Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff is a city in and the county seat of Coconino County[6] in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2018, the city's estimated population was 73,964.[5] Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.[7]

City of Flagstaff
Downtown Flagstaff in 2000

City of Seven Wonders, Dark Sky City
Location of Flagstaff in Coconino County, Arizona
U.S. Census
Location in the United States
Flagstaff (the United States)
Coordinates: 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W
Country United States
State Arizona
County Coconino
  BodyFlagstaff City Council
  MayorCoral Evans(I[1])
  City66.08 sq mi (171.13 km2)
  Land66.02 sq mi (171.00 km2)
  Water0.05 sq mi (0.14 km2)
Elevation6,910 ft (2,106 m)
  Density1,120.28/sq mi (432.54/km2)
139,097 (US: 291st)
Demonym(s)Flagstonian or Flagstaffian
Time zoneUTC−7 (MST (no DST))
ZIP codes
86001-86005-86004, 86011
Area code(s)928
FIPS code04-23620
GNIS ID(s)28749, 29046
Major airportFlagstaff Pulliam Airport
U.S. Highways
State Routes

Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States.[8] Flagstaff is next to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, the U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a growing center for medical and biotechnology manufacturing, home to corporations such as SenesTech and W. L. Gore and Associates. [9][10]


There are several stories and legends about the origin of the city's name. Surveyors, prospectors, and investors had traveled through the area in the mid- to late-19th century, and the act of stripping a pine tree to fly an American flag has been attributed to several individuals over a twenty-year span. It is said that, because of the flag that was raised, the area surrounding it became known as Flagstaff.

The first permanent settlement was in 1876, when Thomas F. McMillan built a cabin at the base of Mars Hill on the west side of town. During the 1880s, Flagstaff began to grow, opening its first post office and attracting the railroad industry. The early economy was based on timber, sheep, and cattle. By 1886, Flagstaff was the largest city on the railroad line between Albuquerque and the west coast of the United States.[11] A circa 1900 diary entry by journalist Sharlot Hall described the houses in the city as a "third rate mining camp", with unkempt air and high prices of available goods.[12]

In 1894, Massachusetts astronomer Percival Lowell hired A. E. Douglass to scout an ideal site for a new observatory. Douglass, impressed by Flagstaff's elevation, named it as an ideal location for the now famous Lowell Observatory, saying: "other things being equal, the higher we can get the better".[13] Two years later, the specially designed 24-inch (610 mm) Clark telescope that Lowell had ordered was installed. In 1930, Pluto was discovered using one of the observatory's telescopes. In 1955 the U.S. Naval Observatory joined the growing astronomical presence, and established the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, where Pluto's satellite, Charon, was discovered in 1978.[14]

During the Apollo program in the 1960s, the Clark Telescope was used to map the moon for the lunar expeditions, enabling the mission planners to choose a safe landing site for the lunar modules.[15] In homage to the city's importance in the field of astronomy, asteroid 2118 Flagstaff is named for the city, and 6582 Flagsymphony for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

The Northern Arizona Normal School was established in 1899, renamed Northern Arizona University in 1966.[11] Flagstaff's cultural history received a significant boost on April 11, 1899, when the Flagstaff Symphony made its concert debut at Babbitt's Opera House. The orchestra continues today as the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, with its primary venue at the Ardrey Auditorium on the campus of Northern Arizona University.[16]

The city grew rapidly, primarily due to its location along the east–west transcontinental railroad line in the United States. In the 1880s, the railroads purchased land in the west from the federal government, which was then sold to individuals to help finance the railroad projects.[17]:65–67 By the 1890s, Flagstaff found itself along one of the busiest railroad corridors in the U.S., with 80–100 trains travelling through the city every day, destined for Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.[17]:96–97[18]

Route 66 was completed in 1926 and ran through Flagstaff. Flagstaff was incorporated as a city in 1928,[11] and in 1929, the city's first motel, the Motel Du Beau, was built at the intersection of Beaver Street and Phoenix Avenue. The Daily Sun described the motel as "a hotel with garages for the better class of motorists." The units originally rented for $2.60 to $5.00 each, with baths, toilets, double beds, carpets, and furniture.[17]:244–245 Flagstaff went on to become a popular tourist stop along Route 66, particularly due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff grew and prospered through the 1960s. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, many businesses started to move from the city center, and the downtown area entered an economic and social decline. Sears and J.C. Penney left the downtown area in 1979 to open up as anchor stores in the new Flagstaff Mall, joined in 1986 by Dillard's. By 1987, the Babbitt Brothers Trading Company, a retail fixture in Flagstaff since 1891, closed its doors at Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street.[17]:161–167

The Railroad Addition Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

In 1987, the city drafted a new master plan, also known as the Growth Management Guide 2000, which would transform downtown Flagstaff from a shopping and trade center into a regional center for finance, office use, and government. The city built a new city hall, library, and the Coconino County Administrative Building in the downtown district, staking an investment by the local government for years to come. In 1992, the city hired a new manager, Dave Wilcox, who had previously worked at revitalizing the downtown areas of Beloit, Wisconsin and Missoula, Montana. During the 1990s, the downtown area underwent a revitalization, many of the city sidewalks were repaved with decorative brick facing, and a different mix of shops and restaurants opened up to take advantage of the area's historical appeal.[17]

On October 24, 2001, Flagstaff was recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as the world's first "International Dark-Sky City."[19][20]

In 2012, Flagstaff was officially named "America’s First STEM Community" (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours.[21][22]


Flagstaff is located at 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W.[23] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 63.9 square miles (165.5 km2), of which only 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) (0.08%) is water.

At 7,000 feet (2,130 m) elevation, next to the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in North America, Flagstaff is on a mountain surrounded by volcanoes, in the heart of the Coconino national forest. Any type of desert climate can be found below its elevation 100 miles from Flagstaff.[24] The city is situated on the Rio de Flag, and is about 130 miles (210 km) north of Phoenix.


Downtown Flagstaff lies immediately to the east of Mars Hill, the location of Lowell Observatory. Streets in the downtown area are laid out in a grid pattern, parallel to Route 66 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Line, running east–west through the city. Milton Road branches off from Route 66 west of downtown, and travels south, adjacent to the Northern Arizona University campus, to the junction of Interstate 17 and Interstate 40. Milton Road becomes I-17. A road called Beulah Boulevard, which also runs south, becomes State Route 89A, and travels through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. Traveling north from downtown, Fort Valley Road (U.S. 180) connects with the Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona Snowbowl, and Grand Canyon National Park. Traveling east from downtown, Route 66 and the railroad run in parallel toward East Flagstaff (and beyond), at the base of Mount Elden. Much of Flagstaff's industry is east of downtown, adjacent to the railroad tracks, as well as in East Flagstaff.

Several towns are close to Flagstaff along Interstates 40 and 17. Approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) south are the small urban areas of Kachina Village (west of I-17) and Mountainaire (east of I-17; 2 miles (3.2 km)). About 35 miles (56 km) to the west is Williams, 20 miles (32 km) to the south is Munds Park, and 30 miles (48 km) to the south on Arizona Highway 89A is Sedona. 15 miles (24 km) to the east of Flagstaff is the town of Winona, mentioned in the famous song, Route 66.


Flagstaff is high desert and has a rather dry semi-continental climate (Köppen Dsb/Csb).[25] Flagstaff has five distinct seasons: a cold and snowy winter, with extended dry periods punctuated by deep snows about once every 3–4 weeks; a dry and windy spring with occasional snows; a very dry and warm early summer from May to early July; a wet monsoon season from July to early September; and a dry and pleasant fall which lasts until the first snows in November.

The combination of high elevation and low humidity provides mild weather conditions throughout most of the year. The predominantly clear air and high elevation radiate daytime heating effectively, resulting in overnight temperatures generally much lower than the daytime temperature. This means a 55 °F (13 °C) day in January can drop to 15 °F (−9 °C) at night. Winter nights in fact can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 °F (−18 °C)[26] on 5 to 6 nights per year.

Winter weather patterns in Flagstaff are cyclonic and frontal in nature, originating in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These deliver periodic, widespread snowfall, followed by extended periods of sunny weather. The area's generally stable weather pattern is broken by brief, but often intense, afternoon downpours and dramatic thunderstorms common during the monsoon of July and August. Summer temperatures are moderate, and high temperatures average around 82 °F (28 °C).[11] Extreme temperatures range from −30 °F (−34 °C) on January 22, 1937 up to 97 °F (36 °C) on July 5, 1973, respectively.[27] The weather in Flagstaff is generally sunny, with much more sunshine than other snowy cities like New York City, Chicago and Boston.[27]

The annual snowfall averages 100.3 inches (254.8 cm), placing Flagstaff among the snowiest incorporated cities in the United States.[28] Overall, the city features an average of 277 days without measurable precipitation each year. Despite snowstorms often being spread weeks apart, snow often covers the ground for weeks after major winter storms due to the low night temperatures refreezing the snowpack, even when daytime temperatures are above freezing. The highest recorded snowfall in a single day was 35.9 inches (91.2 cm) on February 21, 2019.[29] The maximum daily snow cover has been 83 inches (211 cm) on December 20, 1967, although the mean maximum for a full winter is only 20 inches (51 cm) and the lowest maximum only 6 inches (15 cm) in the dry winter of 1955–56. However, due to the infrequent and scattered nature of the snowstorms, persistent snow pack into spring is rare.[11] One notable exception occurred during the severe winter of 1915–16, when successive Pacific storms buried the city under over 70 inches (178 cm) of snow, and some residents were snowbound in their homes for several days.[30]


Historical population
Est. 201873,964[5]12.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[34]

According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 65,870.[35] The population density was 831.9 people per square mile (321.2/km²). There were 26,254 housing units at an average density of 336.5 per square mile (129.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.4% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 11.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 7.3% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. 18.4% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. The city's African American population is considerably lower than the U.S. average (1.9% versus 12.6%), while the Native American population is markedly higher (11.7% vs. 0.9%). This is primarily attributable to the city's proximity to several Native American reservations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, and Yavapai. Flagstaff's Native American community is chiefly Navajo, and there are about 5,500 people of Navajo ancestry living in the city.[36]

As of 2000, there were 19,306 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 23.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.13.

The age distribution was 24.3% under the age of 18, 21.7% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,146, and the median income for a family was $48,427. Males had a median income of $31,973 versus $24,591 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,637. About 10.6% of families and 17.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.6% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

As a college town, Flagstaff's population is considerably more educated than the U.S. average. 89.8% of the population has a high school diploma or higher, while the national average is 80.4%. 39.4% of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 24.4%.


For 2012, the FBI's Uniform Crime Report indicated for Flagstaff a rate of 262 cases of violent crime per 100,000 population and 2,834 cases of property crime per 100,000 population.[37]


In its early days, the city's economic base comprised the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, that has largely been replaced by tourism, education, government, and transportation. Some of the larger employers in Flagstaff are Northern Arizona University, the Flagstaff Medical Center, and the Flagstaff Unified School District. Tourism is a large contributor to the economy, as the city receives over 5 million visitors per year.[11]

Scientific and high tech research and development operations are in the city, including Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station (NOFS) and the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Flagstaff campus. Lowell Observatory celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019 and continues to be a leading astronomical research center, as well as a popular destination for visitors. More than 100,000 people visited in both 2018 and 2019 and in 2019 the observatory opened its new Giovale Open Deck Observatory, an observing plaza with a suite of six advanced telescopes. Research is involved in observations of near-Earth phenomena such as asteroids and comets. In 2012 the observatory commissioned its Discovery Channel Telescope, a 4.3-meter telescope with an instrument cube that can hold five instruments at once.[38] Lowell Observatory and NOFS also are collaborators on the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, on nearby Anderson Mesa. NOFS is heavily involved with the science of star catalogs and astrometry, or the positions and distances of stars and celestial objects.

There are five industrial parks in the city, situated near I-40 and I-17. Major manufacturers in Flagstaff include W. L. Gore & Associates, widely known as the maker of Gore-Tex; Nestlé Purina PetCare, manufacturer of pet food; SenesTech, a biotechnology research lab and manufacturer; SCA Tissue, a major tissue paper producer; and Joy Cone, manufacturer of ice cream cones.[9][39] Walgreens operated a distribution center in the city until 2014.[11][40][10]

With proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, the city also has a thriving travel and tourism industry, with numerous hotel and restaurant chains. The downtown area is home to two historic hotels, the Weatherford Hotel and the Hotel Monte Vista. The first hotel of the Ramada Inn chain opened in 1954 at the intersection of U.S. Routes 66, 89 and 89A adjacent to what was then Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University). The original building is still intact, operating as a Super 8 Motel.[41]

Arts and culture

Flagstaff has an active cultural scene. The city is home to the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, which plays concerts from September through April at Ardrey Auditorium on the NAU campus.[16] The city also attracts folk and contemporary acoustic musicians, and offers several annual music festivals during the summer months, such as the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music Festival, the Flagstaff Music Festival, and Pickin' in the Pines, a three-day bluegrass and acoustic music festival held at the Pine Mountain Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds.[42][43][44] Popular bands play throughout the year at the Orpheum Theater, and free concerts are held during the summer months at Heritage Square.[45]

Flagstaff is home to an active theatre scene, featuring several groups. Northern Arizona University Department of Theatre is an active and successful theatre program that produces quality productions for the community as well as the campus. The department has won many prestigious awards including multiple invitations to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. NAU Theatre performs in two facilities including the Clifford E. White Theatre (named for long-time Theatre professor Clifford E. White) and the Studio Theatre. Both facilities are housed in the Fine and Performing Arts Building on campus. The season includes four mainstage and numerous second stage productions and a summer collaboration with Theatrikos Theatre Company. Theatrikos, a local community theater company, was founded in 1972 in the basement of the Weatherford Hotel, and today puts on six major productions per year. In 2002, the company moved into a new venue now known as the Doris-Harper White Community Playhouse, a downtown building which was built in 1923 as an Elks Lodge and later became the Flagstaff library.[46] Since 1995, the Flagstaff Light Opera Company has performed a variety of musical theatre and light opera productions throughout the year at the Sinagua Middle/School auditorium.[47] There are several dance companies in Flagstaff, including Coconino Community College Dance Program, Northern Arizona Preparatory Company and Canyon Movement, which present periodic concerts and collaborate with the Flagstaff Symphony for free concerts during the summer and holiday seasons.[48]

A variety of weekend festivals occur throughout the year. The annual Northern Arizona Book Festival, held in the spring, brings together nationally known authors to read and display their works.[49] The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival is held every October, and features a variety of independent films and documentaries focusing on extreme sports, environmental issues, and global topics. The festival is four days long and consists of several sessions of films. The screenings are held at the Orpheum Theater in the historic downtown area.[50] The summer months feature several festivals, including Hopi and Navajo Festivals of Arts and Crafts, the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival, Pride in the Pines,[51] and the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival.[52] For more than 20 years Flagstaff has hosted the 10-day Flagstaff Festival of Science in September. It is a family event which features open houses, lectures, informal talks, and hands-on activities at area museums, observatories, other scientific facilities, and the university. In-school programs also are an important part of the festival. The festival begins with the annual Eugene Shoemaker keynote address. Guest speakers have included famous astronauts, arctic explorers, storm chasers, and scientists from many disciplines. The Coconino County Fair is held every September at the Fort Tuthill County Fairgrounds, featuring a demolition derby, livestock auction, carnival rides, and other activities.[53]

On New Year's Eve, people gather around the Weatherford Hotel as a 70-pound, 6-foot (1.8 m) tall, metallic pine cone is dropped from the roof at midnight. The tradition originated in 1999, when Henry Taylor and Sam Green (owners of the Weatherford Hotel), decorated a garbage can with paint, lights, and pine cones, and dropped it from the roof of their building to mark the new millennium. By 2003 the event had become tradition, and the current metallic pine cone was designed and built by Frank Mayorga of Mayorga Welding in Flagstaff.[54]

The Museum of Northern Arizona includes displays of the biology, archeology, photography, anthropology, and native art of the Colorado Plateau. The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a 200-acre (81 ha) arboretum featuring 2,500 species of drought-tolerant native plants representative of the high-desert region.[55][56]

Route 66, which originally ran between Chicago and Los Angeles, greatly increased the accessibility to the area, and enhanced the culture and tourism in Flagstaff.[57] Route 66 remains a historic route, passing through the city between Barstow, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. In early September, the city hosts an annual event, Route 66 Days, to highlight its connection to the famous highway.[58]


There are no major-league professional sports teams based in Flagstaff. However, from 1988 to 2012 (with the exception of the 2005 season, due to an outbreak of a flu-like virus), the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League held their summer training camp at Northern Arizona University.[59] The NAU training camp location has been cited as one of the top five training camps in the NFL by Sports Illustrated.[60] The Cardinals left Flagstaff in summer 2013.[61]

Northern Arizona University sponsors 15 sports at the Division I level, including a football team that competes at the Division I Football Championship Series level. All sports are members of the Big Sky Conference with the exception of the Women's Swimming & Diving team, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. The Men's Cross Country team has featured four straight top ten finishes at the NCAA Division I Cross Country championships, which are held each year in Terre Haute, Indiana. The track and field team is home to several All-Americans including NCAA Champion/Olympian Lopez Lomong, two time NCAA Champion David McNeill and All-American/ 2012 Olympian Diego Estrada.

Parks and outdoor recreation

Flagstaff has acquired a reputation as a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, and the region's varied terrain, high elevation, and amenable weather attract campers, backpackers, climbers, recreation and elite runners, and mountain bikers from throughout the southwestern United States. There are 679.2 acres (274.9 ha) of city parks in Flagstaff, the largest of which are Thorpe Park and Buffalo Park. Wheeler Park, next to city hall, is the location of summer concerts and other events.[62] The city maintains an extensive network of trails, the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, or "FUTS" includes more than 50 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking, running, and cycling. The trail network extends throughout the city and is widely used for both recreation and transportation.[63]

The area is a recreational hub for road cycling and mountain biking clubs, organized triathlon events, and annual cross country ski races. Several major river running operators are headquartered in Flagstaff, and the city serves as a base for Grand Canyon and Colorado River expeditions.[64]

Flagstaff's proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, about 75 miles (121 km) north of the city, has made it a popular tourist destination since the mid-19th century. Other nearby outdoor attractions include Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Barringer Crater. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell are both about 135 mi (217 km) north along U.S. Route 89. [65]

Dark Sky City

Flagstaff takes one of its nicknames from its legislative designation as the world's first International Dark Sky City, a deliberate dark sky preserve area with measures to reduce light pollution. This was one of the world's first coordinated legislative efforts to do so. In the city there has been over fifty years of planning and development,[66] with the full support of the ecologically-aware population and community advocates, frequent government support, and the assistance of major observatories in the area — including the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station and Lowell Observatory.[67][68][69][70] Each component helps to educate, protect and enforce the imperatives to intelligently reduce detrimental light pollution.

The city's designation as an International Dark Sky City was on October 24, 2001, by the International Dark-Sky Association, after a proposal by the city's own Dark Sky Coalition to start the preserve program. It is seen as a world precedent in dark sky preservation.[71] Before this, it had been nicknamed the "Skylight City" back in the 1890s, the same decade that the Lowell Observatory opened.[72] In 1958, it passed Ordinance 400,[66] which outlawed using large or powerful searchlights within city limits. In the 1980s a series of measures were introduced for the city and Coconino County, and the Dark Sky Coalition was founded in 1999 by Chris Luginbuhl and Lance Diskan. Luginbuhl is a former U.S. Naval astronomer,[73] and Diskan had originally moved to Flagstaff from Los Angeles so that his children could grow up able to see stars, saying that "part of being human is looking up at the stars and being awestruck."[72] It was reported in an award-winning article[74] that even though greater restrictions on types of public lighting were introduced in 1989,[75] requiring them all to be low-emission, some public buildings like gas stations hadn't updated by 2002, after the Dark Sky designation.[74]

Flagstaff and the surrounding area is split into four zones, each permitted different levels of light emissions. The highest restrictions are in south and west Flagstaff (near NAU and its observatory), and at the Naval, Braeside, and Lowell Observatories.[74] Photographs detecting emissions taken in 2017 show that Flagstaff's light is 14 times less than another Western city of comparable size, Cheyenne, Wyoming, which Luginbuhl described as "even better than [they] might have expected".[73]


Flagstaff is the county seat of Coconino County.

The city government is organized under a council-manager form of government.[76] The mayor of Flagstaff is Coral Evans, who was elected in November 2016, and the town council consists of the mayor and six councilmembers: Adam Shimoni (vice mayor), Regina Salas, Jim McCarthy, Jamie Whelan, Charlie Odegaard, and Austin Aslan.[77] On July 2, 2019, the city council named Greg Clifton as city manager out of 50 candidates .[78] Regular meetings of the city council are held on the first and third Tuesday of every month.[79]

At the state level, Flagstaff is in the 6th legislative district. In the Arizona State Senate, the 6th is represented by Sylvia Allen (R) of Snowflake. In the House of Representatives, the 6th is represented by Bob Thorpe (R) of Flagstaff and Walter Blackman (R) of Snowflake.

At the federal level, Flagstaff is within Arizona's 1st congressional district, which is the tenth largest congressional district, covering nearly 60,000 sq. miles. The district is represented by Tom O'Halleran (D) of Sedona.


There are 19 public schools, with 11,500 students and 800 faculty and staff, in the Flagstaff Unified School District. In 1997, Mount Elden Middle School was named an A+ School, citing an outstanding school climate, progressive use of technology and zero-tolerance approach to discipline. The 1999 National Science Teacher of the Year, David Thompson, teaches physics at Coconino High School.[80] Three Arizona Teachers of the Year from 2001 through 2003 teach at Flagstaff High School.[81]

In addition to the numerous public schools, there are several charter schools operating in the Flagstaff area including Flagstaff Junior Academy, Northland Preparatory Academy (ranked No. 52 in USA News's America's Top 100 Best High Schools), the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, Pine Forest Charter School, BASIS Flagstaff (ranked No. 2 in The Washington Post's America's Most Challenging High schools) and the Montessori Schools of Flagstaff.

Flagstaff is home to two institutions of higher education, Northern Arizona University (one of the three public state universities in Arizona) and Coconino Community College.



Flagstaff is at the northern terminus of Interstate 17, which runs 145 miles (233 km) south to Phoenix. Interstate 40 runs east–west through the city, traveling to Barstow, California in the west and Albuquerque, New Mexico (and beyond) in the east. Historic Route 66 also runs east–west through the city, roughly parallel to I-40, and is a major thoroughfare for local traffic. Butler Avenue connects I-40 with downtown Flagstaff, and the major north–south thoroughfare through town is Milton Road. State Route 89A travels through the city (concurrently as parts of Milton Rd. and Route 66), going south through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona.

The major rail corridor running through Flagstaff is the Southern Transcon, originally built by the Santa Fe Railway and now owned and operated by the BNSF Railway. Passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak at the downtown station, connecting on east–west routes to Los Angeles and Albuquerque via the Southwest Chief line.[82] Amtrak also provides connecting Thruway Motorcoach service via Open Road Tours, which has an office inside the Flagstaff depot.[83] Local bus service is provided throughout the city by the Mountain Line.

Air travel is available through Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (IATA: FLG, ICAO: KFLG, FAA LID: FLG), just south of the city. The airport is primarily a small, general aviation airport with a single 6,999 feet (2,133 m) runway. The airport finished a major expansion project to add 1,800 feet (550 m) to the north end of the runway and lengthen the taxiway in 2007. The primary purpose of the project was to increase its viability for commercial and regional jets.[84] Service to connecting flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX, ICAO: KPHX, FAA LID: PHX) is provided by American Airlines operated by Mesa Airlines.[84] As of April 2, 2019 the airport offers direct flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Denver International Airport, and Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport.[85]

Flagstaff is fairly bike-friendly; there are bike lanes on many major streets,[86] and the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS) includes more than 50 miles of off-street trails that wind throughout the community.[87] In 2006 Flagstaff was designated a Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.[88] About nine percent of trips in Flagstaff are made by bicycle.[86]


Electricity generation in Flagstaff is provided by Arizona Public Service, an electric utility subsidiary operated by parent company Pinnacle West. The primary generating station near Flagstaff is the coal-fired, 995-MW Cholla Power Plant, near Holbrook, which uses coal from the McKinley Mine in New Mexico. Near Page is the coal-fired, 750-MW Navajo Power Plant, supplied by an electric railroad that delivers coal from a mine on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northern Arizona.[89] Flagstaff is also home to Arizona's first commercial solar power generating station, which was built in 1997 and provides 87 kW of electricity. Combined with 16 other solar power locations in Arizona, the system provides over 5 MW of electricity statewide.[90]

Drinking water in Flagstaff is produced from conventional surface water treatment at the Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant, on Upper Lake Mary, as well as from springs at the inner basin of the San Francisco Peaks. Groundwater from several water wells throughout the city and surrounding area provide additional sources of drinking water.[91] Water and wastewater services are provided by the City of Flagstaff.

Natural gas is provided by UniSource Energy Services. CenturyLink QC is the incumbent local exchange carrier.[92] Cable television service is offered by Suddenlink Communications.[93]

Health care

The city's primary hospital is the 267-bed Flagstaff Medical Center, on the north side of downtown Flagstaff. The hospital was founded in 1936, and serves as the major regional trauma center for northern Arizona.

The major daily newspaper in Flagstaff is the Arizona Daily Sun. Northern Arizona University's weekly newspaper The Lumberjack also covers Flagstaff news, while the other publications that serve the city include weeklies Flagstaff Live and the Navajo Hopi Observer, and monthlies Mountain Living Magazine and The Noise.

Several radio stations operate in the area, some of which operate transmitters in Prescott as well.

Flagstaff is included in the Phoenix Designated market area (DMA), the 13th largest in the U.S.[94] Over-the-air television service is provided mostly by low-powered repeaters of the Phoenix stations.[95] There is one local broadcast television station serving the city, KFPH-13 (TeleFutura).

In the early 20th century, the city was considered as a site for the film The Squaw Man by Jesse Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille, but was abandoned in favor of Hollywood.[96] Scenes from the 1969 film Easy Rider were filmed on Milton Road and Route 66 as well as near Sunset crater. In 1983 a moment in the film National Lampoon's Vacation was filmed at a truck stop gas station near Little America Hotel. Several recent movies have been filmed, at least in part, in Flagstaff. A small scene in Midnight Run was filmed in Flagstaff at the train depot, the city was also referenced in the film. Several of the running scenes in Forrest Gump were filmed in and around the area, including a memorable scene in which Forrest is seen jogging in downtown Flagstaff and gives inspiration to a bumper sticker designer ("Shit happens"). Parts of 2007 Academy Award winner Little Miss Sunshine were filmed at the junction of I-40 and I-17 in Flagstaff, and Terminal Velocity was partially filmed in the city.[97]

During the 1940s and 1950s, over 100 western movies were filmed in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff hosted many film stars during this era, including Jane Russell, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, and Bing Crosby. A scene from the movie Casablanca was filmed in one of the rooms of the hotel.[98]

In 2005, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a home just outside Flagstaff for slain soldier Lori Piestewa's two children and parents. Grizzly Peak Films also filmed Sasquatch Mountain, a feature-length film for the Science Fiction Channel about a Yeti, in Flagstaff and nearby Williams.[99] In December 2007, talk show hostess Ellen DeGeneres selected Flagstaff as the winner of her show's "Wish You Were Here" contest.[100]

Notable people

Sister cities

Flagstaff has five sister cities:[101]

See also


  1. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  2. Official records for Flagstaff were kept at the Weather Bureau in downtown from September 8, 1898 to January 11, 1950, and at Pulliam Airport since January 12, 1950. For more information, see ThreadEx


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