Arizona Route 66
Route 66 in Arizona is only one segment of the iconic road that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Known variously as the Will Rogers Highway after the equally iconic humorist, the Mother Road, and the Main Street of America, it passes though Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and California along its nearly 2,500-mile length. It was established in 1926 and was finally paved along its entire route some years later. The first several decades of its life saw thousands of people migrating west, especially during the 1930s Dust Bowl days, at a time when huge chunks of the American Southwest were still considered “cowboys and Indians” territory. The year 1956 signaled the eventual decline of the road when President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act. By 1985, Route 66, which had become part of American folklore in the form of the classic song and the 1960s television series, had been removed from the United States Highway System.
Route 66 Arizona
It was probably the hit song and television series, which lived on in syndication for many years, that were the impetus for reviving the historic portions of the route, some of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Interest in the road ran high, and Route 66 in Arizona benefitted from the fact that the first Route 66 association was founded here in 1987. President Bill Clinton signed the National Route 66 Preservation Bill in 1999. Every year since 1988, the Historic Route 66 Association has held the “Fun Run,” a parade of cars, including vintage classics, leaves Kingman and travels through the Black Mountains, the Mojave Valley, and down to Topock just north of Lake Havasu and the famous London Bridge.
Route 66 Williams AZ
Some people travel the full length of Route 66 Arizona as part of a cross-country trip. The highway enters the state on the east along the path of Interstate 40 from Gallup, New Mexico, to Winslow, Arizona. It crosses the state and enters California just past Topock. Many people simply cruise portions of the highway during their vacations in certain parts of the state, visiting some of the attractions in that area. Between Gallup and Winslow, the route enters the incredibly beautiful landscapes of the Painted Desert, and there is an exit leading to the nearby Petrified Forest National Park, a detour that takes about an hour. This portion of the route is also lined with numerous souvenir stands and trading posts, many of which offer Native American products, especially Navajo. Be sure you know something about the authentic products (blankets, pottery, basketwork, kachina dolls, jewelry, and sand paintings) before you purchase, as some of the stands are selling cheap knock-offs.
The next part of Route 66 Arizona travels between Winslow and Flagstaff, lined with more souvenir stands and trading posts. Before you leave Winslow, you can visit Homolovi Ruins State Park, Arizona’s first archaeological park, where there are the ruins of four Anasazi pueblos. About 20 miles west of Winslow, you can take another quick detour to Barringer Meteor Crater, one of finest examples of an impact crater in the world. There is a small, but worthwhile museum here, and the crater is quite a sight. Continue west to Flagstaff, which serves as an excellent gateway to some of Arizona’s most popular destinations, including the magnificent Grand Canyon, the resort town of Sedona and Red Rock State Park, Tonto National Forest, and the city of Phoenix.
The last stretch of Route 66 through Arizona continues from Flagstaff to the California border. If you’re looking for a truly unique overnight experience along this section of the route, try Grand Canyon Caverns, located about 20 miles northwest of Seligman. Here, you can enjoy tours of the extensive caverns on more than a mile of trails and spend the night in the Cavern Suite, a completely furnished suite with all the amenities, located deep underground in a 60-million-year-old cavern measuring 400 by 200 feet and with a 70-foot-high ceiling. Above ground are a full service motel, restaurant, gift shop, and camping area suitable for recreational vehicles. Before you finally leave Arizona, take a detour to Lake Havasu.