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A Geoheritage tour of Flagstaff & environs, northern Arizona

The geoheritage concept involves an appreciation for ‘geologic features with significant scientific, educational, cultural, and/or aesthetic value’ (Geological Society of America position paper). It is rapidly gaining national and international importance. The geologic features and volcanic vents situated near Flagstaff, Arizona, on the southwestern Colorado Plateau epitomizes this concept.

Each year millions of tourists and Arizona natives are drawn to northern Arizona’s geologic landscapes - mountains, canyons, cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, volcanoes, monoclines, rivers, and lakes – to hike, photograph, boat, bike, fish, ski, visit archaeological sites, attend cultural events, or enjoy the Lowell Observatory and Museum of Northern Arizona.

Cross section through Flagstaff area on Colorado Plateau
Slice through Earth's crust near Flagstaff, Arizona on the Colorado Plateau. You can download John Bezy's illustrated 56 p. text:

Between Jan-Aug 2018, 9.5 million people visited national parks in northern Arizona. Grand Canyon received more than 4.47 M. visitors; followed by 3 M visitors to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (source: Arizona Office of Tourism).  Flagstaff’s three national monuments – Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki – were visited by more than 359,000 people.

In 2017, the last year for which data is available, visitors to Coconino County - home to Grand Canyon, Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, and Flagstaff, Williams, Cameron and Tuba City, spend $1.4 billion dollars at their destination(s).

This new ‘Touring Geoheritage Sites of Flagstaff & Environs’ StoryMap highlights 30 of the most prominent geologic, archaeologic, and cultural features near Flagstaff. Some of the more prominent features of the Plio-Pleistocene San Francisco volcanic field presented here, include: San Francisco Mountain, Mount Elden, Sunset Crater, and Strawberry Crater, among other sites. Also included is Dr. Richard Holm’s beautiful ‘Geologic Map of San Francisco Mountain’.

The section on Archaeology & Museums pinpoints some of the more spectacular cultural features, past and present, in the Flagstaff area. We hope this online tour will add value to the visitors experience.

Did we miss one of your favorite spots? Let us know. If we can dig up an excellent image and fruitful online resource, we’ll see about adding it to the tour.

Online Resources

Arizona Office of Tourism Research & Statistics; Data & Trends | Economic Impact

Geoheritage | Geological Society of America Position Paper

Conway, FM, 2019, Touring Geoheritage Sites of Flagstaff & Environs; Arizona Geological Survey StoryMap