Oh Arizona, you really do leave us in such a pickle this time of year. The leaves are turning and the temperature is dropping around the rest of the country but we’re over here sweating out butts off while sipping pumpkin spice lattes with a forced smile thinking “this is fine, everything is fine.”
For those of you who are just plain sick and tired of the heat (*raises hand wildy*) may I suggest the wonderful notion of the daycation. Because while it might still be 105 degrees in the valley, there are so many beautiful spots around our state that are no more than 2 hours away and they can offer something the valley cannot…..a respite from the oven.
We’ve used every excuse in the book to run away from the desert this summer (San Diego, Prescott, Heber, Flagstaff, etc.) and it really does make these exhausting months fly by a lot faster. It feels like the end of summer might be in our sights soon, but until that happens, we keep sneaking away. This weekend we treated ourselves to a Flagstaff daycation and it was glorious.
- An exotic place within driving distance of your home where your baby is not.
- The act of driving quickly away from your home for no more than 8 hours.
“We daycationed at The Biltmore pool and it was fabulous, honey.”
For those who like to hike or do a little exploring and try new things I’ve included a quick round up of our day in Flagstaff with recommendations on where to hike, what to eat, and things to do.
Where To Hike
Fat Man’s Loop
After dropping off the baby with my mom for the day we made our way up north, and including the required bathroom break for moi, it takes just over 2 hours to arrive in crisp, sunny Flagstaff. Our first hike of the day was at Fat Man’s Loop. This little hike/trail is located just beyond the downtown area so if you’re staying in town or not looking for a long drive this is the perfect spot. According to AllTrails this little loop is listed as a moderately difficult 2.4 mile trail however if you’ve ever hiked a day in your life this would probably file better under the “easy” category. The trail is very flat and would be a great place to take kids and dogs–we saw a lot of families with dogs of all sizes and children from toddlers to those riding in frame packs with their parents. The trail itself is really shaded for the most part with tons of wildflowers and interesting trees and rocks to look at and scramble over. If you’re already quite fit or use hiking as a way to workout I would not say that this is the best trail to break a real sweat with however it was really beautiful and a nice little spot to start our morning at. I would definitely recommend coming back here with your little ones or fur babies.
(To Note: The parking was a little congested and there were not a ton of spaces so if you arrive during a particularly busy time you might need to wait to park or think about finding an appropriate space at a nearby business and possibly walking over to the trail head.)
Aspen Corner–Part of the AZ Trail
Routinely listed as one of the best places to view fall foliage and changing colors in Arizona, I was really excited to explore Aspen Corner. Just as the name suggests, this trail and really this entire stretch of road leading up to the base of Humphrey’s Peak is filled with tall, white aspen trees. If you’re coming from the desert, don’t be surprised if you need to pick your jaw up off the dusty ground once you park–it’s stunning. While early September is too early to see any leaves changing color the vibrant greens set against the white tree trunks is just as beautiful.
Heading north out of Flagstaff you’ll drive for about 7 miles until you reach the road towards Snowbowl. You’ll turn right and drive for about another 6 miles until you reach the trail head. In researching this trail ahead of time I saw that some sites listed this trail as 9 miles total, others only listed 1.2 miles (I think it really depends how far you intend on traveling–it’s very flat and connects with the larger AZ Trail) so you can make this walk as long or short as you’d like. Like Fat Man’s Loop it felt incredibly dog and kid friendly and the terrain was even flatter and more compact. The trail begins with tons of shading, aspen trees, and lush, lime green foliage. It then meanders on and opens up to a wide meadow of wildflowers which then connects you to the AZ Trail. Again, this is not a difficult trail and if you’re looking for a true workout I would say you’d need to run it or bike it to really break any kind of sweat–but the views are just so beautiful that this might be one of the best trails I’ve ever been on in Arizona. I can’t recommend the Aspen corner enough–we will definitely be back and we’ll bring a picnic lunch next time and try to just spend a few hours enjoying the scenery. And now, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
(To Note: There were so many different types of mushrooms and fungi growing all over the lush parts of the trail. I wish I knew more about them because there were so many colors and variations, it was really fun to hunt down each one).
Where To Eat
After walking around Fat Man’s Loop we worked up enough of an appetite to hunt down a place for lunch. A quick Google search for plant-based or vegan friendly restaurants turned up tons of results and I quickly recognized a name I was really familiar with, Whyld Ass. This 100% plant-based, scratch kitchen is not only a brick and mortar in Flagstaff but they’re featured every week at my local farmer’s market in central Phoenix. Their food is really top notch and the ingredients are locally grown. You’ll find everything from kombucha to coffee smoothies to a tofu scramble and mac ‘n’ cheese and everything in between. While the restaurant is plant-based it doesn’t feel like it’s trying overly hard to throw that back in your face–it’s basically just a really delicious cafe featuring really delicious food that just so happens to be plant-based. I ordered the BLTA (zucchini bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, sunflower seed mayo, and avocado) with a curry chickpea salad on the side and Tim ordered a breakfast burrito and a banana/peanut butter smoothie. Finding an amazing cafe where everything my eyeballs land on is plant-based and vegan friendly is currently like a little slice of heaven for me and I could not have been happier with Whyld Ass. In fact, I loved it so much I’m planning on trying my hand at zucchini “bacon” in my own kitchen as soon as I can.
Pato Thai Cuisine
Raise your hand if you love spicy food…now raise it even higher if every time you tell your server “I LOVE spicy” they look at you skeptically and come back with a bowl full of ketchup and tell you to be careful. I don’t know why this seems to happen at restaurants so often but if I only tell you one thing about Pato Thai, know that this scenario will not play out here–and that’s awesome. Our all day adventuring had us hankering hard for some spicy Thai food so when my green curry with tofu and Tim’s pad Thai with shrimp and octopus came back with some heat, we looked at each other with hearts in our eyes. Having endless debates about which Thai restaurants we like best and scoring them seems to be just one of many dorky conversations Tim and I re hash about 87 thousand times a week. Would we come back? Let’s just say Pato Thai just jumped to our #1 spot so yes, yes we’ll definitely be back.
(**I don’t have any pictures of this meal because I was too busy falling in love and shoveling mounds of lava hot rice and curry into my mouth as quickly as possible).
Things To Do
Scenic Chairlift at Snowbowl
If you’re even a little bit afraid of heights then riding an old chairlift almost 12,000 feet into the side of a mountain probably doesn’t sound like the best way to spend a late summer evening. But what if I told you that you could take the edge off with a little vino on the ascent? Intrigued yet? While winter snowboarding and skiing is probably what Snowbowl is better known for, the summer activities on the mountain are pretty breathtaking too. For just under $25.00 a person you can hitch a ride on the scenic chairlift that will amble up the western side of the San Francisco Peaks and drop you off almost 12,000 feet above sea level to the most amazing vistas. Plus, they let you bring a little adult beverage from the lodge nearby with you, so it’s not just beautiful, it’s a little party too!
(**The last time to catch the lift up is at 4:00 p.m., there are other kid friendly activities outside, and bring a sweater).
Daycations are a wonderful way to get out, get moving, and to see your home state in a brand new light. Go ahead, shake things up, take a fresh glance at the beauty that’s all around you.