Embarking on a road trip is the perfect way to explore the beauty and diversity of a region, and few routes in the world offer the iconic allure of Route 66. Known as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road,” Route 66 is a legendary highway that stretches across eight states, from Illinois to California. While the entire route is filled with history and charm, Arizona is a state that holds a special place for road trippers.
Driving Route 66 in Arizona allows you to experience breathtaking landscapes, vibrant small towns, and attractions that will transport you back in time to the heyday of American road travel. From the nostalgic Route 66 signs and neon-lit motels to the stunning natural wonders and historic landmarks, Arizona offers a multitude of experiences along the iconic Route 66.
Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking the thrill of the open road, Arizona’s stretch of Route 66 has something to offer every traveler. So buckle up, roll down your windows, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of Arizona.
The History of Route 66
Route 66 holds a significant place in American history. Originally commissioned in 1926, it served as a major thoroughfare for those migrating westward, as well as for cross-country travelers. Not only did it provide a direct route from the Midwest to the Pacific coast, but it also became a symbol of the American dream and the freedom of the open road.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of people traveled Route 66 in search of work opportunities in California. This influx of migrants contributed to the road’s reputation as the “Road to Opportunity.” It also played a major role in shaping American culture, inspiring songs, books, and movies that romanticized the idea of the American road trip.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the development of the interstate highway system led to a decline in Route 66’s prominence. Many sections of the road were bypassed by faster, more direct routes. In 1985, Route 66 was officially removed from the U.S. Highway System.
However, the spirit of Route 66 lives on. Thanks to the efforts of preservationists and the growing interest in nostalgic road trips, many portions of the original road have been preserved and designated as Historic Route 66. Traveling along these sections allows modern-day adventurers to glimpse the past and experience the classic American road trip.
Today, Route 66 is an iconic symbol of American culture and a popular destination for road trippers from around the world. The road is lined with vintage motels, quaint diners, quirky roadside attractions, and stunning natural wonders. Driving Route 66 offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and immerse yourself in the history of a bygone era.
Starting Point: Flagstaff
As you begin your journey on Route 66 in Arizona, the charming city of Flagstaff serves as the perfect starting point. Nestled among ponderosa pine forests and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, Flagstaff offers a mix of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences.
One of the highlights of Flagstaff is its vibrant downtown area, which features a lively arts scene, unique shops, and a variety of restaurants. Take some time to explore the historic downtown district, where you can admire the impressive murals that depict the city’s rich history.
Flagstaff is also home to several iconic Route 66 landmarks, including the famous “Mother Road” sign located at the intersection of Route 66 and San Francisco Street. This photo-worthy spot is a must-visit for any road trip enthusiast.
For those who love the great outdoors, Flagstaff is an ideal base to explore the wonders of Northern Arizona. Just a short drive from the city, you’ll find the Coconino National Forest, where you can hike amidst towering pines and stunning red rock formations.
Addtionally, the Lowell Observatory is a must-see attraction in Flagstaff. Founded in 1894, this observatory is famous for its discovery of Pluto. Take a tour of the facility and gaze at the stars through the observatory’s powerful telescopes to truly appreciate the wonders of the universe.
After immersing yourself in the beauty and culture of Flagstaff, it’s time to hit the open road and continue your journey along Route 66 in Arizona. As you venture forth, you’ll discover the true essence of the iconic Mother Road and experience the captivating allure of the Arizona landscape.
Continuing on Route 66 in Arizona, the town of Williams is a gem that encapsulates the nostalgic spirit of the historic highway. Known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” Williams is a charming and vibrant community that offers a glimpse into the past while providing modern-day amenities.
One of the top attractions in Williams is the Grand Canyon Railway. Hop aboard this vintage train and embark on a scenic journey to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. As you ride through the picturesque landscape, you’ll be transported back in time to the golden age of train travel.
Back in town, be sure to stroll along Historic Route 66 in downtown Williams. The main street is lined with old-fashioned storefronts, classic diners, and souvenir shops, all filled with nostalgia and charm. Stop by the Route 66 Visitor Center for information about the town’s history and to pick up some Route 66 memorabilia.
Williams is also home to the iconic “Bill Williams Mountain Men” bronze statues, paying homage to the town’s namesake, the legendary pioneer and mountain man, Bill Williams. These statues serve as a popular spot for photos and offer a glimpse into the town’s rich history.
For a taste of local flavor, dine at one of the many Route 66-themed restaurants in Williams. Indulge in classic American comfort food, enjoy a milkshake at a retro-style diner, or savor a slice of homemade pie at a cozy bakery.
If you’re craving outdoor adventures, Williams has you covered. The surrounding Kaibab National Forest offers a multitude of recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike the Bill Williams Mountain Trail, named after the town’s legendary namesake.
As you explore Williams, take the time to soak in the small-town atmosphere and appreciate the sense of community that radiates through every corner. The town’s preservation of Route 66’s history and the genuine hospitality of its residents make Williams a must-visit destination along the Arizona stretch of Route 66.
Petrified Forest National Park
Just a short drive east of Flagstaff along Route 66, you will come across the mesmerizing Petrified Forest National Park. Spanning over 200 square miles, this national park is home to one of the most remarkable displays of fossilized trees in the world.
As you enter the park, you’ll be greeted by a landscape unlike any other. The Petrified Forest is known for its vibrant colors, expansive badlands, and, of course, its incredible fossilized wood. These ancient trees, which lived during the Late Triassic period, have turned to stone over millions of years, creating a unique and beautiful spectacle.
A visit to the park allows you to explore its many trails and viewpoints. Take a walk along the Crystal Forest Trail, where you’ll be surrounded by petrified logs in a variety of colors, including shades of red, orange, and purple. Along the trail, you’ll also encounter sweeping views of the Painted Desert, a breathtaking landscape that showcases the natural beauty of Arizona.
For a more immersive experience, embark on the Blue Mesa Loop Trail. This trail guides you through a wonderland of vivid blue badlands, where you’ll witness the surreal formations and otherworldly beauty of the park up close.
Dinosaur enthusiasts will also appreciate the chance to see fossilized dinosaur remains and tracks at the park. The Giant Logs Trail and the Agate House Trail provide glimpses into the prehistoric world and offer opportunities to learn more about the incredible geologic history of the area.
Whether you’re an avid hiker, a history buff, or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of nature, Petrified Forest National Park offers a memorable experience for all. As you explore the fascinating landscape and soak in the ancient history preserved within the park’s boundaries, you’ll truly feel connected to the rich geological past of Arizona and the world at large.
Nestled along the iconic Route 66, the town of Holbrook in Arizona is a treasure trove of history and charm. As you drive through the streets of Holbrook, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the heyday of Route 66, with its vintage motels, classic diners, and kitschy roadside attractions.
One of the must-visit landmarks in Holbrook is the Wigwam Village Motel, a collection of unique wigwam-shaped cabins that have been a fixture on Route 66 since the 1950s. Staying in one of these nostalgic accommodations is like stepping into a time capsule, with vintage furnishings and a taste of the authentic Route 66 experience.
Another iconic attraction in Holbrook is the iconic “Teepee” restaurant. This eye-catching structure combines the allure of Native American influences with the retro charm of mid-century architecture. Stop by for a meal and enjoy classic American fare served with a side of nostalgia.
For a taste of local history, pay a visit to the historic courthouse in downtown Holbrook. Built in 1898, this beautiful building now houses the Navajo County Historical Society Museum, where you can learn about the area’s pioneer history, Native American cultures, and the famous outlaws who once roamed these parts.
No trip to Holbrook is complete without a visit to the Petrified Wood Park and Museum. This unique attraction showcases a vast collection of petrified wood specimens, including massive logs scattered throughout the park. Take a stroll among the fossils, fascinating rock formations, and replicas of dinosaurs that once roamed the land.
If you’re seeking a taste of the Old West, head over to the Hashknife Pony Express Museum. Step inside this former post office and learn about the role the Hashknife Pony Express played in delivering mail across the rugged Arizona terrains during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
As you explore Holbrook, keep an eye out for the vibrant murals that adorn the town’s buildings. These stunning artworks depict scenes from Holbrook’s past and present and add a vibrant touch to the streets.
Imbued with the spirit of Route 66, Holbrook offers a glimpse into the past and a chance to experience the nostalgia of cross-country road trips. With its rich history, quirky attractions, and warm hospitality, Holbrook is a destination that captures the essence of the classic American road trip.
Winslow: Standing on the Corner
One of the most famous stops along Route 66 in Arizona is Winslow, a small town that became immortalized in the Eagles’ hit song, “Take It Easy.” This iconic tune put Winslow on the map and drew visitors from all over the world to its historic downtown.
The highlight of Winslow is undoubtedly the “Standing on the Corner” Park, a tribute to the famous lyrics of the Eagles’ song. Located at the intersection of Kinsley Avenue and 2nd Street, this park features a life-sized bronze statue of a musician standing on a corner, as well as a mural depicting the famous scene. Visitors can’t resist taking a photo or posing beside the statue to capture their own piece of music history.
Immerse yourself in the music and culture of Winslow by exploring the nearby Old Trails Museum. This fascinating museum delves into the town’s rich history as a railroad and Route 66 hub, showcasing artifacts and exhibits that transport you to a bygone era.
While in Winslow, don’t forget to sample some of the local cuisine. Drop by one of the classic diners or cafes that line the streets of downtown Winslow and indulge in delicious comfort food. Treat yourself to a hearty burger, a slice of homemade pie, or a nostalgic milkshake, and savor the flavors of small-town America.
For nature enthusiasts, Winslow offers the perfect opportunity to experience the stunning beauty of Arizona’s landscapes. Just a short drive from the town, you’ll find the magnificent Meteor Crater, the result of a massive impact that occurred over 50,000 years ago. Visit the Meteor Crater Visitor Center and marvel at the sheer size and power of this natural wonder.
As you explore Winslow, take the time to discover the town’s vibrant art scene. Admire the colorful murals that adorn the walls of buildings, showcasing the talent and creativity of local artists. Visit the Winslow Arts Trust’s gallery to view exhibitions and support the thriving arts community.
Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, allows you to immerse yourself in the nostalgia and magic of Route 66. From the iconic statue to the thriving arts scene, this small town captures the essence of the American road trip and offers a memorable stop along your journey.
Just outside of Winslow, Arizona, lies a natural wonder that is a must-see on your Route 66 adventure: Meteor Crater. This mesmerizing site is the result of a colossal impact that occurred over 50,000 years ago when a massive meteorite collided with the Earth.
As you approach Meteor Crater, you’ll be awestruck by the sheer size and magnitude of the crater. Standing at over 550 feet deep and almost a mile wide, this is one of the best-preserved meteorite impact sites on the planet. The scale of the crater is truly mind-boggling and provides a humbling glimpse into the power of celestial events.
Explore the crater with a self-guided walking tour along the rim. As you make your way around, informative panels provide insights into the history, geology, and significance of the site. You’ll discover fascinating details about the meteorite, the impact it had on the surrounding area, and the ongoing scientific research taking place at Meteor Crater.
For a closer look at the crater, head down to the observation area located near the visitor center. Here, you can peer into the depths of the crater using telescopes provided, allowing you to fully appreciate the immensity of this natural marvel. The experience is awe-inspiring and provides a truly unique perspective on the Earth’s geologic history.
The visitor center at Meteor Crater offers a wealth of information, interactive displays, and exhibits that delve into the science behind meteorite impacts. Discover the story of the discovery and early exploration of the crater, as well as the ongoing research and study being conducted at the site.
For those seeking adventure, consider taking a guided tour of the crater floor. Led by knowledgeable guides, this excursion provides an up-close look at the layers of rocks, minerals, and sediment that reveal important insights into the Earth’s history. You’ll have the opportunity to touch fragments of the meteorite and gain a deeper understanding of the impact’s significance.
As you marvel at Meteor Crater and contemplate the cosmic forces that shaped this landscape, take a moment to appreciate the immense beauty of nature. Witness the rugged desert scenery that surrounds the crater, with its vast open skies and panoramic views that stretch to the horizon.
A visit to Meteor Crater is a truly unforgettable experience. It allows you to witness the remnants of an extraordinary event that occurred thousands of years ago and gain a new perspective on the world we inhabit. Don’t miss the chance to explore this remarkable site and add a touch of cosmic wonder to your Route 66 journey.
The Navajo Nation
As you continue your journey on Route 66 through Arizona, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich culture and natural beauty of the Navajo Nation. This vast Native American reservation covers over 27,000 square miles and is home to the largest Native American tribe in the United States.
Exploring the Navajo Nation offers a chance to experience the traditions, artistry, and spirituality of the Navajo people. Visit the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock to learn about the tribe’s history, language, and artistic heritage. The museum showcases a diverse collection of artifacts, artwork, and traditional crafts, providing valuable insights into the Navajo way of life.
For a glimpse into Navajo craftsmanship, make sure to visit Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. This historic trading post has been in operation since the 1870s and is a hub for Navajo artists and artisans. Browse their exquisite selection of jewelry, rugs, pottery, and other handcrafted items, and witness the mastery and skill that goes into creating these remarkable pieces.
Monument Valley, located within the Navajo Nation, is an iconic destination that has been featured in numerous films and serves as a symbol of the American West. The towering sandstone buttes and dramatic desert landscape make this area a photographer’s paradise. Take a guided tour or embark on a self-guided drive to fully appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of Monument Valley.
Navajo cuisine is a must-try during your visit. Sample traditional dishes such as Navajo fry bread, a delicious bread fried in oil and served with various toppings, or Navajo tacos, which feature fry bread topped with seasoned meat, beans, cheese, and fresh vegetables. These culinary delights offer a taste of Navajo culture and are sure to satisfy your appetite.
While exploring the Navajo Nation, it is important to respect the land and the local communities. Remember to obtain any necessary permits for visiting restricted areas and always adhere to any cultural or environmental guidelines. Engage in responsible tourism by supporting local businesses and artists, and always ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals or sacred sites.
Visiting the Navajo Nation provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Native American traditions and appreciate the natural wonders of the Southwest. The warm hospitality of the Navajo people, combined with the breathtaking beauty of the land, will leave an indelible mark on your Route 66 journey.
Exploring Gallup, New Mexico
As you continue your adventure on Route 66, a vibrant and culturally rich city awaits you in Gallup, New Mexico. Known as the “Indian Capital of the World,” Gallup is a fascinating destination that beautifully showcases the diverse Native American cultures of the region.
Begin your exploration of Gallup by visiting the Gallup Cultural Center. This impressive facility offers exhibits and interactive displays that celebrate the art, history, and traditions of the Native American tribes in the area. Learn about the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi cultures through artifacts, artworks, and multimedia presentations.
While in Gallup, immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene by exploring the numerous art galleries and trading posts that line the streets. Admire the intricate jewelry, pottery, and textiles crafted by local Native American artisans, and perhaps even take home a unique and meaningful souvenir.
Gallup is also famous for its annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, a week-long celebration of Native American cultures that takes place in August. This event showcases traditional dances, music, arts and crafts, and tribal ceremonies, offering a deep dive into the rich heritage of the Southwest tribes.
For a taste of authentic Navajo cuisine, be sure to try the renowned Navajo taco while in Gallup. This delectable dish consists of a fluffy fry bread topped with seasoned ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and other toppings of your choice. It’s a culinary delight that truly captures the flavors and spirit of the region.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, Gallup is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Head out to the nearby Red Rock State Park, where you can hike among colorful sandstone cliffs, explore vibrant desert flora, and marvel at the stunning vistas. The area is also a popular spot for rock climbing and photography.
While in Gallup, take the time to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the city. Explore the historic downtown, with its charming shops, vintage neon signs, and classic Route 66 architecture. Enjoy live music performances or catch a Native American dance demonstration at one of the local venues.
As you bid farewell to Gallup, you’ll carry with you a deeper appreciation for Native American cultures and the remarkable beauty of the Southwest. Gallup offers a mesmerizing blend of history, art, and nature, making it an unforgettable stop along your Route 66 journey.
Embarking on a road trip along Route 66 in Arizona is an experience that will leave you with lifelong memories. The history, beauty, and charm of the towns and landscapes along this iconic highway offer a unique glimpse into the past and a captivating adventure through the heart of America.
From the starting point in Flagstaff, where you can explore the vibrant downtown and marvel at the natural wonders of the surrounding area, to the nostalgic small towns like Williams and Winslow that transport you back in time, every stop along the way has its own story to tell.
The Petrified Forest National Park reveals the ancient beauty of fossilized trees, while historic Holbrook and Gallup immerse you in the Native American cultures that have shaped the region for centuries. And who could forget the awe-inspiring sight of Meteor Crater, a testament to the power and mystery of the universe.
Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter the warmth and hospitality of the people who call these communities home. They will welcome you with open arms, eager to share the stories and traditions that have been passed down through generations.
As you drive along Route 66, keep your eyes open for the iconic road signs, the vintage motels, and the roadside attractions that add a touch of nostalgia and whimsy to the journey. Stop at the classic diners, indulge in local cuisine, and let the open road lead you to unexpected delights.
Whether you’re an avid history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking the thrill of the open road, Route 66 in Arizona offers something special for everyone. It’s a chance to step back in time, connect with the diverse cultures that have shaped this part of the country, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
So, pack your bags, fill up your gas tank, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure along Route 66 in Arizona. Allow the history, the landscapes, and the people you meet along the way to guide you on a journey of discovery and wonder. The open road awaits, ready to take you on an epic road trip through the heartland of America.