We are approaching the last few weekends of summer, so it's time to check those weekenders and day trips off your to-do list! Below, find our top picks for getting our outdoor fix even during the brutal heat of Arizona summertime.
Arizona Summertime Escape Plan
Flagstaff Lava River Cave
The lava tube caves of northern AZ are just that- underground tube formations created by lava flow. Open to the public, you can check out these caverns by foot solely during the summer month's, because the tubes run at a constant 20-30 degrees cooler than above ground. Bring a jacket, headlamp, backup flashlight and water.
Forest Road 171, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
- Hike Mt. Humphrey's
Arizona's highest point, the steep Humphrey's Peak Trail #51 is a challenging climb that rewards you with views of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the mesas that are home to the Hopi Indians, as well as the Verde Valley and Oak Creek Canyon. You will meander through Hart Prairie on the way up and watch the treeline thin out to just the bristlecone pines brave enough to endure the winter months before it is just shrubs and wildflowers.
The hike is roughly 5 miles one way, so plan for a full day on the trail and get an early start. During the monsoon season (late summer) the area is prone to lightning strikes, so be prepared to turn back at any time if hiking this time of year.
Although the trail is open year-round, you will need a free permit if hiking during the winter months to access the hike from Snowbowl Rd.
Not into hiking? No worries, take a ride up the scenic chairlift at Snowbowl, then grab a beer on draft from the lodge! Our favorite mountain beverage? The house Bloody Mary with ghost chili infused vodka.
Sidenote: the backside of Mt. Humphrey's also offers great summer hiking, check out Lockett Meadow; a hike that spits you out in an enchanting golden meadow that offers camping, and is creatively secluded. The Lockett Meadow/ Inner Basin Trail offers a moderate hike (the incline in elevation is pretty intense) during the Spring-early Fall months. Go in early Fall to catch the leaves changing.
- Flagstaff checklist
2 hours north from Phoenix on the i-17 and you find yourself in the forest and 20 degrees cooler. Flagstaff is our idea of a summer oasis. We regularly make our love of this mountain town known during the snow season, where we team up with Sunset Terrain Parks at Arizona Snowbowl, but the town up north should be your summer destination, too.
Take a daytrip and check out the Lowell Observatory to get learned on science of the sky (they discovered Pluto from Lowell, FYI), grab coffee and a breakfast burrito from Kickstand Kafe on your way to the Grand Canyon or wildlife park Bearizona, stop into Flagstaff's premier ride shop, Oncore Skate & Snow and say what's up to Rich and the crew, and partake in the plentiful nightlife activities, here are our usual stops:
- Hops on Birch- Plenty of beers to choose from, and your drinking partner may very well be a dog. Open late, no food menu.
- Monti V Basement- 100% haunted and a must-go on your FLG night out. Make this your last stop of the night and sign up someone in your group for karaoke (Tuesday & Thursday night).
- The Mayor- off the beaten path of Downtown Flagstaff, the Mayor houses a plethora of arcade games and shotskis, if you're into that.
Primos- if you're not ending your night at Primos you're doing it wrong. Your drunk food destination and late night savior, Primo's slings classic Chicago style dogs well into the wee hours of the night and offers all the toppings you need to cure those 8 fireball shots from the bar (what is wrong with you?). Be polite and respect the dog and thank us later.
But What About Breakfast? Head to MartAnne's orThe Northern Pines. MartAnne's is a local favorite serving up traditional Mexican breakfast platters in their downtown café filled with quirky art, 60's diner seating, and endless cups of coffee. Arrive early and expect to wait for a table (112 Historic Rte 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001). Northern Pines is the kind of place that likely never closes and you may lose your sense of time and space over your hair of the dog and cinnamon bun French toast. Grab a seat at the bar and don't make any serious afternoon plans. You may not feel better than you did the night before, but you will sure as hell like it (2200 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004).
Camp on the Rim
From Phoenix, hop on the Beeline and within an hour you will be in "Rim Country." Hovering above is the Mogollon Rim, a geological escarpment that extends across the entire forest and forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. The rim offers camping, hikes, and lakes for fishing, and provides a somewhat cooler escape from the valley. Set up at a designated campground or search out dispersed camping. On our last visit we camped out near Chevelon Lake near Heber. There are also plenty of little towns to explore during the day like Christopher Creek, Heber, Pine and Strawberry.
Mogollon Rim Camping
Backpacking in West Clear Creek
Formed by the junction of Willow Creek and Clover Creek in the Mogollon Rim, the West Clear Creek wilderness spans over 15,000 acres, with the creek winding through a ravine, forming pools that occasionally span from wall to wall. West Clear offers solitude not often found at Arizona watering holes. That being said, we only recommend the trek to seasoned hikers. The steep descent can prove challenging, especially with 30-40lbs in your pack, but is well worth the reward of cool waters, shaded campsites and some good ol' seclusion.
On our 2 night stay, we continued driving past the Bullpen day use turnoff (east of Camp Verde) to a parking lot above the canyon surrounded by juniper trees. From there it was roughly a mile 1/2 hike down. Give yourself ample time to hike and find a camp site, also, be sure to check the weather forecast regularly leading up to a trip and do not enter the canyon during monsoons as the area is prone to flash flooding.
Find more from our 2016 trip including photos and gear list here!
North of Pine on Highway 87 lies Kinder Crossing, an outlet of East Clear Creek. Pack your day bags and hike down the roughly mile-long trail into the eastern side of the Clear Creek canyon. Littered with swimming pools and picturesque rock formations, Kinder Crossing isn't the worst way to spend a summer day. A relatively easy hike, this spot can be busy during weekends but clears out Sunday evenings and weekdays. Bring your hammock and picnic fare and chill out for an afternoon. The water is seriously cold but just remember, it's like 117 in Phoenix.
Kinder Crossing Trail #19
Contrary to what your heat exhausted head may think, sometimes heading south in the summer has its perks. And when we say south, we mean full-commitment-cowboy-strong Tombstone. Generally 10 degrees cooler than the Phoenix area (yes, 100 instead of 110 makes a difference), this classic shoot-em-up town has got enough to entertain for an afternoon. Once a place where a shooting took place every night for months on end, the notoriously lawless town is now a historian's paradise. The O.K. Corral, Bird Cage Theater, and preserved mines are all open to the public and reveal tales of a town revenged by lust, blood, prostitution, and just how many damn ice cream shops can operate on one street. Take your visiting relatives and nerd out.
Have a recommendation? Let us know in the comments!