Observatory Mesa Natural Area

The City of Flagstaff acquired Observatory Mesa Natural Area in December 2013 with funding from the 2004 voter-approved Open Space bond and a 2013 Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant. We welcome you to experience the expansive views and diverse plants and animals found in this 2,251 acre native forest ecosystem. Observatory Mesa serves as an important wildlife corridor for large mammals traveling between the San Francisco Peaks and the Mogollon Rim.

Motorized Access

Observatory Mesa is a non-motorized area. There are currently two parking areas that allow access to the Mesa, one at Thorpe Park and one along Forest Service Road 515.

Thorpe Park Bark Park

From downtown Flagstaff, travel north on North Humphreys Street and turn left on West Cherry Avenue. When you reach the end of Cherry Avenue, turn right onto North Thorpe Park Road. The parking area will be on the right near the ball fields. From the parking area, you can access Observatory Mesa by taking the F.U.T.S. trail on the west side of North Thorpe Park Road near the disc golf course.

Forest Service Road 515

From downtown Flagstaff, travel south on South Milton Road. Turn right on Route 66 and travel approximately 4 miles to merge with I-40 West. Take the next exit for A1 Mountain Road. Turn right onto A1 Mountain road, which turns into Forest Road 506. Continue straight onto Forest Road 515 and pass through the Forest Service gate. Please park when you reach the Observatory Mesa kiosk.


Observatory Mesa is a great place to hike, mountain bike, photograph the natural environment, watch wildlife, and experience fall colors. Horseback riding is permitted throughout Observatory Mesa, but are prohibited on the Tunnel Springs Trail. Please do not ride your horse during wet conditions to protect the trails.

Observatory Mesa is open to the public year road. There are no facilities available.

Observatory Mesa Natural Area Flagstaff, Arizona
Photo Credit: Tom Bean
Map of Observatory Park

Trail Information

Trail NameDistanceImportant Information
Observatory Mesa Trail1.6 milesRelatively flat, single track trail.
Tunnel Springs Trail1.9 milesProvides access from Railroad Springs community to Observatory Mesa. A tunnel provides
a safe railroad crossing. Steady ascent to the top of the Mesa.
Mars Hill Trail1.9 milesTrailhead located at the Thorpe Park Bark Park. Short, steep climb to ascend the Mesa.


Observatory Mesa is a day-use only area. Camping, campfires, and woodcutting are strictly prohibited.

Motorized travel is limited to Forest Service roads that are designated as "open" on the most recent Motor Vehicle Use Map. You can download a geo-referenced version of the map to your smartphone.


Observatory Mesa Natural Area is within Game Management Unit 11M, as designated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). Discharge of firearms for any purpose is prohibited within the Natural Area. Archery hunting of big game is permitted per AZGFD hunting regulations. However, archery hunting is not permitted within a quarter mile of a trailhead, picnic area, or occupied building. Motorized retrieval of game is also prohibited.


Full Moon Hike Wednesday April 5, 2023 6pm at Observatory Mesa.  Join Flagstaff Parks, Recreation, Open Spaces & Events for a Full Moon Hike with stargazing! We will meet at Thorpe Park Dog Park (788 N Thorpe Rd), and hike up Mars Hill Trail to a lookout and watch the “pink moon” rise. When we head back down, telescopes will be set up in a clearing so that we can check out the moon, planets, and stars!  Dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes. There's still snow on the trail, so bring snow cleats and a hiking pole, but we have extras if you need them!

To set up a volunteer event for your group, email Robert Wallace or call at 928-213-2327.