Before the arrival of American settlers, the area was settled by various tribes such as the Pueblo, Hopi, Yavapai and Havasupai. The records of Spanish conquistadors who explored the area in the 1500s can attest to the presence of these tribes. In fact, up until the 1980s, the Navajo held their annual pow wow here in Flagstaff.

During the mid-1800s, many travelers ventured west from present-day Kansas and Missouri to California. Along the way, they often stopped at a point under the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks, which was then just a resting place for those traveling on the wagon road to the West Coast. In 1881, however, the Santa Fe railroad opened a station here, and Flagstaff began to grow rapidly. With an easy and cheap way to ship lumber, the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company was able to drastically increase production and profits. Consequently, logging, cattle-farming and mining became major industries in the city. However, the presence of the railroad was not always pleasant, as the tracks passed through town, creating lots of traffic disruption and noise.

Later, the historic Route 66 was built to run through the city’s center. Today, Flagstaff is the city with the highest elevation along this important highway.