The San Francisco Peaks by Justin Capp in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

When you think of Arizona you probably think of a dry and barren desert with a few cacti scattered around for good measure. While some parts of the state might be like this, the area around Flagstaff, in the northern part of the state, is not that way at all. Nestled against the base of soaring, snow-capped mountains, in the middle of the largest contiguous pine forest in the country, Flagstaff is the quintessential outdoorsy college-town. Mountains, canyons, forests, prairies, and even the Painted Desert are all right around Flag, as locals affectionately call this close-knit town. There are so many amazing places that I would love to introduce you to, but I’m going to start with my personal favorite, our beloved mountains, the San Francisco Peaks.

Name:Justin Capp

Academic Advisor/Photographer


Exploring the beautiful state of Arizona while trying to establish and grow my own photography business.

Tell us about the place you live:

The San Francisco Peaks, or just “the Peaks” as locals call them, used to be a massive strato-volcano that towered above everything else in the southwestern United States. When it erupted some tens of thousands of years ago landslides from the eruption caused a valley to be formed in the middle, the Inner Basin, thus giving us the many peaks we see today including the tallest point in Arizona, Humphrey’s Peak, which tops out at 12,633 feet high. The Inner Basin is filled with millions of aspen that turn gold when autumn rushes in, and a dense sea of pines covers the steeper slopes all the way up to treeline. During winter the Peaks are blanketed with hundreds of inches of snow which makes for great skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Two meadows, Lockett Meadow and the Inner Basin meadow, both offer 360 degree views of forested peaks and are a quiet sanctuary when life gets hectic. If you should ever visit the Peaks I know they will capture your heart the way they have captured mine.

A perfect day?

An early morning hike up the Inner Basin or Weatherford trail in the Peaks, and if I’m feeling ambitious a longer hike up to the higher elevations is sure to leave me breathless, both from the elevation and the view. After hiking I’d spend the afternoon at one of our many amazing local coffee shops in downtown (I recommend Higher Grounds, Firecreek, or Macy’s) editing photos I took from my hike earlier. Later I’d join some friends and enjoy pizza and homemade gelato at Pizzicletta followed by a drink at one of our local breweries (Mother Road is my personal favorite). Finally, I’d take a short drive out of town and into the forest, pull over and turn off all of the lights, and look up to the heavens to view the Milky Way and an ocean of billions of stars as they twinkle in the dark. Flagstaff was the first designated International Dark Sky City in the world so seeing the stars is a must!

What is the best thing about your spot?

The Peaks are right on the edge of town and are designated as a wilderness area. Enjoying that kind of seclusion with an incredible view so close to home is amazing.

What is the worst?

While the Inner Basin is usually pretty secluded, hiking the Humphrey’s Trail to the top of Humphrey’s Peak can become really crowded during the summer. I recommend the Inner Basin and Weatherford trails as more secluded alternatives, though it will take you a lot longer to get to the top.

What would be surprising about this place to an outsider?

You’re in Arizona but you’ll think you’re in Colorado.

Before I die I want to visit:

Hands down New Zealand. I want to explore every inch of that beautiful country.

Who are three of your favorite artists?

With my love for landscape photograph Ansel Adams is my favorite photographer. I have many friends in Flagstaff, though, who are incredibly talented musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, and a variety of other types of artists. Flagstaff is such an artsy town that almost everybody who lives here does something artistic. The First Friday Artwalk on the first Friday of each month is a great way to get a taste for the creativity of this town.

  • susan capp

    such a cool description of a really fun and funky city…love it

    • Jesse

      Thanks for the comment Susan! Cheers

  • DesertRat

    While the gelato that they make is incredible, the pizza at Pizzacleta is overpriced garlic flat bread. Definitely not worth the $12 they get for it. It is cheaper to eat better quality in NYC.

  • Jessie Wych

    I don’t know what Flagstaff this guy knows, but many of us locals would like our town returned to being a quiet, ordinary, decidedly unhip town. Visit here and you’re now in the same old same old as Moab, Telluride, Silver City… You get the picture.

  • Jessie Wych

    If you must visit, get your pizza at NiMarco’s.

    • DesertRat

      or Fratelli’s, both good in different ways.

      • Jesse

        Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the tip

    • Jesse

      can’t wait to try it! thanks for the tip

  • Chris Dennis

    i personally love sitting on the patio at lumberyard enjoying a yard jar and watching storms roll in and cover the peaks

    • Jesse

      Sounds nice! Cheers Chris!

  • http://SoapinTrucker.NET Mike Tayon

    I love Flagstaff!!!! I was lucky enough to live there for 2 years, 85-87, in my early 20’s at that!!!! Saw everything ( I believe….) from the center of town to 40 miles or so in any direction, LOVE IT!!!!! 🙂

    • Jesse

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing Mike! Where do you live now? We would love it if you shared it in a yodel.

      • http://SoapinTrucker.NET Mike Tayon

        Central California.


Name:Justin Capp


Favorite place to eat:

Pizzicletta. It is, hands down, the best pizza I have ever had. I don’t care what anyone else says, you will never ever have a pizza as good as what Caleb, the owner and Pizzaiolo, makes. The homemade gelato is amazing, too. If you’re more of a burger and fries kind of person then try Diablo Burger. It, too, is the best burger and fries I have ever had.

Favorite place to drink:

For coffee go to Higher Grounds, Macy’s, or Firecreek. For local craft brews check out Mother Road Brewing Co. or the Beaver Street Brewery.

Favorite shop:

The Old Town Shops in downtown is an old department store converted into several local restaurants, clothing stores, a pub, and it even includes a creperie during the summer.

Local Tip:

When driving to Lockett Meadow to hike in the Inner Basin be sure to park at the top of the looping road, close to the Inner Basin trailhead. Parking is limited, but free there. If you have to park somewhere else in the meadow you have to pay for a day parking pass.

Must Do:

Go take in the view and relax in Lockett Meadow. Google it or ask a local how to get there. A fair warning is that the road to Lockett Meadow is a steep, narrow, winding dirt road that is not for the faint of heart. It’s so worth it, though.