Historic Route 66 - Arizona Scenic Drives


Follow the road that carried the legendary Grapes of Wrath's Joad family, songwriter Bobby Troup, and millions of others west to the land of dreams, opportunity and open spaces. In 1989, the Kaibab National Forest listed several segments of Route 66 on the National Register of Historic Places. This historic highway, which led from Chicago to Los Angeles, was completely paved in 1938. Perhaps more than any other highway in America, Route 66 symbolizes the adventure and romance of the open road, and is an inseparable part of American popular culture.

Begin your tour to the past in Williams on Bill Williams Avenue. Here Route 66 is plainly "America's Main Street." Its gas stations, restaurants, curio shops, and motels have served generations of travelers. From here, proceed east on "Old 66" to the Interstate 40 interchange and continue east on 1-40 for six miles.

The historic alignment of Route 66 has been covered by the interstate on this stretch but it resumes at the Pittman Valley exit. Exit here, turn left, pass over 1-40, and turn right onto FR 146. This concrete pavement dates to 1939 and bore Route 66 traffic until the interstate arrived in the mid-1960's. It passes Oak Hill Snowplay Area, (the original Williams Ski Area, circa 1940), and Garland Prairie Vista, which offers a spectacular view of the San Francisco Peaks and surrounding countryside. As you continue along you soon arrive at the roadside community of Parks. Here there is a country store that has been in operation since the early 1930's. It's well worth a visit. At this point, you may choose to return to Interstate 40 or continue on for 8 more miles of historic highway.

To continue east, follow the road as it jogs left onto an earlier alignment of Route 66. From the time it was first built in the early 1930's, Route 66 was constantly improved and realigned, as is illustrated here. This graveled road, which was once paved, served highway travelers from 1931 until it was bypassed in 1941. Here you will drive over the highest point along Route 66 at 7,300 feet above sea level. The road then descends into beautiful Brannigan Park. The historic residences on each side of the road are on private property, so please drive slowly and respect the landowners' privacy. Soon after leaving Brannigan Park, you pass out of the Kaibab National Forest, and the officially designated portion of Route 66 ends near the 1-40 frontage road.

Length: 22 miles one-way
Road Conditions: Paved and gravel surfaced, suitable for sedans
Driving Time: 1-1.5 hours, round-trip
Recommended Season: Year-round

Historic Route 66 may be accessed from either the east or the west. It runs roughly parallel to Interstate 40. From the west, begin in the historic district of downtown Williams; go east to Interstate 40, and continue east on 1-40 to the Pittman Valley interchange. After exiting, turn left, go over the highway, and then turn right onto FR 146. Follow this road to the Forest boundary and the end of the National Historic portion of Route 66. Coming from Flagstaff headed west, take the Bellemont exit and go west on the frontage road. The Forest Boundary and beginning of the designated historic route intersects the frontage road about 1 mile west of the interchange.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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