One Weekend in Flagstaff, AZ

Anita Ritenour, via RootsRated.com
Anita Ritenour, via RootsRated.com

We’re headed to Flagstaff, AZ this weekend for the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, the annual festival that highlights socially and environmentally conscious outdoor adventure films. And what a great place for it – get inspired by gorgeous adventure films, then light out into Arizona’s high dessert. With no shortage of incredible trails and a quick one-hour drive to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, Flagstaff is one of those perfect weekend destinations. Couple that with a renowned film fest and you’ve got yourself a perfect 3 day getaway.

The key to enjoying any great destination film festival is maximizing on those daylight hours. On the night you arrive in Flagstaff, grab dinner at Tinderbox Kitchen – Flagstaff’s “it” restaurant that serves up seasonal, handmade everything (even their mustard is made in-house). Get a good night’s sleep and set your alarm for an early wakeup – 4am at the latest. Throw on your warmest clothes and drive 1 hour north on Historic Route 66 to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The gate to the park is open 24 hours and it’s 20$ per carload.

Even if you’ve been to the Grand Canyon a hundred times, no two sunrises are the same. Since you’re coming from the south, we suggest catching the sunrise from Yavapati Point or Yaki Point on the south rim. To access Yavapati, park at the Visitor’s Center and walk past Mather Point to Yavapai Point. For Yaki, turn right on Rim Road before you get to the Visitor’s Center, park along the road, and walk the half mile to Yaki Point. Yaki Point is usually the least crowded on any given day, while Mather Point is crowded with early-bird campers. Alternately, walk along the Rim Trail and find a nice spot to perch; there’s no shortage of gorgeous views.

Soak up the views for a few hours then head back to Flagstaff for a midmorning Film Fest session. You’ll need a little pick-me-up so head to Macy’s Coffee House for a cup of not-so-average joe and a quick bite to go. After a few hours relaxing in Flagstaff’s historic Orpheum Theater, lace up your boots and hit the local trails. We like Sandys Canyon for its’ relative ease and immediate views of the distant San Francisco Peaks and sandstone cliffs of Walnut Canyon. The Kachina Trail is also a local beauty; do the full 10 mile hike or just a portion, all the while meandering through Flagstaff’s high-altitude aspen forest and alpine meadows. Watch the sun go down on the trail and get pumped for the next film.

Sandy's Canyon view, Brady Smith via RootsRated.com
Sandy’s Canyon view, Brady Smith via RootsRated.com

After an evening film session and a whole bucket of popcorn, you’re famished and ready for late night pizza. Head to Pizzicletta, a tiny 20-person max gourmet pizza joint that will have you reconsidering every other pizza you’ve ever had. We’d tell you which pizza is our favorite, but that would mean we have to pick one… which is impossible.

It’s another early morning on your last day in Flagstaff, so bound out of bed and high-tail it to Humphrey’s Peak Trail. At 12,633 feet above sea level, Humphreys Peak is the highest point in the state of Arizona. From high atop the barren alpine tundra, you can see the lush Inner Basin, Hart Prairie,  several volcanic relics dotting the landscape, the uplifted rim of Oak Creek Canyon, and even the Grand Canyon on a clear day. The trail is a tour of the rugged mountainside, and everything about it seems out of place for Arizona–not at all what you would expect from a state known for desert and cactus. You can hike the whole 10 miles, or just a portion in case you have other plans – like brunch plans.

And you’ll definitely want brunch plans at MartAnne’s Breakfast Palace. Authentic Mexican breakfast dishes get super sized, but you’ve earned it. Get the house favorite, chilaquiles (think breakfast nachos smothered in egg and enchilada sauce. YUM.) or a breakfast burrito the size of your arm. It’s cash only, so come prepared. After breakfast, roll yourself over to the Orpheum for the last afternoon session of inspiring outdoor films. Meander downtown or walk off breakfast at the Lava Tubes in Coconino National Forest – did we mention that northern Arizona was once an ancient volcanic hotbed? Be prepared to be amazed. On your way out of town, stop by Mother Road Brewing Co to pick up a few growlers of the local brew – aside from the memories and film fest passes, you’ll want something to remember that one awesome weekend in Flagstaff.

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