Entering sign Flagstaff

In addition to altering virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives, COVID-19 has also impacted the preferred summer heat escapes for Phoenix residents. 

Visiting the popular summer vacation destination of Flagstaff, for example, is a different experience in 2020. 

Even prior to the pandemic, Flagstaff residents were becoming increasingly resistant to tourists in recent years. 

While tourism is a major driver of the Flagstaff economy, a number of locals have begun questioning the tradeoff in increased traffic, escalating housing prices, and out-of-town litter scattered throughout the forest each weekend, along with a general disrespect of the local environment and community.  

Visitors potentially spreading a deadly virus is not going to help that situation any. While tourism drives revenue for many businesses, an increasingly vocal group of local residents are pushing back against out-of-town visitors, particularly during a pandemic. 

All bars and many restaurants are closed to a greater degree than in the Phoenix area.  

Others have shifted to take-out only and the restaurants which remain open tend to have long waits due to reduced capacity and options.  

The status and open hours of businesses change frequently and are not always clearly communicated.  

Many popular tourist attractions in the area have been closed for periods of time, have reduced hours or reduced capacity. 

The City of Flagstaff requires masks in all public places, venues will not permit entry to those not wearing a mask. 

 For specific information on what is open at any given time, the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce has an excellent resource listing the current status of local businesses: flagstaffchamber.com/flagstaff-is-open/ 

Outdoor recreation is mostly open, those interested in hiking, biking, golfing, boating, fishing, or camping will find plenty of available options as of mid-July.  

Some specific trailheads, facilities and amenities remain closed and this has varied throughout the summer, so make sure to verify before departing.  

Open fires of any type are not permitted in the area due to the risk of forest fires.  

Many hotels and lodging options remain open, all having impressive web statements detailing the methods used to pretend you can’t contract the coronavirus there.  

Traffic is still a challenge with a large number of vehicles filling the two lanes heading up I-17 to Flagstaff. 

During this time of year, closures of I-17 are common, due to brush fires and accidents.  Verify the highway status before departing and make sure to bring extra water in the event the highway closes. 

While in Flagstaff, the traffic is a bit less than previous summers, but still expect delays and slow going, particularly on the weekends.  

If venturing to Flagstaff this summer, be prepared for a different experience than usual.  Be patient and flexible with your plans and remember that you are a guest in the area.  

Most importantly, practice kindness – for Flagstaff residents to continue extending a welcome mat to visitors from Phoenix, we all need to work on making a good impression. 

Ahwatukee resident Andy Lenartz writes frequently on outdoor issues for AFN.

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