Flagstaff ( FLAG-staf) is a city in, and the county seat of, Coconino County in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2019, the city’s estimated population was 75,038. Flagstaff’s combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097.
Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau and within the San Francisco volcanic field, along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States. The city sits at about 7,000 feet (2,100 m) and is next to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness. The geology of the Flagstaff area includes exposed rock from the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, with Moenkopi Formation red sandstone having once been quarried in the city; many of the historic downtown buildings were constructed with it. The Rio de Flag river runs through the city.
Originally settled by the pre-Columbian native Sinagua people, the area of Flagstaff has fertile land from volcanic ash after eruptions in the 11th century. It was first settled as the present-day city in 1876. Local businessmen lobbied for Route 66 to pass through the city, which it did, turning the local industry from lumber to tourism and developing downtown Flagstaff. In 1930, Pluto was discovered from Flagstaff. The city developed further through to the end of the 1960s, with various observatories also used to choose Moon landing sites for the Apollo missions. Through the 1970s and 1980s, downtown fell into disrepair, but was revitalized with a major cultural heritage project in the 1990s.
The city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and Historic Route 66.