Snowflake is in the fertile Silver Creek Valley, right on the boundary between the green, forested regions to the south (running down to and below the Mogollon Rim) and the open desert to the north. The area was first homesteaded by James Stinson in 1870. He used the land to raise food, cattle and horses for sale to the quartermasters at Fort Defiance (near Window Rock) and Fort Apache (south of Show Low). In July of 1878, William Flake and a group of Mormon families entered the valley and bought it from Stinson for $11,000. A couple months later, LDS Apostle Erastus Snow arrived in the valley to assist and counsel the Mormon colonists. When Snow and Flake first met, Snow jokingly suggested the name of "Snowflake" for Flake's fledgling colony. Snowflake has since grown into one of Arizona's most successful Mormon settlements... and even though this is Arizona, this high desert oasis sees an average of 10" of snowfall every year.

More than 45 homes in Snowflake are on the National Register of Historic Buildings. They range from tiny log cabins built in the 1870's to an 1895 Second Empire Victorian brick mansion. One of them, the adobe Stinson Pioneer Museum, was originally built by James Stinson and then was the family home of the Flakes. The Museum has original pioneer furnishings, textiles, tools, and photographs on display, along with a good collection of Ancestral Pueblo Indian artifacts. Another of the historic homes, the Osmer D. Flake Heritage Inn, was built in 1892 and is still operated as a Bed & Breakfast. The historic John Freeman Home (built in 1893) is home to the Snowflake/Taylor Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.

For the last few years, Snowflake has experienced a steady growth pattern to the east, south and west. Since the 1980's, a large group of people suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome has collected in a community setting just east of Snowflake. Snowflake is also home to the members of the Travis Walton logging crew, made famous in the 1993 movie Fire in the Sky.