The Arboretum at Flagstaff offers guided tours on select days May through October and bird walks on Saturdays, May through July
Published July/August 2014

Put the Petal to the Nettle

Take a drive on the wildflower side of Flagstaff

BYColleen Miniuk-Sperry
Though the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers,” when it comes to Arizona’s high country, the idiom would be more accurate if rewritten to say, “July monsoon torrential downpours bring an August explosion of wildflowers.” While the low-lying deserts to the south sear under the unrelenting summer sun, the wooded high country around Flagstaff gets wild about wildflowers. An 80-mile road trip from this mountainside town provides ample opportunities to stop and smell the beautiful blooms.
 
Fuel up in Flagstaff before beginning your trip and then head south on Lake Mary Road. After driving about nine miles, take a peek on the west side of the road to see a carpet of yellow goldeneye and sunflowers waving in the wind along the grassy shoreline around Upper and Lower Lake Mary. Several designated pullouts allow you to park and enjoy a short saunter among the flowers.
 
Floral Wanderings
Continue driving an additional 15 miles to the south to reach the Mormon Lake Overlook. Though little more than a swampy marshland for most of the year, Mormon Lake is Arizona’s largest naturally occurring lake. Named for the Mormon settlers who traveled to the area in the 1870s, Mormon Lake showcases expansive views of high-country meadows filled with a vibrant mix of wildflowers. From this viewpoint (and a second overlook just 1.8 miles to the south with an equally impressive vista), “petal peepers” will enjoy a broad display of color as monsoon blooms such as orange desert globemallow, yellow sweet clover, cream-colored butter-and-eggs (also known as toadflax), and purple wild geranium surround the picturesque lake.  
 
Return to Lake Mary Road and travel north a little more than 7 miles to the Forest Road 82E turnoff for Ashurst Lake. Turn right to follow the well-maintained gravel road, suitable for two-wheel drive cars, and meander 3.9 miles. In the meadows along the way, large swaths of yellow calliopsis provide a vibrant foreground to complement the equally beautiful backdrop of the San Francisco Peaks to the north. Keep your eyes peeled for Engelmann’s prickly pear cactus showing off lively yellow flowers as you approach the charming lake.
 
 
Just 14 miles beyond Flagstaff, Arizona Snowbowl is one of the oldest continually operated ski areas in the country, but its summer season lasts late-May through mid-October
Just 14 miles beyond Flagstaff, Arizona Snowbowl is one of the oldest continually operated ski areas in the country, but its summer season lasts late-May through mid-October
Welcome to AAA Highroads
To enjoy customized local content, please enter your ZIP Code below.
Zip Code
AAA Arizona proudly serves AAA members in the state of Arizona
×