset Crater, a cinder cone volcano frozen in time, offers a challenging hike to the rim but rewards with panoramic vistas of the San Francisco Peaks. For the truly adventurous, exploring the cinder cone’s blast zone feels like stepping onto another planet with its reddish-black cinders and twisted juniper trees. Meanwhile, Meteor Crater, the world’s best-preserved impact crater, is best experienced by a guided tour along the rim (a great way for athletes looking to increase their red blood cell count!). These tours not only are great for altitude training but also offer a chance to truly feel the immensity of the crater. Both locations provide a chance to push your imagination or limits amidst awe-inspiring landscapes.

 

Lava River Caves

Credit: Coconino National Forest, Arizona

Conquered Flagstaff’s peaks? Now, descend into a different adventure! The Lava River Caves offer spelunking thrills beneath the surface. Hike through ancient lava tubes—some three-quarters of a mile long—formed centuries ago by fiery rivers. Ranger tours delve deeper for hidden chambers, while self-guided adventures let you explore at your own pace. Headlamps illuminate natural rock formations and volcanic wonders. Cool year-round, these 700,000-year-old formations offer a thrilling escape from the sun and a unique adventure for any endurance athlete or explorer. In the wintertime, be prepared to take Olympian measures to visit the caves. Weather conditions might demand that you ski, snowshoe or snow bike to the entrance.

 

Watersport Training at Lake Mary

Flagstaff’s facilities and natural environments, like Lake Mary and its surrounding creeks, serve as prime training grounds for water sports enthusiasts. Whether you’re into recreational or competitive kayaking, these spots are perfect for honing your skills and developing as an athlete in various water sports disciplines. For those looking to gain an edge, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards from the Lake Mary Country Store and put your endurance to the test.

 

Hiking and Scenic Gondola Rides

Arizona Snowbowl’s scenic gondola isn’t just transport—it’s a 25-minute journey with breathtaking views. Settled in your chair, cool air tingles as you ascend up to 11,500 feet toward the San Francisco Peaks. Forests unfurl below—vibrant in summer and snow-dusted in winter. The panorama expands, revealing volcanic peaks and, on clear days, the red rocks of Sedona and the distant shimmer of the Grand Canyon. At the top, endurance athletes can take advantage of several intense hiking trails, such as the Kachina Trail—a five-mile trek that gives way to views of rocky slopes, forests and meadows. Take a break from training to snap photos, watch for elk or marmots, and soak in the scenery of the Arizona mountains.

 

Walnut Canyon National Monument + Wupatki National Monument

History buffs and adventure-seekers alike won’t want to miss Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments. Walnut Canyon National Monument offers a glimpse into the lives of the Sinagua people, with cliff dwellings tucked into the canyon walls accessible by a scenic, one-mile round-trip trail. For the more daring, ranger-led spelunking adventures delve deeper into the secrets hidden within the canyon. Meanwhile, Wupatki National Monument unveils ancient Puebloan villages with a network of trails leading past towering stone structures and offering stunning desert vistas. Both locations provide opportunities for exploration and discovery, making them perfect for an adventurous day trip from Flagstaff.

 

Explore Historic Route 66

Best Flagstaff Activities
Credit: Discover Flagstaff

Celebrating its centennial in fewer than two years, Route 66 is one of the most iconic drives in Arizona, but is also a great training ground for bikers. The Route 66 Trail runs along the southern side of historic Route 66, stretching from downtown Flagstaff to the eastern outskirts of town. In the mid-1990s, the city cleared a series of billboards from the strip of land between Route 66 and the BNSF railroad tracks, transforming it into a landscaped urban trail. This trail, one of Flagstaff’s first, has since become a popular route for both commuting and recreation.

Bike the highway for an epic day of training, and be sure to stop and visit quirky roadside attractions like Jack Rabbit Trading Post. For your recovery, pack a picnic lunch and find a shady spot to relax, or take a detour to Petrified Forest National Park and hike among ancient petrified trees—an otherworldly experience to cap off your adventure ride. For that perfect nightcap, pack your dancin’ boots because this nostalgic roadhouse—the Museum Club—is a lively dance club just waiting for your two-step.

 

Hotel Options

In Flagstaff, a good night’s rest is easy with the city’s various accommodations—from economy inns and historic hotels to charming B&Bs and mountain retreats. Here are four of our favorite accommodations, and a robust list of even more can be found here.

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Bespoke Inn

This intimate Flagstaff hotel features handcrafted charm in each of its boutique rooms. Think plush bedding, cozy fireplaces and mountain views that will steal your breath away. Unwind in the tranquility of a private balcony or socialize by the crackling fire in the grand hall. The Bespoke Inn is the ideal location to relax and recharge after a day of adventure in Flagstaff.

 

High Country Motor Lodge

Credit: High Country Motor Lodge

More of a contemplative retreat than a mere roadside hotel, this Flagstaff gem blends midcentury modern style with contemporary comfort. Picture spacious rooms rocking classic details like a retro tape deck and mini fridges. Relax by the sparkling outdoor pool or grab a drink at the on-site bar. History buffs will love the nods to Route 66 heritage, while adventurers can appreciate the proximity to Flagstaff’s outdoor playground. Whether you’re a solo traveler or a family on a budget, High Country Motor Lodge offers a hip stay with a healthy dose of nostalgic charm.

 

Weatherford Hotel

Credit: Upstateherd

More than a historic hotel, the Weatherford Hotel is a Flagstaff landmark. With a history that dates back to the late 1800s, this local gem features classic architecture and a meticulously restored lobby. Indulge in regional specialties at any of the three on-site restaurants. And, don’t miss the chance to sip cocktails on the rooftop terrace, offering breathtaking vistas of the San Francisco Peaks. The Weatherford Hotel blends historic elegance with modern comfort, making it a perfect Flagstaff retreat for adventure travelers seeking a touch of timeless sophistication.

 

303 BnB Inn

303 BnB Inn offers an enchanting blend of rustic elegance and modern comfort. This hideaway boasts cozy rooms that capture the spirit of the Southwest, while offering all the contemporary amenities today’s travelers crave. Guests can savor gourmet breakfasts featuring locally sourced ingredients, explore the vibrant downtown area just steps away, or simply unwind in the serene garden courtyard. At 303 BnB Inn, every detail is thoughtfully curated to provide a homey and charming escape.

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