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AZ Trail Section: Portion of 33

Distance: Approximately 8.1 Miles

Begin Point:  Schultz Creek Parking Area (35.244835, -111.661253)

End Point:  Sinclair Wash Duck Pond (35.183547, -111.631205) or Sam’s Club.

Highlights:  Rocky Ridge Trail, Buffalo Park, The Dale Shewalter Memorial, Switzer Mesa, Flagstaff Urban Trail System

Difficulty: Easy

This is a great, easy hike through the forests in and around Flagstaff!  You will start at a Forest Service parking area, located about ¼ mile north of the intersection of Schultz Pass Road and Mount Elden Lookout Road in rural northwest Flagstaff.  This parking area is extremely popular with the Flagstaff locals as it has access to about 6 trails that head off in 3 or 4 directions from there.  Parking spaces may be a bit limited, but you can head north or south a few hundred yards and be fine.  From the road intersection, proceed north on Schultz Pass Road.  Just after crossing the cattle guard will be a road to the right that leads to the parking area and the trailhead.

Today’s trail will head almost due east.  You will take the aptly named Rocky Ridge Trail which rises slowly in elevation and meanders along the south side of the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff.  You will have great views of rural north Flagstaff off to the south and be surrounded by those tall Ponderosa Pines that make Flagstaff home.

After about the 2 mile point, you will cross Mount Elden Lookout Road.  This road accesses the top of Mount Elden which looms ahead and to your left.  At about 9300 feet in elevation, Mount Elden is a volcanic dome mountain.  It is essentially a giant volcano that burped up, but never erupted in the traditional sense, but lava flowed outward through vents.  Mount Elden is a very popular hiking and training destination and has 5 or 6 great hiking trails that are easily accessed from Flagstaff neighborhoods.  It also features fairly steep elevation changes and is popular for high altitude endurance training.

After crossing Mount Elden Lookout Road, you will meander southwest around the base of Mount Elden and eventually head almost due south into Flagstaff.  At about the 4.3 mile point of today’s hike, you will enter the north end (or back entrance) to Buffalo Park and are now inside Flagstaff city limits.  You are traversing what locals call McMillan Mesa and have moved from a Forest Service trail and are now in the Flagstaff Urban Trail System known commonly as the FUTS Trails. 

Buffalo Park is a City of Flagstaff walking and running park that is known for its sweeping views of the mountains and hills to the north.  It is located about mid-city in the north end of Flagstaff and is very well known to runners and walkers alike.

Buffalo Park started out as a wildlife park and old west town in the early 1960’s and was created by a committee of local business people with help from the City of Flagstaff.  Here is a great blog on the history of Buffalo Park:

The park was the inspiration for the movie “Bless the Beasts and The Children” which came out in 1971: which had a featured song of the same name performed by The Carpenters:

In the late 1960’s, several Buffalo escaped the park and were discovered grazing at Flagstaff’s Sechrist Elementary School, which caused quite a stir with the school kids, including myself!  I still remember the massive piles of Buffalo dung that lingered a few days. And I will never forget the then Principal of the school, Tony Gabeldon, trying to build up the courage to chase off the buffalo and failing.

By 1969, the park had closed and the animals had been sold to other attractions.  The park was basically deserted through the 1970’s and was mostly used by my friends and me to stage BB gun wars and weekly adventures.  I grew up within a mile or so of there and it was basically our side-yard growing up in Flagstaff, AZ.

On your hike south through Buffalo Park, pause near the entrance not only for water at the water fountain, but also to take the time to walk east and visit the memorial to Dale Shewalter, founder of the Arizona Trail.  It was Dale’s idea in 1985 to create a trail that spanned Arizona from north to south traversing the best that the state has to offer.  He passed away at the age of 59 in 2010 after a fight with cancer, and missed the final touches on the Arizona Trail, but knew it would be finished…and it is!

I was lucky enough to have actually known Dale Shewalter as he was good friends with my older brother, John Nelson of local Forest Service fame.  I have a hand carved walking stick that Dale gave me as a thank you for helping him move his father into a retirement community in Sedona.  Dale’s father made the walking stick and Dale finished it for me and carved my initial “G” at the top of it.  To this day I use it (although sparingly so that I never lose it) and it is my goal to be using that walking stick when I hike to both ends of the Arizona trail, Mexico and Utah.  Here is some info on Dale: and also

After thinking on this great man a bit, head south and out the front entrance of Buffalo Park.  After about a half mile, you will take a magnificent bridge over Cedar Avenue in north Flagstaff.  This bridge was funded by Flagstaff voters and is another great tribute to the Arizona Trail and its founder.  From the bridge you will hike south on the FUTS trail through and around Switzer Mesa and will have great views of a lot of Flagstaff and it’s neighborhoods with hills and mountains mostly to the north.  At the south end of the mesa, you will drop down through Ponderosa Paine and Gambel Oak groves to Route 66 at mile point 7.1.  Pause for a moment as you wait for the crossing signal and wonder that this is truly Route 66, the Mother Road, and the heart of America.  You only get to cross it once on the Arizona Trail, and this is the spot!

As you head south across Route 66 and the railroad tracks almost immediately you will come to the Trails underpass underneath one of Flagstaff’s busiest intersections.  This is another big investment that the people of Flagstaff have made in the Arizona Trail!  Continue west on Butler Avenue for a block or 2, turn south on Babbitt Way and the end of today’s hike is near!   You will either stop at that Sam’s Club parking lot where your car is parked or will continue following the markers to the actual end for today, the pond of reclaimed water at Sinclair Wash in South Flagstaff.  Although treated to as high a quality as the City of Flagstaff can make it, it is treated effluent and the water behind you at any mini-mart or fast food restaurant will serve you much better!  

The Arizona Trail

by Gary Nelson

The name is reminiscent of an old western.  Tex Ritter starred in the 1943 movie of the same name. It was the story of a man and his sidekick returning home to rescue the family ranch from unseen forces. Today, The Arizona Trail is a meandering 800 mile hiking and horseback riding trail that stretches from Mexico in the south all the way to Utah at Arizona’s northern border.

Arizona Trail Sign

 And what a trail it is.  It traverses the state and takes the adventurous into what Arizona is all about. Vast open spaces and a diverse ecology that is uniquely Arizona. From the rolling oak covered hills and canyons of Arizona’s border with Mexico, through the rugged southern deserts, up along the Mogollon Rim and into Arizona’s alpine highlands. From here it circles Arizona’s highest vistas, crosses wind-swept high desert plains, travels deep into the Grand Canyon and then crosses the forested hills of the Arizona Strip until finally finishing at the Utah border.

The trail was the brainchild of the late Dale Shewalter, a Flagstaff grade school teacher who traversed the route in 1985 and dreamed of an interconnecting trail system that would stretch the distance of the entire state. His vision eventually did become The Arizona Trail.  I had the honor of knowing Dale quite well, as he was good friends with my brother.  I have a walking stick that his father made.  Dale carved the initial “G” into the top and gave it to me when I helped him move once.

Here is a great article on Dale in Flagstaff's Arizona Daily Sun

Started in the late 1980’s, the Arizona Trail is finished now and only small portions have yet to be improved even more.  Through National Forests, National Parks, State Trust lands and BLM lands, the Arizona Trail has been going for 25+ years and 800+ miles.

2 parts of the trail run right through the heart of Flagstaff and it also wanders through its nearby forests as part of Flagstaff’s Urban Trail system.  Many Flagstaff residents utilize sections of the Arizona Trail as part of walking their dog or teaching their children to ride a bike.

Perhaps you will get a chance to hike some of its grandeur or set a life-goal of walking the entire length in stages. The Arizona Trail will reward you with a deep understanding of what Arizona truly is: A rugged landscape of beauty and adventure. To gather information on a passage of the trail near you, visit the Arizona Trail Passages page.  For more information and current trail conditions, check out The Arizona Trail Associations website.

As for me, it is now one of my life goals, a bucket-list item, if you will.  I have set a goal of wandering the entire length and have about 40 miles of it complete as of this writing.  I will be using that walking stick that Dale Shewalter gave me decades ago as I finish this goal.  It may take me years to do, but it has been a blast so far!  I will be writing about each leg of my journey from the viewpoint of someone hiking the trail in “day hikes”, shorter 7 to 15 mile legs of this wonderful Arizona Trail.  Stay tuned and I will update you on our progress on this blog!

 Happy wandering!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

The Arizona Trail For Day Hikers: An Introduction

by Gary Nelson

This is my second blog in a series on the Arizona Trail that I will write as I hike the entire length of Arizona, top to bottom, from Utah to Mexico.  If you have not read my previous blog post on an introduction to the Arizona Trail, you can find it here.

The Arizona Trail North To Utah

I will write as I go from the perspective of someone who is experiencing almost all of it for the first time and also from the perspective of a day hiker.  To hike all 809 miles of this awesome trek all at once, or even in passages would be…amazing to do. It would be very reminiscent of the movie, “Wild” where Reese Witherspoon’s character traverses the length of the Pacific Coast Trail banishing her inner-demons along the way.  But no, I don’t have time for that nor does my right knee relish its old high school track injuries.  Maybe you don’t have that kind of time either and that is why you are still reading this.  Regardless, for many people, breaking up an 809 mile hike makes sense, I am sure.

I also am lucky in that I don’t have any inner demons to purge like Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Wild” had and therefore, I won’t subject any of you to very much drama.  I will do this in stages and it may take a while, but as of this my first writing…I am about 40 miles along the way after a little over a month of weekend hikes.  Most “legs” or “Stages” that I will write about will be 7 to 13 miles in length.  That is a fairly good morning hike for most people or…it is for me!  As time goes on, I know that I will need to plan some multi-day back packing trips to explore the remote parts of the State that is traversed by the Trail, but for now, it is great to be able to do this huge goal in small bites.

The Arizona Trail near Flagstaff

Also, I am very lucky to live in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Flagstaff is a day hiker’s dream location. The Arizona Trail runs right through the heart of Flagstaff and utilizes the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS Trails) which features spectacular scenery in Flagstaff on a very nice trail surface.  Here is some great info on Flagstaff’s FUTS trail.

Therefore, I will be using Flagstaff as a center for these writings as most of the people that might read my blogs live there too.  If you live somewhere else, just search through my blogs for a Stage of the trail that appeals to you and start there.  Also, I would recommend the official Arizona Trail website for Passages. 

However, the Passages section on is broken down into 30 to 50 mile sections, which is very hard for a day hiker to do.  So what I will concentrate on is to try to convey the easiest way to use the AZ Trail in smaller, more manageable legs that I will call Stages.  This will include information on where I started, where I stopped and where I left a car.  This will be extremely important, of course, when it comes time to come back home again!  A turn around spot, a place to drop a car for pickup or a place to be picked up by a friend will be very, very important to the success of your hike, so plan accordingly! At the end of each blog I will also give you an added bonus:  A recommendation for a great place to grab a bite to eat!  After hiking all morning, a great restaurant is a very welcome reward for yourself, and I know some great places.

I would be remiss if I did not remind you to BE PREPARED for hiking anywhere and everywhere.  Maybe it’s the old Boy Scout in me that spent so much time hiking the Grand Canyon, Havasupai and other parts of Arizona that makes me try to be prepared for ANYTHING that comes my way.  My Camelpack is loaded and quite heavy even for a day hike.  I prepare for maybe getting lost or being stuck in the wilderness for several days, even if I am only gone for a few hours.  Prepare for the worst.  I use my Camelpack as a “bug-out bag” and make sure it is loaded for almost any emergency I can think of.  From a first aid kit, to a survival kit it is loaded.  When I hike, I am not only trying to be prepared for a blister on my foot, but also a change in the weather I didn’t know about or even personal safety.  You never know who else might be on the trail.

So…first make sure that you are healthy and fit enough to do the hike at all.  Get a physical if you haven’t had one recently.  Talk to your doctor about your health.  From there, here is a great resource for hints on how to be prepared for hiking and back packing:

That’s it for this blog. My next will be about my first Stage of the Arizona Trail:  Flagstaff.  That first hike was in August of 2015, so hopefully future blogs from me will explore other sections of the AZ Trail both north and south from Flagstaff, and in the order I did them.  At this writing, I have at least 5 Stages of the trail to talk about, so be patient with me and you will see some great photos of what I have seen on the trail along with some information that might help you with your own trek along Arizona’s great trail.


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's Top 3: Small Plate Restaurants

by Gary Nelson

My last blog on Flagstaff Top 3:  Fine Dining caused a bit of a stir, as did a blog I wrote Flagstaff Top 3:  Mexican Restaurants For Breakfast Or Lunch a couple of months ago.  So, I thought I would appease a few people by taking a few of their suggestions and write a new blog on Small Plate Restaurants.  Now, strictly speaking, at least one (if not 2) of these are not really in a "Small Plate" category, but...they are good restaurants and don't quite fit under "Fine Dining" or anything else I can think of.  So, maybe this blog should be Flagstaff Top 3:  Places You Should Try From This Blog!

So, here goes:


Tinderbox is one of those places that is very good, but you don't really know where to categorize them.  Excellent food, but not quite "fine dining" as the atmosphere is much more casual.  "Flagstaff casual", as many of my friends would say.  But, as I said, it is very good.  So...that is why I am putting it in this blog.


Tinderbox describes itself as American comfort food and that pretty much sums it up.  I had the duck last time I was there and it was great.  Next door is Tinderbox Annex and the burger special of the day is what you want to have there.  But, order early as they typically sell out quickly.  The locals pretty much buy up the burgers at Annex.

Tinderbox Kitchen is grouped with Tinderbox Annex and the Tourist Home and provides 3 great places on South San Francisco Street in south Downtown Flagstaff. All 3 are fun places to grab a bite to eat.  Tinderbox Kitchen for dinner, Annex for drinks or happy hour with friends and Tourist Home for deli items, lunch or to go food.  Give any of them a shot!

Here is a link to their menu:  Tinderbox Kitchen Menu

Here is a link to Yelp's Review of Tinderbox Kitchen.

And a review on Tripadvisor of Tinderbox Kitchen


Coppa Cafe

This is another very good (OK, it is actually great) restaurant in Flagstaff that is hard to categorize.  It is very, very good, has strong French and continental influences but is casual.  So, I am putting here in a blog on small plate restaurants in Flagstaff.

Coppa Cafe

Honestly, I think I like it better for brunch on a Sunday morning than for Dinner.  Don't get me wrong, because dinner is excellent, but there is something to be said for a nice, relaxing Sunday brunch that is done well.

Coppa Interior

Some people call it "coppa", that sounds like a Brooklyn version of copper.  Others call it "coppa" like copa cabana.  But whatever you call it, you will enjoy it.  From excellent coffee drinks to hand made pastries as this is one of Flagstaff's best restaurants, hands down.

Here is Coppa Cafe's review on Yelp. 

Here is the review on

And here is the menu from their own website,


Shift Kitchen and Bar

Brand new to Downtown Flagstaff is Shift the sign says, Sh/ft.  It is another Flagstaff restaurant located on San Francisco Street, this time at 107 North.  It occupies a space that was formerly Flag Buzz coffee shop and Late For The Train before that.


It is getting very popular, very quickly as it is quite good.  I went there a few weeks ago in a group of about 8 friends celebrating birthdays and it was perfect.  We pretty much fought over the pork belly which was the special that night.  It was excellent.

Now, a word of caution:  This truly is a small plate restaurant, so do what we did, and order a bunch of plates and enjoy tasting each others picks.  Otherwise, prepare for an expensive meal as you order multiple plates just for yourself.

Here is a link to Shift on Open Table.

And here is the Menu at

And a review from Yelp of Shift Kitchen.


You won't go wrong at any of these 3 above places to grab a bite in Flagstaff.  Each is great in it's own way, but different from each other in menu, atmosphere and presentation.  Enjoy!

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's Top 3: Fine Dining Restaurants

by Gary Nelson

As you may know, I have been blogging for a few months on Flagstaff's Top 3 in various restaurant categories.  My first blog was New Restaurants in Flagstaff, followed by Flagstaff's Top 3: Places To Get Lunch Downtown, and my most recent was Flagstaff's Top 3: Mexican Restaurants for Breakfast or Lunch.  That last one got a bit contentious as I found out that a few of my friends have absolutely no idea what Mexican food actually is!  Oh well, "some peoples kids", as they say!

So, this time I would like to get a little less contentious and talk about Fine Dining in Flagstaff.  The truth be told, there really aren't that many Fine Dining restaurants to begin with, so my job in this blog is not that difficult.  As a matter of fact, the first two below are very easy to pin down, but it's just number 3 that is difficult to decide on.  So, here we go:

Cottage Place

Cottage Place Restaurant is widely accepted as the best restaurant in Flagstaff and has been in most peoples mind for many, many years.  I have heard a few people grumble that they have slipped into a bit too much "southwestern" in the past few years, but in my opinion Cottage Place still is the top restaurant in Flagstaff.

Cottage Place

The restaurant was started by Ron Freeman in 1981, sold to Kurt Gottshalk after that and is now owned by Frank Branham, who bought it in 1994.  Frank is now considered a celebrated local chef, and has won many awards for both his craft and for The Cottage Place.  It repeatedly wins Best Fine Dining in Flagstaff on different sites and newspapers and is a very highly regarded local eatery in anyone's book.

Here is a link to their menu: Cottage Place Menu.

For me, I have always loved the Grilled White Mexican Shrimp.  The grilled flavor is absolutely excellent.  Also, Cottage Place would probably be on everyone's short list for the best place to go on a date.  If that is what you are doing, why not have the Chateaubriand For Two? Imagine a perfectly cooked filet mignon roast that is carved table side and served with roasted vegetables.  It is excellent when paired with the perfect wine.  Finally, the desserts at Cottage Place are excellent as well.  Leave room for the Arizona Cream.  Think of it as a white chantilly cream mousse with raspberries.  It is very good!

Cottage Plates

Overall, Cottage Place could be successful in any large city in the US, but to have a restaurant of this caliber in Flagstaff is wonderful!

Here is a link to the Cottage Place's Yelp Reviews.

Here is a link to TripAdvisor's Reviews of Cottage Place.


Josephine's Modern American Bistro

Located on very busy Humphrey's Street, Josephine's is another cozy fine dining restaurant that is occupying a very quaint, old Flagstaff house.  This craftsman style building is made of local stone and is very warm and inviting.

Josephine's is a good solid choice for lunch or dinner in Flagstaff.  However, their weekend brunch has become very popular and my family absolutely loves it.  Not to be missed.

I have friends that claim that the burger at Josephine's is the best hamburger that they have had anywhere.  So, that would be a recommendation, but to be honest I haven't tried it.  I always get distracted by something else on the menu.


Here is a link to Trip Advisor's Reviews of Josephine's.

Here is a like to Yelps Reviews of Josephine's.


1899 Bar and Grill

OK, this last one is a little tough, because I am not so certain that 1899 deserves the recognition.  I have been there for lunch a couple of times lately and they seemed to have slipped a bit.  However, with being a part of Northern Arizona University, they may just be limiting their lunch menu to attract a wider crowd from the University.  Also I would need to give a nod to both Tinderbox and also Coppa Cafe as they are...not quite "fine dining", but very, very good and I will have to blog about them both later!

That said, I have had some very memorable meals at 1899 Bar and Grill.  I must say that I have had probably the best grilled chicken breast I have ever eaten there.  Grilling a piece of boneless chicken breast to absolute perfection is not as easy at it seems, because it can be over cooked or under cooked immediately.  Also, they can be over seasoned or marinated quite quickly.

Here is a link to 1899's Dinner Menu.

1899 Bar and Grill

I think what I like best about 1899 is that it is part of Northern Arizona University.  So, you are likely to have student staff and cooks serving you as you enjoy your meal.  So, be patient with them as they learn their trades!

Here is a link to Yelp's Reviews of 1899.

Here is a link to Trip Advisor's Reviews of 1899.

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's Top 3: Mexican Restaurants For Breakfast Or Lunch

by Gary Nelson

Here is a link to my last blog, Flagstaff Top 3: Best Places For Lunch In Downtown Flagstaff.

OK, I will flat out say it:  Mexican food in Flagstaff is not the greatest compared to other parts of Arizona.  The best in the WORLD, in my opinion, is in Phoenix and that is Los Dos Molinos.  There are other very good places in Phoenix, Tucson and points in between, but Flagstaff...not so much.  I had a friend say to me once, "The best Mexican Restaurant in Flagstaff Phoenix."  That's pretty harsh, but is very telling.

And don't ask a Flagstaff "local" either.  They will send you to an old, worn out, dirty place in east Flagstaff that has the blandest, overcooked Sonoran food you have ever had.  I don't know why people here think that's great, but maybe it's because they have never been to Phoenix or Tucson.  Or California.  Or anywhere, I guess.  I am sure that this opinion of mine will upset more than a few of the "locals", but the fact is...your favorite Mexican restaurant is terrible.

However, I am here to tell you that there are a few gems in Flagstaff and that's what we will be exploring in this blog.  I am starting off with Breakfast and Lunch places and saving Dinner recommendations for a later blog.  Here it is:

Tacos Los Altos

There are 2 Tacos Los Altos in Flagstaff, and the strange thing is...I believe they are owned by different people.  I would say, pick one.  For me, I chose the East Flagstaff location (3650 E. Route 66), as it is the original.  It has been several years since I have gone to the South Flagstaff location, but it was equally good.  My friends tell me it still is!  

Tacos Los Altos is a very "Mexican" Mexican Restaurant.  What I mean by that is that it is not Americanized in the least.  This place could be in any Mexican city and draw a big crowd.  It is that good and that authentic.  The shrimp cocktails are as good as anything you would get in Rocky Point.  I don't think I have a favorite item on the menu, so just pick what you like and you won't be disappointed.

Tacos Los AltosI can't seem to find much of a website for these guys other than just a menu page, but here are some reviews on Yelp:  Tacos Los Altos On Yelp.



​Martanne's has a reputation in Flagstaff for being THE breakfast place for Mexican food in Flagstaff and it is for good reason.  It really is quite good.

The place started out as Martan's Burrito Palace and was located in the first block of north San Francisco Street.  It started way back in the early 1980's and I was going there when I was a student at NAU in the late 80's.  It was located in a very small spot that was the Franciscan way back in the day. I remember going as a small child with my family and stepping out on to the street right as the All Indian Pow Wow Parade went by.

Martan's became extremely popular with anyone that went there and the main thing they went for was the Chilaquiles.  If you have never had Chilaquiles, traditionally it is tortilla chips scrambled with pico de gallo, cheese and sometimes eggs.  Martan's became known as "The House That Chilaquiles Built" and never looked back.  Their Chilaquiles are a bit different, with an enchilada sauce blended in, but...they are very good.  The cook for years and years was a little old lady named Alice and if you ever ate any of Alice's food, you can call yourself a true Flagstaff local.


Martan's has been through a couple of intra-family ownership changes over the years, a location change and a name change.  It is now Martanne's and it is still THE place to go for a Mexican Breakfast in Flagstaff.

Here is an Arizona Highways Article on Martanne's.

Here is what Trip Advior has to say about Martanne's

Honestly, I do not know a single person who does not love the place, and you will see it again in my next blog on Flagstaff Mexican food as well.  By the way, it is a great place for dinner as well.


El Capitan Mexican Grill

El Capitan started out several years ago as a west Flagstaff location for Salsa Brava which is another very popular Flagstaff restaurant.  After a sale to a local Flagstaff family, it was rebranded as El Capitan and has never looked back.  El Capitan went its first few years as basically another Salsa Brava, it seems because the recipes were almost identical. But over the years, El Capitan has created its own identity and now holds its own.  I believe that it holds up as one of the better places in Flagstaff for Mexican and let me tell you why.

El Capitan Mural

El Capitan is known for a great salsa bar, a killer margarita called Lily's and some pretty darn good food. For me, I will order the Shrimp Enchiladas with a chipotle sauce or the chili verde with an egg on top. Combine that with a great salsa from the salsa bar and a Lily's and you are set, my friend.

El Capitan Plate

Hey, look!  They actually have a website! 

Hey Look!  Trip Advisor likes them too!


El Capitan Dining

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's Top 3: Places To Have Lunch In Downtown Flagstaff

by Gary Nelson

I am often asked where is a great place to sit down and grab lunch with a friend or business prospect?  Since I work downtown and grew up here in Flagstaff, I will give you a couple of great ideas in no particular order.  Here we go:

Cafe Daily Fare

This is a great spot to go!  It started off as a catering company and they have expanded over the years to become a Flagstaff favorite.  One friend of mine almost always picks Cafe Daily Fare whenever we meet for lunch, and I think I know why.  Very high end feel to the food and the menu changes a bit here and there.  Although not cheap, they won't break your budget either.  This place is not really within walking distance of Downtown for most people, but a short drive away on the shoulder of Downtown behind and east of Babbitt Ford on Route 66.  Very much worth the drive or long walk.

Cafe Daily Fare

 Many locals swear by the duck tacos.  I find them to be a bit too sweet for me, but they are delicious. For me, I will usually opt for a special of the day.  The enchiladas I had last time I was there were very good, as was the muffeletta I had there once.  Of course, the best place on the planet for a muffeletta is Central Grocer in New Orleans, but...we are talking about Flagstaff, Arizona!


Cafe Daily Fare is a place you can't go wrong.  A bit crowded since it is somewhat small and popular, but a great place to meet a friend or 3 for lunch.

Here is their website:  Simply Delicous Cafe Daily Fare


A few of my friends would probably disagree with me on this one, since Charly's isn't the same since Matt left, but I think it is a good, solid choice for a friend lunch or business lunch downtown.  I think they will get it dialed in as this year goes on.  Plus, if I take a client there, it is a big slice of Flagstaff life served along with the lunch.  What I mean, is it is probably one of the most "local" restaurants in Flagstaff, much less downtown.  It is also a good choice for a larger group, as Charly's has a pretty wide menu and everyone can find something to like.

For me, it's the Navajo Taco, hands down.  Chicken with black beans, please.  Extra salsa on the side.  If you don't know what a Navajo or Native Taco is, you are missing out.  It is a serving of fry bread (kind of like a cross between a funnel cake and a sopapilla) with taco toppings loaded on top.  So your meat of choice, beans, lettuce, tomato, and other typically Mexican or southwestern toppings.


Probably the best place to get one in Arizona is at Cameron Trading Post in Cameron about an hour north of Flagstaff on Highway 89.  But Charly's Navajo Taco fills the bill as well.  There are quite a few southwestern options on the menu, as well as sandwiches, salads and more.

Here is their website:  Charly's Pub and Grill 

Swadee Thai

Why Swadee over the much more popular Pa To Thai?  Atmosphere.  Much less crowded and just around the corner.  Honestly I would give a nod to Pa To for their food, but Swadee is quiet and is just a better place to meet people, in my opinion.  I do love Pa To, which will be highlighted in an upcoming food blog on Thai in Flagstaff!

At Swadee, it is Yellow Curry during winter, Mixed Vegetables during summer.  The Yellow Curry features a thick coconut and chili based sauce of your choice of meat plus potatoes, carrots and a few other yummy thing.  Set the heat where you want it, but on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, 3 through 5 will take away that winter chill!  During the summer months, I think the the Mixed Vegetables are perfect because it is a quick stir fry packed with vegetables and once again, you get to tell them how spicy you want it.  Perfect for my version of a quick, light lunch.

Here is their website:  Swadee Thai


That's it for now!  My next blog will be Flagstaff's Top 3: Mexican Restaurants for Breakfast Or Lunch.  

Here is a link to my first blog on food in Flagstaff:  New Restaurants in Flagstaff!

Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff's New Years Pine Cone Drop

by Gary Nelson

Flagstaff's New Years Pin Cone Drop

What is the perfect way to ring in the New Year in Arizona's only true mountain town?  The eagerly-anticipated annual Pinecone Drop is fast approaching!  Flagstaff, Arizona's annual New Years celebration is not to be missed and is not only for the hardy folk that brave that brisk mountain air on New Years Eve.  And best of all, it happens right on the corner of Leroux Street and Aspen Avenue in Downtown Flagstaff.

Each year, a huge fabricated pine cone is lowered at exactly midnight in downtown Flagstaff along with a count down and an eager crowd.  The first drop is at 10PM  for families with children and for those that want to be snug at home at midnight on New Years eve.  2 hours later, the midnight drop is a bit louder and a bit rowdier but is a lot of fun! Here is some general info:

Here is what it looks like to actually witness the Pine Cone Drop:

As you can see, there is quite the crowd spilling out onto several blocks of downtown Flagstaff and even occupying most of Heritage Square.

The perfect spot in downtown hosts the event each year.  The Weatherford Hotel installs the pine cone in early December along with a countdown timer to build anticipation with Flagstaff's locals and tourists alike.  Here is some info on how the Weatherford Hotel had such a great idea and how that idea has taken off here in Flagstaff:

And finally...for the best insider tip I can give you...park at my office, walk down early and stake out a spot at your favorite haunt.  At 10 minutes to midnight, head outside and join the crowd! Keep warm, my it will be brisk!  


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Happy Everything!

by Gary Nelson

This pretty much sums it up!  Happy Everything To Everyone!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

Flagstaff Holiday Light Parade Lights Up Downtown Flagstaff

by Gary Nelson

Holiday Light Parade

This coming Saturday, December 12th is Flagstaff’s annual Light Parade.  Although this parade is much smaller than Flagstaffs annual Fourth of July parade that some think is the best in the nation, the Light Parade also packs in quite a few spectators to downtown Flagstaff to start the Holiday Season off right.

flagstaff holiday light parade

The parade starts at 6PM on Saturday December 12th, heading south on Beaver Street, east on Aspen Avenue and then north on San Francisco Street and finishes at about Elm Street.  Go a bit early to stake out that perfect spot.  If you have kids or are just a kid at heart, this event is not to be missed.

Here is a link to the Chamber of Commerce’s website for the event:

Also, here is a video posted several years ago by the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau:

Each year, Realty Executives of Flagstaff holds a client appreciation event in conjunction with the Holiday Light Parade, and this year is no exception.  Decorated to the hilt, Realty Executives blocks off the parking lot, serves hot chocolate and cookies, has Mrs. Claus giving out candy and reading stories to the wee folk and has fire pits to keep everyone warm.  If you are reading this, give me a call and perhaps we can arrange for you to crash the party!

Also, here is a link to my earlier blog post on other great things to do this December in Flagstaff!  Take a look:




Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at

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Contact Information

The Gary Nelson Group
Realty Executives of Flagsaff
15 E. Cherry Ave. Suite 101
Flagstaff AZ 86001
Direct: 928-225-3510
Office: 928-773-9300
Fax: 928-774-1102