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As the de facto gateway to one of the world’s most beloved natural wonders (that’d be the Grand Canyon), Flagstaff doesn’t even need to be cool—you’d come through town anyway. Luckily for backpackers everywhere, this small city sitting at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks is an overachiever. And though you’ll see canyoneers and river runners bumming around town (look for the Chacos tan), hiking is what really ties the culture together. “Everyone who lives here is a hiker,” says Southwest Field Editor and longtime resident Annette McGivney. “It’s the very center of the social fabric.”
Why You’re Here Pack a three-day weekend on the Boucher-Hermit Loop, a 23-mile, South Rim-to-river trip that throws in boulder scrambling, riverside camping, and standout vistas of stone buttes and temples from the canyon’s mezzanine level. Take the Hermit Trail into the inner canyon and connect to the steep, narrow Boucher Trail; pick your way down to camp at Boucher Creek. Then hike the Tonto Trail to Hermit Creek, dropping off gear before taking the must-see spur to Hermit Rapid. On day three, hoof it back up the Hermit Trail. Trailhead Hermit Permit Required; $10 plus $8/person per night
On the Town
PERK“If you want to see the Flagstaff scene, Macy’s European Coffeehouse is the place,” McGivney says. Expect breakfast couscous, house-made granola, and hummus sandwiches. 14 S. Beaver St.
PUBIf it’s meat you seek, head to Diablo Burger for local, free-range beef patties with creative Southwestern toppings (like hatch chile mayo and grilled avocado). 120 N. Leroux St., #112
DRINKOn any given night, Mother Road Brewing Company is packed with backpackers, cyclists, and boatmen and women who just finished a river trip. 7 S. Mikes Pike St.
GEAR Babbitt’s Backcountry Outfitters both rents and sells equipment. 12 E. Aspen Ave
SEE Wind around lava flows at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and see Native American ruins next door at Wupatki National Monument.