It’s here – Arizona’s snow season has arrived!
Once that first snowfall hits, all of us in the valley are itching to get out there and get in some snow play time! From sledding to snow angels, we’ve got the scoop on all the best spots around the state.
If you’re new to snow play (like many of us desert dwellers) here’s a few basics to get you started:
- LEAVE NO TRACE: We are all moms so we know how to clean up after ourselves. Anything you bring with you, take it back home with you. Especially in the case of your sled. Plastic sleds break and are a total mess when people leave parts behind – if you’ve ever visited a popular sledding spot, then you know exactly what I mean. Let’s keep these spots clean and beautiful!
- Be prepared: Make sure you have essentials with you in case the weather turns. Things like a first aid kit, ice scraper, extra blankets, a flashlight, snacks & water. We keep a version of this winter car kit with us. Check the weather and road conditions before you travel (call 511 anywhere in Arizona).
As tempting as it is, do not pull off the road to sled and snow play – parking and playing along snowy/icy roads can be dangerous, especially since visibility can change quickly in winter months, not to mention it can land you a hefty fine. Believe us, there are plenty of safe places to play in the snow.
- Play safely: When sledding, pick an area free of trees and fences – watch out for debris and rocks. The best sledding hills have a gentle slope and enough flat space at the bottom for you to slow down (steep hills can cause you to lose control). Sledding hills operate similar to a playground slide – don’t do until there’s no one in your path and once you get to the bottom, quickly move out of the way and climb back up to the side of the sledding path.
When you think of snow and Flagstaff, the first place that comes to mind is Snowbowl. Unless you’re planning to ski, you’ll have to find another option for sledding and snow play. Flagstaff has this awesome map.
- Check out Oak Hill Snow Play Area is an old alpine ski area from the 1950’s that has a couple of great sled runs. Tip: there’s limited parking at Oak Hill, so have a back-up plan if the lot is full.
- Flagstaff Snow Park has groomed tubing runs and smaller hills for kids, plus fire pits and food trucks. Tickets are required (pricing is available on their website) and they can sell out most weekends, but tube rentals are included – so this is a great option if you just want to show up and play for the day.
- Happy Jack Lodge has sledding and snow play options for a fee, as well as sled rentals.
- If you’re having a hard time finding a spot with those sledding ideas, there’s another option. Forest roads closed for the season can offer some sledding fun nearby. While you can’t park along Highway 180 in Flagstaff, you can pull into the area at the beginning of forest roads, as long as you are not blocking the gate. Keep in mind, these areas are not plowed and can be quite hard to pull in and exit – on more than one occasion we’ve seen cars get stuck. I’d recommend having 4 wheel drive and a high clearance vehicle (tire chains are a good idea too) if you are thinking about trying one of these forest roads. If you’re thinking of giving this a try, this post has a few ideas of forest roads along Highway 180.
Just want to build a snowman?
- Try hitting up one of the parks in Flagstaff: Buffalo Park, Foxglen Park or Thorpe Park. You can walk around, play a little and then can easily grab a steaming mug of hot chocolate or a hot cup of coffee to warm up after you play.
- If you up for a little further drive, the Benham Snow Play Area just a few miles South of Williams (East of Bill Williams Mountain) is another good place to stop and toss around a few snowballs.
Looking for some more thrills?
- If you have older kids or want some adventure, Mormon Lake Lodge has snowmobile rentals and tours.
- Arizona Nordic Village offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing/rentals
- Sunrise Park Resort is one of Arizona’s best ski resorts. Located on Highway 273 it not only has three mountains with 65 runs for skiing but also a great tubing and sledding hill. Unfortunately, the tubing hill is closed for the 2020/21 season due to COVID-19 precautions.
- Williams Valley Winter Sports Area outside Alpine, Arizona, off Highway 191 and Forest Road 249, provides an area for cross-country skiers and sledding.With a steep enough descent for a fun ride yet an easy climb back to the top,Toboggan Hill makes a good area for sleds, toboggans and tubes. No fees are charged for the area. Gas and food are available in the small community of Alpine a few miles east of the sledding area.
- Hannagan Meadow Recreation Area, tucked away in the White Mountains, located off U.S. Highway 191 and approximately 22 miles south of Alpine, Arizona, has several hills suitable for casual sledding. Most sledding in the area is done at Hannagan Meadow Lodge. Since it’s located at 9,100 feet the lodge generally receives plenty of snow all winter long. The main sledding and tubing hill is located right behind the main building and open to guests of the lodge and the general public without fee. Tubes and sleds are available through the lodge’s General Store.
- Mount Lemmon Ski Valley does not allow sledding, but if you’re feeling ambitious, it is possible to find areas to sled and play in snow near Summerhaven. There is no official designated sledding area on Mt. Lemmon and most of the surrounding areas are owned by the forest service and parking can be difficult to find. If you do decide to try out sledding on Mt. Lemmon, be sure to check for hazards and be aware of your surroundings.
Do you have some “unofficial” sledding spots you like to visit? Please share them with us [email protected].