Guide to Flagstaff, Arizona
For Overland Routes and Caravans check out our OVERLAND TO THE EXPO – WEST page
Flagstaff sits just north of the intersection of Interstates 40 and 17 in northern Arizona, the gateway to the Grand Canyon and Four Corners region, the Navajo and Hopi Nations, and some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.
DRIVING TIMES TO FLAGSTAFF:
LOS ANGELES VIA I-15 TO I-40: 7 HOURS
DENVER VIA I-25 TO I-40: 11 HOURS
SALT LAKE CITY VIA I-15 TO PAGE: 8 HOURS
ALBUQUERQUE VIA I-40: 4.5 HOURS
PHOENIX VIA I-17: 2 HOURS
Access to Mormon Lake from downtown Flagstaff is not obvious. Heading south on Milton Road (the main north/south road through town), you need to turn right on Forest Meadows road just before the I-40 intersection, then left on Beulah, to access Lake Mary Road. Lake Mary Road has an absurdly low 50 mph speed limit, and as a result a lot of law enforcement looking for easy marks. Use caution. You’ll reach Mormon Lake Lodge a little faster if you go past the first turnoff to Mormon Lake, on the north side of the lake, and instead take the second road on the south side. Either will get you there, however.
If your route takes you north from Phoenix on I-17, you can take a scenic dirt road shortcut to Mormon Lake by turning at Munds Park and taking the main road east through the little hamlet. It joins Forest Service Road 700 and then FSR 240. When you reach the paved Mormon Lake Road, turn south. Along the Forest Service roads are numerous spots to dry camp for free. If you like a little privacy and quiet these would be a good alternative to the camping provided at the Expo, or the official FS campgrounds. You’ll still be just minutes from the event.
hotels in and around flagstaff
Please note: the Mormon Lake Lodge is fully booked by OX for staff, presenters, media, and exhibitors. (If you are among this group and would like to book a room, please contact OX. DO NOT call the lodge. Please don't inquire about rooms if you are NOT media or an exhibitor). Update as of April 15: All rooms are booked and there is a waiting list. Please find alternative lodging.
Flagstaff has thousands of hotel rooms, from budget to full spa luxury; we suggest Trip Advisor for accurate reviews and pricing information. Here are some favorites:
DISCOUNTED ROOM BLOCKS AT COURTYARD MARRIOTT
We will be securing a block of rooms in southern Flagstaff (near the Lake Mary Road) at the Courtyard Marriott (928) 774-5800. Please check back —we will post details when available.
- Last day to book by: 4/19/16
- Courtyard Flagstaff for from 129.00 USD - 139.00 USD per night, estimated.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
in Flagstaff (928-773-8888)
THE MONTE VISTA
Funky would be the single adjective to label this 86-year-old, 50-room downtown hotel, although down-at-the-heel might do as well—some complacency shows in worn plumbing fixtures and old paint here and there. Still, there’s off-the-street parking, a short walk to everything of interest in downtown, and a fine downstairs bar. Monte Vista, 100 N. San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Teddy Roosevelt stayed here. Zane Grey wrote a book here and included it in the plot; his description enabled the new owners to find a fireplace that had been walled over, 80 years afterwards. The Weatherford, built in 1897, still has a few rooms with shared baths if you’d like the full Old West experience, but others with ensuite bathrooms (some boasting clawfoot tubs) are also available. The entire place comprises just 11 rooms, so book early. Downstairs is a good restaurant and a bar; on the third floor is the huge Zane Gray ballroom with a balcony overlooking downtown Flagstaff. Weatherford, 23 N. Leroux Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
During our last stay at this sprawling, 240-room hotel on the east end of Flagstaff, we heard at least a half-dozen foreign languages—the place seems to be a magnet for European travelers. It’s also a comfortable place to stay, with enormous rooms that appear to have been furnished from the leavings of some Middle-Eastern oil potentate’s estate—lots of antique-white furniture, gold-framed mirrors, and heavy drapes. Little America, 2515 East Butler Avenue Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
ARIZONA MOUNTAIN INN & CABINS
Boasts “Tudor style” cabins - and a huge hogan that accommodates 16 people. It's the place to go to enjoy nature and the beauty of the great outdoors. It is located on 13-acres of beautiful Ponderosa pines, and just a straight shot down Lake Mary Road from Mormon Lake. Arizona Mountain Inn & Cabins offers a wide variety of fully-furnished cabins accommodating anywhere from 1 to 16 people. All cabins have wood-burning stoves, porches/decks, BBQ’s and free WiFi. Call early as cabins book up quickly (800) 239-5236. Mention the Overland Expo and get 10% off your cabin rate. Arizona Mountain Inn & Cabins
Mormon lake and nearby rv parks
Mormon Lake Lodge operates an adjacent developed campsite with pull-through RV sites with full hookups and electricity; these are available on a reserved basis. Tents and no-hookup truck and motorcycle campers are welcome in this area as well. Fill out our online RV PARK RESERVATION REQUEST FORM. Please don't contact the Lodge, we are organizing RV reservations.
camping on-site at mormon lake lodge
BASIC dry CAMPING
On-site camping is included free with an Overland Experience package.
Weekend Pass attendees are welcome to camp in the basic camping area for for an additional fee on an as-available basis (it’s a really large area, and we don’t expect to fill up).
New in 2015: one-day pass visitors (those buying only a one-day pass) are not eligible for camping.
- The site is a wide, level grass field just north of and adjacent to the main exhibitor and training areas (map link).
- There will be porta-johns around the site, and flush toilets and limited shower facilities are available in the adjacent RV park, along with water for filling up.
- No electricity. (Please, no generators after sunset.) There will be 24-hour security.
- Venue layout. Click on map to view large size. Overview of region with dispersed camping. Click on map to view large size.Pets are welcome, but please clean up after them; make sure you read the Pet Rules.
- Rules for onsite camping:
- Please, no open fires. Stoves and barbecues are okay; please douse charcoal fires with water when unattended.
- Reservations are not required for basic camping—Overland Experience registrants have camping included in the price, but not reserved spots. Groups are welcome to stake out their own areas.
- Camping opens Thursday at 12:00 PM. You may stay over Sunday night.
Coconino National Forest campgrounds and dispersed camping
There are two U.S. Forest Service campgrounds just west of Mormon Lake Lodge: Dairy Springs (30 single sites, two group sites) and Double Springs (15 single sites), with tables, grills, water, and toilets. Sites are well-spaced and shaded. $16 per night. For more information, see the Forest Service page: Coconino campgrounds. Another Forest Service campground, Kinnikinick (13 sites), is about eight miles away.
For those who prefer more solitude, dispersed camping is also allowed in Coconino National Forest. For a detailed guide to regulations and suggested sites, see: Dispersed camping. Nearly the entire forest also has dry dispersed backcountry camping along most Forest Roads. FR 125 and FR 240 would be good bets (free, no permit needed, just comply with all fire regulations and your stay cannot be longer than 2 weeks in any one place)
OTHER USEFUL LINKS:
Coconino National Forest website, Flagstaff Ranger District: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/coconino/home
Follow Coconino National Forest's latest road and fire conditions on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CoconinoNF
Food & Places to eat
This international Grand Canyon-gateway town boasts an astonishingly high number of fine restaurants for its size.
MACY’S AND OTHER COFFEE SHOPS
It’s impossible to imagine Flagstaff without Macy’s, the hippie-esque coffee shop on Beaver Street just south of the railroad tracks. It feels like it’s been there forever, although it only opened in 1980. In a town blessed with lots of excellent coffee options, Macy’s is, if not unequalled, certainly unsurpassed. The triple latte is practically breakfast on its own—but don’t cheat yourself of their waffles, biscuits and gravy, or even the homemade granola. If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll find the offerings just as good as the coffee (that is, considering tea’s vast intrinsic inferiority). There’s superb people watching at Macy’s, too: everyone from suited businessmen to buffed bicyclists to ponytailed, VW-Combi-driving Deadheads straight out of the Whole Earth Catalog—the first one. Opens properly at 6:00 a.m. every day. Macy's, 14 S. Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Despite its location in a strip mall, the Campus Coffee Bean is another favorite, with easier parking than Macy’s and more room for larger groups. In addition to breakfast, they offer a full lunch menu. If you think you’re a hard-core coffee drinker, try the Hammerhead—three shots of espresso in a full cup of regular coffee. Also opens at 6:00 a.m. 1800 South Milton Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
It’s rare to peruse a restaurant’s dinner menu and exclaim out loud, repeatedly, “Oh wow.” Yet that happens every time we visit this loosely Latin-oriented restaurant on San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff. Generally I can look at a menu and decide what I want in 30 seconds flat. At Criollo I painfully reduce my initial selection of five or six possibilities (out of perhaps seven entrée choices) down to four, then three—at which point I usually wring my hands for several minutes. Pathetic.
The good news is, you won’t go wrong with any of them. Everything we’ve had (and during a three-day visit to town we’ve been known to eat dinner there three times) has been sublime. Even such prosaic fare as fajitas achieves transcendency, much less, for example, the Guajillo barbecued duck breast or mojo marinated pork tenderloin. The ingredients are all sourced as locally as possible, including Arizona beef. Finally, unlike many restaurants that do dinner well but fall down on dessert, Criollo keeps up the momentum all the way through. Simply put, we don’t know a better restaurant in the state, counting quality, imagination, service, and price. A mandatory stop. Criollo Latin Kitchen, 16 N. San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
THE GALAXY DINER
Imagine the perfect diner to front historic Route 66, and you’ll have the Galaxy nailed. The waitresses don’t ride roller skates, but that’s about the only period trick missing here. And it’s not just a recreation—the Galaxy has been around since the 1950s. Food quality varies (did diners in the 50s really have better?), but there’s plenty of it. On the other hand, the soda fountain creations are all well above average. 931 W. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
in Heritage Square, serve up outstanding burgers, fries, and brews; meats and many ingredients are entirely local to northern Arizona, and entirely addictive. Arrive hungry.
Flagstaff had microbreweries before they got chic. There aren’t any bad ones I know of. Beaver Street Brewery (11 S. Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001) is excellent and usually crowded. The new and very large Lumberyard Brewing Company (5 S. San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001), just up the tracks, has a similar menu, probably because they're owned by the same family. For a more neighborhood-bar experience, the Flagstaff Brewing Company (16 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86001), opened in 1994 in a 19th-century building right off Highway 66, is our low-key favorite and also the place to sample High Spirits' amazing single malt, Arizona whisky (finished in mesquite-smoked barrels). Despite my historical fascination with India Pale Ale I’m a little weary of the current mania for hops, hops, and more hops in American microbrews, but there’s a broad selection of alternatives here. Good pub food as well, and, at least the last time we were there, absolutely dynamite music. Muddy Waters was on when we left. The menu says it all: “Beer like your mom used to make.”
There are several other micro-breweries, and loads of steak houses, Spanish, Asian, Mexican, Italian, and much more. Trip Advisor is also a good resource.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO AROUND FLAGSTAFF?
Besides the hundreds of miles of Forest Service trails that start right across the road from the lodge?
To start with there’s a sizeable hole in the ground just north of Flagstaff. A backcountry tour of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a bucket-list-level overland journey, and we can point you to spots overlooking the gorge where the only other people you might see will be fellow Overland Expo attendees on the same quest.
Just a few other fine destinations for a pre- or post-Expo tour of northern Arizona and adjacent states: Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Chaco Canyon, Moab, historic Navajo trading posts, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef, historic Route 66, Sedona, Glen Canyon, Meteor Crater . . . trust us, you won’t run out of possibilities.
Some relevant websites and resources:
Cinder Hills OHV Area — 13,500 acre OHV area. There is both open riding and miles of single track trails. Dispersed camping is allowed but there are no facilities such as water or restrooms. Map and info here: Arizona OHV Trails and Maps
Arizona Trail — Mountain biking, hiking, horseback — Mormon Lake section (passes through the event site)
Shopping Guide — loads of funky hippy shops, fantastic Native American art and jewelry, book stores, antique stores, outdoor shops, and much more