Flagstaff Cool Arizona

Flagstaff is the largest city on the Colorado Plateau of northern Arizona, a region that accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state’s area. The city’s relatively high elevation (more than 7,000 feet above sea level), and location on the shoulders of the sky-painted San Francisco Mountains, make for a climatic zone that is more similar to that of Lake Tahoe than Phoenix, a city that is fewer than 150 miles to the south. Even with a latitude south of Las Vegas, which is located just northeast of Flagstaff near the mouth of the Grand Canyon, the city sees considerably colder temperatures and more precipitation than its big-city neighbor across the border.

Clear, unpolluted air bestows on Flagstaff a reputation as a stargazing destination. Indeed, the city’s Lowell Observatory is that site from where terrestrial scientists first observed former-planet Pluto. Although Pluto’s planetary status has since been downgraded, Flagstaff’s reputation as a stellar location from which to view the firmament has not. If you prefer more down-to-earth sites, Arizona’s highest point, Humphrey’s Peak, which tops out above 12,600 feet, is a half-hour drive from the city limits and affords sweeping views of the surrounding area.

From Flagstaff, the San Francisco Mountains tumble a hundred miles to the northwest and then flatten out onto the Cococino Plateau, which is itself abruptly cleft along its northern edge by the Grand Canyon. This unique geography is what gives Flagstaff its relatively cool, and wetter than the surrounding area, climate. Average July temperatures tend to be in the low 70s, compared to those of Phoenix, which are well above 90. Flagstaff sits in a pocket – due to altitude – that sees much colder winter temperatures than the rest of the state of Arizona. Its average January temperatures are below freezing, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, Phoenix’s January temperatures are, on average, more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.

The city of Flagstaff, and its surrounding pine-forested mountains, see well over twice the levels of precipitation that more southerly Arizona cities get. Flagstaff, receives an average of 16 inches of precipitation every year, and some years as much as 30 inches. If you are considering a visit to Arizona and are looking for a contrast to the stereotypical desert scenery and climate that are more typical of Phoenix or Tucson, Flagstaff is a much cooler alternative. In addition to the scenic beauty in its immediate vicinity, Flagstaff also serves as an excellent base camp for excursions to the Grand Canyon.