Here It Is: Route 66 in Arizona

Some of the most beautiful stretches of Route 66 lie within Arizona’s borders. With more than 250 miles of the route still drivable, the Grand Canyon State lays claim to the longest unbroken stretch of accessible original road- 158 miles running from Ash Fork to Topock at the California border. Arizona is also home to the Seligman, “Birthplace of Historic Route 66”. Through the efforts of Angel Delgadillo, barber and owner of the Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona was formed in 1987 and the decommissioned road begin to find new life through preservation. More than thirty years later, all eight states along Route 66 have historic associations, working with passionate business owners and diehard fans to continue preserving the Mother Road.

A beautiful drive from border to border, some of the highlights of our Route 66 trip were in Arizona, from sleeping in a wigwam to riding the jack rabbit to petting burros. And for reasons we cannot begin to understand, we missed a visit to the Painted Desert Trading Post, so we will definitely be back soon!

What to Do

Take a Hike at Petrified Forest National Park- Holbrook
It may not sound that exciting at first, but don’t underestimate the experience provided by a visit to Petrified Forest National Park. A drive through the park first takes you past the Painted Desert, a region of badlands that look as if they’ve been painted with gorgeous hues of pink, orange, and brown. As you continue driving, you’ll cross over an area that used to be Route 66 and one of our favorite photo ops in the park. No longer a road, the only indication that it ever existed is a line of weathered wooden phone poles running in either direction.

One of the most dog-friendly national parks we’ve visited, Petrified Forest allows dogs on all paved roads and trails, as well as in all official Wilderness areas. Since dogs are allowed on all trails, we chose to hike the Agate House Trail. The two mile out-and-back hike provides the opportunity to check out some of the very large and impressive petrified logs, before eventually reaching the Agate House. Not actually a house, the Agate House is the remains of a small eight-room pueblo thought to have been inhabited more than 700 years ago. A perfect fall afternoon in the desert, we had the trail to ourselves and a happily exercised dog.

Sit or Stand at Stand-in’ On The Corner- Winslow
“Well, I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see.” Chances are, you’re familiar with the lyrics in the 1972 Eagle’s tune, “Take It Easy“. Built in 1999 to commemorate the song which made a nation aware of the small Route 66 town in Arizona, Standin’ On the Corner Park is a hopping place. We had to wait a few minutes for our turn to get Finley’s (and our) picture, but it was well worth it for the cute photo.

Picnic at Cool Springs Station- Cool Springs/Sitgreaves Pass
Cool Springs Station sits on the east side of Sitgreaves Pass in the Black Mountains of Arizona. On the original alignment of Route 66, it is a 1920s-era service station that at one time also had eight tourist cabins and a cafe. After a fire in 1966 left nothing but the stone foundation, the site sat abandoned until it was briefly rebuilt and then promptly blown up in the ’90s action movie, Universal Soldier. A complete restoration was done in 2004, and the station is now home to a gift shop, a small “picknik” area across the street where we enjoyed our lunch and space for woofer roaming, along with some great photo ops.

Ride the Jackrabbit at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post- Joseph City
Back in the glory days of Route 66, bright yellow signs with rabbits that increased in size as you headed west, lined the roadside for more than 1,000 miles. When drivers reached the final sign proclaiming, “Here It Is”, they knew they had arrived at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City. A former snake farm purchased in 1949 (and rumor has it, the snakes just released into the wild) and turned into the trading post, it has provided a stop for travelers and a photo op on the giant jackrabbit or next to, if four legs prevent you from sitting atop it, ever since.

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Pet a Burro- Oatman
In the old mining town of Oatman, which sits on the original alignment of Route 66, it’s not unusual to have one of the local wild burros nudge you or stick its head in your car looking for a snack. Descendants of the burros brought by miners back in the late 19th Century, they wander into town in the morning seeking handouts from tourists and head back into the hills at night to sleep. As you can see, we had a close and very cute encounter with one on our drive through town.

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What to See

Geronimo, The World’s Largest Petrified Tree- Holbrook
Gerooonnnnimmmmoooo! A few miles west of Holbrook (where you should definitely be sure to “Sleep in a Wigwam”) is the Geronimo Trading Post. There is plenty to see inside, but the real draw is in the parking lot, where you’ll find what’s billed as the World’s Largest Petrified Tree. Appropriately named Geronimo, the tree may be a shadow of its former self, but it still impresses at 45 tons. Finley may look a little underwhelmed, but trust us, it’s worth a stop and photo!

Two Guns Trading Post- Winslow
Once a thriving roadside stop on Route 66 about 30 miles east of Flagstaff, Two Guns started life as a railroad settlement, before becoming home to a restaurant, souvenir shop, the Apache Death Cave, and a zoo which featured mountain lions, cougars, Gila monsters, and more. It went through a few owners and attempts at survival, including being relocated once across the canyon with a realignment of Route 66; and the addition of a service station, motel, and new zoo in the ‘60s. Sadly, the service station burned down in 1971 and eventually the trading post succumbed to the all-too-familiar curse of the interstate. Only partial structures remain, though the word “Mountain Lions” remains fully intact on part of the former zoo and provides for a great place to stroll around (keep an eye out for broken glass) and a unique photo op!

Twin Arrows- Flagstaff
Located between Two Guns and Flagstaff, the Twin Arrows Trading Post is easy to spot from Route 66 with its giant red and yellow arrows. Originally opened as the Canyon Padre Trading Post, before adopting the name Twin Arrows in 1954, it was once home to a gas station, gift shop, and a Valentine Diner. It survived the interstate for a time before closing in 1995. Now, the buildings are covered in graffiti, overgrown with weeds, and no one seems to know what the future holds for this once bustling stop; but we can hope these buildings live on for a long time to come.

Meteor City Trading Post- Winslow
Located between Winslow and Meteor Crater (for which it is named), the Meteor City Trading Post began life as a Texaco station in 1938. A shop was added a few years later and its very recognizable geodesic dome was constructed in 1979. Home to the World’s Longest Map of Route 66 (which has sadly crumbled) and World’s Largest Dream Catcher, it stood empty and been subject to vandalism for many years, but new owners have been working hard over the past year or so to get it cleaned up and bring it back to its former glory. We look forward to visiting again once it’s reopened!

Walnut Canyon Bridge- Winona
Although Nat King Cole implored us to “don’t forget Winona”, time hasn’t been kind and there isn’t much left in the small town except for a gas station and the Walnut Canyon Bridge. The 124-foot long bridge carried Route 66 traffic from 1926 to 1947; and while no longer open to traffic, you can still walk across on the original alignment of Route 66 and enjoy the beautiful views.

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Hackberry General Store- Hackberry
One thing that seems to be in abundance along Route 66 are collections of stuff. There are historical museums, car collections, buildings covered in metal signs, and then there are some that can’t be so easily classified and are a mishmash of anything and everything. One of the most famous of those hodge-podge collections along Route 66 is the Hackberry General Store in the tiny town of Hackberry. Originally a gas station opened in 1934 as the Northside Grocery, it sold gas until the late ‘70s. After sitting empty for a number of years, Bob Waldmire, famous Route 66 artist and son of the founder of the Cozy Dog, reopened the Hackberry General Store in 1992 as a souvenir shop. Still housing a collection of vintage signs, rusty cars, old gas pumps, and a gift shop with more stuff, for many years it was recognizable by a bright red ‘57 Corvette that sat out front but is sadly now gone. Even though Jen’s dream car no longer sits out front, it’s still definitely worth the stop.

Shaffer Fish Bowl Spring- Sitgreaves Pass
On the south side of the road, just east of the summit of Sitgreaves Pass are 30-ish small steps cut into the stone, leading up to the Shaffer Fish Bowl Spring. Created in the 1930s by a gentleman, unsurprisingly named Shaffer, to capture some naturally occurring spring water, the spring served as a welcome thirst quencher for travelers and animals alike for many years. Since it is fed from a natural source, the spring remains consistently full. For a time, locals kept it stocked with goldfish, snails, and plants to keep the water fresh and free from algae. Perhaps not the sparkling fresh drink it once was as algae was present when we visited, there were still goldfish happily swimming around. There are no signs identifying the location of the spring, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for the stone steps around mile marker 31.

Where to Sleep

Wigwam Motel- Holbrook
Have you slept in a wigwam lately? Along Route 66, there are two Wigwam Villages, Village #6 in Holbrook, AZ and Village #7, in Rialto, CA. Built in the 1930s and ‘40s, there were originally seven Wigwam Villages constructed in six different states. Today, only these two and Village #2 in Cave City, KY still exist. Back in the late 1930s, Chester Lewis was passing through Kentucky and came across a Wigwam Village. His interest piqued, Mr. Lewis purchased the plans and the right to use the name from original developer, Frank Redford, intending to build a Wigwam Village in Holbrook. Part of the purchase agreement was that Mr. Lewis would install a coin-operated radio in each room and the monies collected from those radios would be sent back to Mr. Redford. Almost 70 years later, the radios no longer exist; but the wigwams, which are misnamed as they are actually tepees, are a step back in time and an awesome way to experience true Americana.

Although planners by nature, we made an attempt to travel Route 66 without having every stop determined in advance; however, we made an exception for the Wigwams. Knowing that availability can be scarce, we planned a large part of our trip around when we could get a room and it was well worth it. Looking virtually unchanged from postcards in the 1950s, our night spent in Teepee #8 was vintage at its best, with handmade original log furniture and a bathroom with original everything. The only signs that we were in the 21st Century were the window-unit air conditioner and small television. Always ones to embrace our steps back in time, we enjoyed some snacks and beverages on the bench outside while admiring a gorgeous sunset, followed up by a serious game of gin rummy played on a small section of the queen-sized bed that Finley was willing to relinquish. A perfect night, whether its 1957 or 2017, if there is just one vintage place that you must stay on Route 66, this is it.

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Where to Eat

Mother Road Brewing- Flagstaff
How could you possibly pass up a brewery whose named was inspired by Route 66? A short walk from the Econo Lodge, where we stayed in Flagstaff, the Mother Road Brewing Company’s Pike Brewery location has a dog-friendly patio and fun beers with Route 66-inspired names. While enjoying a nice fall evening on the patio, we sampled the Kolsch Style Ale, Experimental Session IPA, Tower Station IPA, and Painted Desert ESB; as well as an exceptionally tasty pizza from Pizzicletta, which we ordered and was delivered to us right at our table. We were lucky enough to be visiting on a night when James Beard Award Winner and creator of the “Best Pizza in the United States” according to multiple publications, Chris Bianco, was the guest chef. Definitely a drinking and dining highlight of our trip!

Tourist Home Cafe- Flagstaff
Located in a former boardinghouse for sheepherders with an great vintage neon sign, Tourist Home Cafe offers a variety of food and drink options, but its the breakfast pastries that shouldn’t be missed. We’ve stopped at Tourist Home on our last two trips through Flagstaff and while we’ve hoped both times that we wouldn’t end up leaving with a box full of pastries, we did. There are many options and trying them all isn’t possible, so we’ve been forced to chose just a few each time. To date, we’ve tried a coconut macaroon, Matcha green tea macaroon, homemade cinnamon sugar pop tart, red pepper biscuit, coconut scone, cardamom roll, pumpkin donut, and churro donut (not all in one sitting). While all of those have been exceptionally tasty, its the churro donut that stole our hearts. In fact, we loved it so much that after our first visit, we wrote a review of it for our Donut Digest. Located just two blocks south of Route 66, Tourist Home is the perfect place to grab breakfast, or if you’re like us- breakfast and dessert for the next two or three meals, before hitting the road for another day of adventures.

2 thoughts on “Here It Is: Route 66 in Arizona

  1. Tom Reply

    We drove Route 66 from Amarillo west this past June. We hit most of what you highlighted and your post reminded me of much.
    Thanks

    1. Tin Sheets Reply

      So glad you enjoyed your travels, Route 66 is such an incredible experience! We definitely hope to be able to travel the entire route again sometime in the future!

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