Being one of the highest cities in the United States, Flagstaff lies at 7,000 feet above sea level, in the pine forests at the base of the San Francisco Mountains. Elden Mountain rises to 9300 feet just on the north edge of town, and Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, stands a short distance to the northwest.
Historic Route 66 passes through Flagstaff, lined with motels and businesses dating from its days as the “Main Street of America.” It passes along the south side of Flagstaff’s historic district, where gift shops and other quaint 1900s businesses line the streets. Today Interstate 40 is the main route leading to Flagstaff from the east and west, and Interstate 17 connects to Phoenix to the south. U. S. Highway 89 connects to Utah northward, and U. S. Highway 180 leads to the Grand Canyon.
Thomas F. McMillan settled here in 1876, building a cabin at the base of Mars Hill. In the 1880s the railroad was built through Flagstaff, bringing prosperity to the city and aiding its timber, sheep and cattle industries. In 1894, Dr. Percival Lowell established the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, because of it’s exceptional air quality and visibility. It was here that Pluto was discovered in 1930. Flagstaff is home to 65,870 people (2010 census). Its name comes from a flagpole made by a scouting party in 1876 to celebrate the centennial of U.S. independence.