Arizona : Safety by City
- Casa Grande
- Lake Havasu City
- Oro Valley
- Sierra Vista
Take your trip to new heights in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The city itself sits at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level and is home to a ski resort at 9,000 feet leading to the tallest peak in Arizona, Mount Humphreys, at 12,600 feet.
The city is home to Northern Arizona University, giving it a college town vibe with some nightlife to complement the daytime outdoor activities.
It is a smaller town of fewer than 80,000 people and doesn’t so much as have a Costco (that’s the #1 complaint from locals).
You are really going to need to love the outdoors to visit Flagstaff, as it’s surrounded by forests and it’s smack dab in the middle of the country’s largest ponderosa pine forest, Coconino National Forest.
One of the benefits of staying in Flagstaff is how close you are to so many natural wonders in all directions.
- Grand Canyon: 90 minutes away
- Sedona: 45 minutes away
- Phoenix: 2 hours away
- Petrified National Forest: 2 hours and 30 minutes away
- Lake Havasu: 3 hours away
- Las Vegas: 4 hours away
The city’s name comes from 1876 when settlers whittled a flagstaff out of ponderosa pine and put a U.S. flag on top to celebrate the nation’s centennial.
The name “Flagstaff” stuck and the city grew into the picturesque community we know today.
**TALK LIKE THE LOCALS:
Coconino is pronounced in many ways by people, but the proper pronunciation is “Coe-cuh-NEEN-oh.”
If you say “Cocoa-Neen-oh” you won’t get too much grief.
Warnings & Dangers in Flagstaff
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk. We do have some specific higher crime issues to discuss, but overall this city is not only safe for tourists, but it's also welcoming to them. In fact, since the pandemic struck, so many people have moved to Flagstaff (realizing they can work from home) it has driven housing prices up.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Mountain line bus system is the public transportation option, but honestly, this is a city designed for walking and biking. There is an urban trail system set up that people use daily. Taxis and rideshares are an option too. All of these have a low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
18 pickpockets were reported in 2020, but that's still a low risk. Thieves got away with $50 on average per theft. It's a great reminder to carry as little as possible and leave valuables at home.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There are several things to keep an eye on throughout the year. Wildfires and flooding in the summer and spring with snowstorms and blizzards in the winter. There's a medium risk because of all of that, and make sure to study up on safety through the Coconino.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a one in 1873 chance of being robbed in Flagstaff, and I'd say that is a low risk. The city does have a crime prevention hotline if you have more questions about that topic. That number is (928)774-1414.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of terrorism here. The bigger targets of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Phoenix are a few hours away, so Flagsgtaff might get some residual impact from an attack or a rush of people escaping, but probably wouldn't be a direct target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There is a low risk of being scammed and that might be because the Flagstaff Police Department does such a good job of letting people know about common scams. Check out its website under the "Avoid Being Conned" section.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women should be safe to travel here. There were 39 rapes reported, which is slightly more than the national average, so it's always wise to watch your surroundings, especially if you're leaving a bar at night.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
There's no risk when using the tap water of Flagstaff. The quality meets or exceeds expectations. Even with a national standard of assessing risk levels for drinking water supplies, the risk in Flagstaff is low. Cities like Sedona have a higher risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Flagstaff
Snowbowl is the place to ski if you love fresh powder.
There are beginner lessons available if you are as bad of a skier as I am.
This isn’t a small-town ski resort.
There are 55 trails, four parks, and three mountain lodges to warm up.
Going in the summer?
No worries, you can still ascend 3,000 feet on the ski lift to catch breath-taking views of the forest.
I got REALLY distracted writing this looking at the web cameras of Coconino National Forest.
You’ll see some plants that thrive at high altitudes and can’t grow near sea level.
You might even see a Black Bear.
In all my years of hiking, I’ve never seen a bear, which is probably a good thing because my last words would be “Who’s a good bear?
You aren’t so tough, are ya?”
We’ll go through bear safety in a bit.
Wupatki National Monument is incredible with the remains of a community from the early 1100s.
These villages called “pueblos” were home to indigenous people and it’s amazing how many of the structures still stand all this time.
The Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course is a great way to test your strength and physical skills without having to climb a mountain to do so.
There are obstacle courses and ziplines.
Don’t worry about the kids, there’s a special course just for them.
A trip inside the Riordan Mansion is an incredible throwback to the start of the 20th century.
The home was designed by the same architect who designed the prestigious Grand Canyon hotel.
Tours are available as self-guided or with a docent.
Places to Avoid in Flagstaff
Crime maps show the incidents are pretty spread out all over the community.
The more north you go, the lower the crime rates get, but the population also goes down.
The city saw a spike in violent crime during the pandemic, with no real easy-to-connect dots as to why that happened.
It’s got a small-town feel, but there’s also more crime than the police or citizens would like.
There are plenty of programs and initiatives between law enforcement and community members to keep you safe.
I do want to talk about the one thing you definitely need to avoid in Flagstaff — Altitude Sickness.
Depending on where you live, your body might have a hard time adapting to a daily base elevation of 7000 feet.
As elevation goes up, oxygen levels become lower.
This means you might start breathing heavier or faster to keep oxygen in your body.
Overexerting yourself leads to altitude sickness.
You have to give your body time to adjust, even if it means extending your vacation a day or two on both ends, to get the best experience possible.
Signs of altitude sickness from the Cleveland Clinic:
- Feeling unusually tired or worn out from basic activities
- Having a headache that feels different than any you’ve had before
- Feeling sick to your stomach suddenly
- Constantly feeling like you can’t get enough air
- Getting dizzy just walking around
- Insomnia when you’ve never had an issue falling asleep
Depending on your home elevation, fitness level, age, and health history, it could take a few hours or a few days to get adjusted.
Talk to your doctor before visiting Flagstaff just to be safe.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Flagstaff
- Flagstaff Police say a car is stolen every nine minutes across Arizona. With Flagstaff being right along a major interstate, car thieves might be looking for a quick getaway. It’s simple to avoid being a victim if you use an anti-theft device, like The Club, on your steering wheel. Don’t leave valuables in the car and, no matter how cold it is, don’t leave your car unattended while it warms up.
- If you’re visiting anytime from October through April, make sure you bring snow chains for your tires. If you are unsure how to put them on (and let me tell you – IT IS NOT EASY. Long story that’s more embarrassing for me, but it’s not as easy as it looks) watch YouTube videos or just ask someone at a service station to put them on. Some of the mountain roads might require chains or studded tires, so plan ahead.
- Make sure you have an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle when visiting Flagstaff. Be specific with the rental car company about where you plan to visit and how important good traction will be.
- As much as you prepare for snow in the winter, you should prepare for wildfires in the summer and fall. For those not in an area prone to wildfires, there are “Red Flag Warnings” which means a fire could easily start and spread quickly under current and forecasted conditions. Even something such as a campfire not fully extinguished has led to hundreds of thousands of acres being destroyed. Review the Arizona Wildfire Prevention website. It’s good reading for the plane or car ride to Flagstaff.
- The Flagstaff Police Department and Coconino (did you say it correctly in your head?) The sheriff’s Office has a Silent Witness program where you can submit a tip online about any crime and you’ll remain anonymous.
- If you are biking through Flagstaff, don’t ride on the sidewalks. In some parts of downtown, it’s illegal and in other parts, it is discouraged. Use the bike lanes and leave the sidewalks for pedestrians.
- When cycling at night, you must have a headlight on your bike. The reflective gear is not sufficient and riding without a headlight can get you a ticket.
- The urban trail in Flagstaff is called FUTS (pronounced “foots”) and is a great way to get around and bicycles are allowed here. Pedestrians do have the right-of-way and must be yielded to in all circumstances. Only cross streets in designated crosswalks but pause a beat to make sure drivers see you.
- Flagstaff is a “Golden Rule” city by official decree, which means all residents and visitors must treat people as they want to be treated and be open to diversity and inclusion with a helpful spirit.
- If you are renting a home in Flagstaff, you cannot have a campfire in the backyard unless it’s in a fire pit with a spark arrestor. (I had to Google that, but it’s a device that keeps sparks and fires debris from flying around. You can use a grill unless this is a direct weather warning to not use it.
So... How Safe Is Flagstaff Really?
Flagstaff is a fun city that almost outgrew itself.
The streets aren’t really built to accommodate all the traffic from locals, tourists, and the university.
This leads to traffic problems.
When the city tries to do construction to expand, there’s more traffic trouble with road closures.
It does seem odd that a city of 80,000 people doesn’t have a big box store other than a Walmart.
You have to go to Prescott, a city of 42,000 people, to get to one.
It’s just another sign that the city grew quickly with neighborhoods but the roads and amenities didn’t necessarily keep up.
As for crime, it’s another thing the city is trying to tackle with all the growth.
It’s not a dangerous city at all, but the growing crime areas make it rank on some “most dangerous cities” listings just because of the crime values compared to national levels.
Property crime and violent crime are both above the Arizona average.
Property crime is above the national average, but violent crime is below.
The city generally has fewer than 5 homicides a year, and four years of the past decade had none.
Here’s how the risks break down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 295 chance
- Robbery: 1 in 1873 chance
- Theft: 1 in 49 chance
When looking at the crime numbers, perspective is good.
For example, looking at the theft rate.
There were 1545 thefts.
This is a city where a lot more people ride bicycles by percentage than other cities. 95 of those thefts were bicycles.
Also, when you take shoplifting (43% of thefts) out of the theft category, because that’s not a risk to you as a tourist, the risk goes down to one in 87.
It’s just an example of how sometimes crime rates that look high can really be pinpointed to a particular reason, not an inherent risk to a tourist.
How Does Flagstaff Compare?
- Visas - Once you've gotten through the airport with your Visa, you don't need additional processing in Flagstaff.
- Currency - You'll use U.S. Dollar currency here. Most of the major attractions, like the national forests and ski resorts, allow you to purchase tickets in advance online. This will save you from having to pull out your wallet in public.
- Weather - Breaking the stereotype of Arizona, the summers here don't get hotter than the mid-80s, and even in June, you could have a low in the 40s. From November through April, you'll have an average low below freezing. Winter highs rarely break the 50°(F) mark. Pack lots of layers of winter clothing, sunscreen, gloves, scarves, and a few hats. The best way to keep heat escaping from your body is to wear a hat.
- Airports - You can get to Denver, Phoenix, and Dallas from the smaller Flagstaff airport. Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix is two and a half hours away. The Las Vegas airport is four hours away.
- Travel Insurance - As you plan your trip to Flagstaff, be sure to get travel insurance. Wildfires and winter storms can quickly cancel flights or roads. Even the interstate can get shut down. It's best to be protected financially for your trip.
Flagstaff Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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