Get out of town: Explore Route 66

UPDATED 7/29 4:02 Thanks to Linda Messimer for the correction on Davenport Lake.

WILLIAMS— Williams has the distinction of being the last route 66 town bypassed by interstate 40. The mural on the wall by Circle K is a tribute to that. So while you are here you might want to stay an extra day in Williams to explore the Mother Road.

"On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler. Maricopa County, Arizona." by Dorothea Lange - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler. Maricopa County, Arizona.” by Dorothea Lange – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Route 66 gained the name of the Mother Road because of its significance to history. During the depression when tragedy struck the Great Plains—in what was called the great Dust Bowl—thousands took to Route 66 to travel west in search of a better life. This was depicted in the book and movie The Grapes of Wrath.

Route 66 was instrumental in winning World War I and World War II. Old-timers told me of the days when they would watch convoys of men and material moving down Route 66 to be shipped off to war. Most people don’t realize that Interstate 40, and all other freeways for that matter, were started by President Eisenhower who brought the idea back from the German autobahn.

Route 66 has seen a resurgence of interest since it was decomissioned. Williams and Flagstaff have a significant amount of Route 66 still available for travel. The stretch we will examine in this article is from Bellmont to Williams.

Of course it goes down to Ash Fork which is another significant Route 66 town, as well as a railroad center in the old west. Ash Fork history can be seen at the Route 66 Museum in Ash Fork on, well… Route 66.

You can pick up Route 66 in Bellmont at the truck stop. You’ll travel through some beautiful forest landscape which is currently augmented by the beautiful wildflowers along the road.

You’ll travel about 1/2-mile of paved Route 66 until you reach a dirt portion. This portion of the road is a residential area where cattle roam and you might see a few ducks in the ponds. There are some great old buildings to photograph as well as a row of thistle and other flowers along the road.

When you pass the residential area, which is about 1/4-mile stretch, you continue on the road through the Kaibab national forest. This stretch is about 2 miles. Watch to the right side of the road.
You might want to slow down. There is a pull off with a sign for the route 66 auto tour. It is a mile east of Parks Arizona just before the dirt road turns back into a paved road.

This pull off is significant for its history. If you go onto trail, you will not only see some beautiful wildflowers, you will see a dirt portion of Route 66. Route 66 was realigned several times Route-6615-07-18-22during its history. This trail is the part of Route 66 that used to run behind what is now the Parks general store. The back door of the Parks general store used to be the front door. When Route 66 was realigned, it was laid where it is now which used to be the back door of the Parks general store. There are still some asphalt remnants of old route 66 laying around.

Don’t forget to stop the Parks general store and pick up snacks or have lunch at their grill.Route-6615-07-18-51
Leaving Park’s you will travel and other stretch of Route 66. There are two landmarks to watch for here on this stretch.
Route-6615-07-18-64The first is the garland prairie this to rest stop. Slowdown because the second you see the sign you’ll want to prepare to turn to the left. Unfortunately some of our signs are not quite placed in a good position. This rest stop boasts some beautiful trees and wildflowers. If you are ready for a toilet break, this service is provided here also.

Continuing west on route 66 you will come upon the Oak Hill Snow Play area, which is on the left side. This is another nice rest area designed for snow play. Of course you will have to come back when we have snow.
PANO-Keyhole-SinkBut directly across the street is the trail head for the Keyhole Sink. The trail to Key Hole Sink is not exactly handicapped accessible. It is not a tough hike, but does have some tough spots for people with some handicaps. Some of the plants around the Keyhole Sink could be a trip hazard. Remember that this Sink attracts a number of visitors who may have dogs. If you are taking your dog, they are required to be on a leash in Coconino County. This peaceful retreat is a beautiful place for photos. Along the rocks of the Sink are historic petroglyphs.

From here, you have a good stretch of Route 66 which gives you three options. You can rejoin Interstate 40 and pass by the daisies of Davenport Lake.

You can take Deer Farm Road and stop by the Deer Farm and let your kids get up close and personal with some tame animals who are used to being around humans. You do not want to try this in the wild. If you continue down Dear Farm Road you end up behind Davenport lake where you can park and take in a variety of wildflowers.

Finally, you can continue on Route 66. At this point, all roads lead to Williams (unless, of course, you take east I-40). The end of your exploration and hiking experience will probably bring you into Williams a bit hungry. It is a good time to stop by Old Smokey’s, the Wild West Junction, Fiesta Mexican Grill or any of the other Williams Route 66 restaurants. Maybe just coffee and pastries at Cafe 326 near Fourth Street. Try Arizona Highways Magazine award winners Anna’s Grand Canyon Coffee and Cafe or the Red Raven in the Grand Canyon Hotel.

Go ahead and treat yourself. You are now a Route 66 expert.