Beginner’s Trail Guide: Buffalo Park Loop in Flagstaff

Earlier this summer, I hit the road for a conservation conference and visited Arizona for the first time. Phoenix left a lot to be desired, considering it was just below 100 degrees when I arrived at 8:30 p.m., but I completely fell in love with Flagstaff. The town is super cool, the weather is gorgeous, and they have a great trail system!

I struggled a bit to find a good trailhead for the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (which I mostly wanted to do because it’s called FUTS or “foots”) since I didn’t want to run very far. A brief Google led me to Buffalo Park, where they have a two mile loop just outside of town. The trail was also described as “family friendly” aka “if a toddler can do this, so you can you.”

Buffalo Park Flagstaff Easy Trails

The park is a 10 minute drive from downtown Flagstaff, and there is plenty of parking in a large gravel lot. The road is paved all the way until that lot, and there is no reason you would need an SUV to navigate it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 8.39.52 AM

The trail is really wide and very well maintained. The loop is not well marked, however, and I couldn’t find a trail map online or at the entrance. I relied on my phone’s Google Maps app to make sure I was staying on the right trail.

There aren’t many turns once you get going on the loop trail, but it’s not really clear where to start to the two mile loop. I didn’t want to get in over my head, especially because I was alone in a fairly remote, unfamiliar place. Despite running solo in a large park at 6 p.m., I still felt totally safe. It was still light out, plus there were lots of other people on the trail (but not so many that it felt crowded).

Yep, I selfied on the trail. Judge me.
Yep, I selfied on the trail. Judge me. Also, click the pic for my gear review on this Target shirt!

The trail itself is mostly flat, with a few mildly steep hills. The 7,000 foot elevation was kicking my butt, and I quickly figured out that going counterclockwise on the trail was the uphill route. I suggest turning right off the main entrance if you want an easier time. If you start feeling overwhelmed, especially as an out-of-towner, about halfway through the loop trail intersects with another one that takes you straight back to the entrance.

Google makes it look like a road, but it's not.
Google makes it look like a road, but it’s not.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to go for a hike, that “road” leads to other trails that venture into the surrounding mountains. The only facilities are in the parking lot – there’s a sizable bank of portopotties, which makes me think this place is even more popular on the weekends. There are also trash cans, but I didn’t see any water fountains.

Overall, I highly recommend the Buffalo Park Loop. It’s beginner-friendly without sacrificing views, which are especially nice if you’ve been trapped in a windowless room at a conference all day and are starting to go a little stir crazy =)


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