When the dog days of summer arrive, it seems like half of Arizona escapes to the cooler climes of Flagstaff. And there’s no better place to spot wildflowers and wildlife than The Arboretum at Flagstaff. Leave the hiking boots at home (the trails are flat and some are paved), and instead lace up your sneakers and grab a lightweight jacket (the park sits at an elevation of 7,150 feet). Then hit the trails that lead past meadows, through forests, around a pond and into themed gardens.
The summer months are all about wildflowers at the arboretum, and many of the flowers feature identification plaques. Before we even paid our admission fees, we were spotting columbines and coral bells at the base of tall pine trees. The arboretum specializes in plants native to northern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau; the grounds and buildings belonged to the arboretum’s founder, Frances McAllister, who moved to the area in 1967. The arboretum was founded in 1981. Enter through the visitors center where you will find exhibits on the area and a gift shop.
The arboretum sits on 200 acres, and it’s easy to explore the park in a few short hours. The trails are all signed. Explore the Water Conservation Garden, Shade Garden, Blue Garden and, our personal favorite, the Pollinator Garden, which was buzzing with hummingbirds and bumblebees during our visit. The arboretum offers wildflower walks in June, July and August as well as bird walks every Saturday in May, June and July and daily guided tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There is also a popular native plant sale that takes place outdoors in the summer.
Check out the Willow Pond, home to the endangered Little Colorado spinedace fish and rare willows. Enjoy unobstructed views of the San Francisco Peaks beyond Wildflower Meadow and a kitchen herb garden. Watch for small chipmunks playing in the gardens. The arboretum is also home to raptor shows, a summer concert series and events such as the Native Herb Festival, Mushroom Festival and Wine in the Woods. Open May through October, the arboretum wraps up its season with an evening Pumpkin Walk in late October.
Picnics are encouraged, but pets are not allowed. So pack a lunch and beat the heat while still enjoying the great outdoors at this peaceful little slice of northern Arizona.