Route 66 Road Trip from New Mexico to Arizona's Grand Canyon Country

Plunge deep into Americana. Aim your wheels to traverse New Mexico and Arizona, home to the longest uninterrupted stretch of Historic Route 66.
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Plunge deep into Americana. Aim your wheels to traverse New Mexico and Arizona, home to the longest uninterrupted stretch of Historic Route 66.
Sunset on Route 66

Trip Overview

Everyone has to travel at least one section of the legendary Historic Route 66 in their lives. Established in 1926, the legendary road stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago, Ill., to Santa Monica, Calif.

In bad times, migrants fleeing the Dust Bowl in the 1930s traveled on Route 66 to California, their cars weighed down by possessions and unrealized dreams. In good times, World War II veterans saw the road as a path to freedom, loading their families into cars to explore the Americana of small-town Route 66, California’s sunny beaches and Disneyland.

While it was completely decommissioned in 1985 and replaced by five interstates, you can still drive on the remnants of one of the nation’s most iconic highways. In Chicago, you'll find a sign marking the start of Historic Route 66 at Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. From there, you'll pass through the quirky small towns that lined the original route in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. As you stop in towns like Williams, Ariz., and Seligman, Ariz., you'll realize they have done the impossible. They have frozen time, offering the past as a present-day experience. You'll hear it at the vintage gas stations playing 1960s music. You'll taste it in your homemade root beer and hamburger in 1950s-style diners like Mr. D'z in Kingman, Ariz. You'll feel it as you drive the open two-lane road that cuts through some of the country's vast stretches of prairie and desert.

Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac may have captured the experience best in On the Road when he wrote, “... all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see.”

What follows are some of the road's highlights, particularly when your wheels traverse New Mexico and Arizona, home to the longest uninterrupted stretch of Historic Route 66. 

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TIP: Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings time. This creates a one-hour time difference between states which confuses many visitors. Remember this time change as you travel across state borders.

Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary

Stop 1: Gallup and Grants, N.M.

Route 66 drive-thru neon arch

Route 66 drive-thru neon arch

Visit these eight spots in Gallup and Grants for Route 66 lore and a dive into the trading post scene. The area is responsible for 70 percent of the authentic Native American art sold internationally.

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Stop 2: Winslow, Ariz.

Standin' on the Corner Park in Winslow, Ariz.

Standin' on the Corner Park in Winslow, Ariz.

See the best eras of the Southwest brought back to life from Native American lore to Route 66. Don't miss Standin' on the Corner [of Winslow, Ariz.] Park. You'll find that Winslow is a real renaissance town.

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Stop 3: Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater near Winslow, Ariz. Photo by Thomas Venturi Photography courtesy of Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater near Winslow, Ariz.

It's as deep as a 60-story building and as wide as 20 football fields. Don't miss this popular meteorite impact site, located on I-40, 35 miles east of Flagstaff.

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Stop 4: Williams, Ariz. 

The Grand Canyon Railway snakes itself through a forest south of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon Railway snakes itself through a forest south of the canyon.

Williams is a southern gateway to the Grand Canyon and a historic stop on Route 66. A wildlife park, scenic train ride, a thrilling zipline adventure above Route 66, and a peaceful mountain retreat are waiting for you.

Read more about Williams. 

Bears at Bearizona. Photo courtesy of the City of Williams

Bears at Bearizona

Bearizona Drive-thru Wildlife Park
See bears, wolves, buffalo and more in this drive through park among the pine forests of north Arizona. 60 miles from Grand Canyon's south rim in Williams.

Read more about Bearizona. 

Pouring a cold one at the Grand Canyon Brewery in Williams

Pouring a cold one at the Grand Canyon Brewery in Williams

Grand Canyon Brewing Co.
Savor a Sunset Amber Ale at the new Grand Canyon Brewing Co. location. There’s a tasting room and restaurant with burgers, brats and pizza. Take a tour of the brewery.

Read more about Grand Canyon Brewing Co. 

Stop 5: Grand Canyon National Park

First Light at Lipan Point in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

First Light at Lipan Point in the Grand Canyon. 

Take a a scenic train ride to the south rim of the Grand Canyon from the depot in Williams (see above), or drive to the south entrance near Tusayan. Open 365 days a year, the South Rim offers plenty of activities, restaurants and, of course, gorgeous views. It is the most-visited part of the canyon.

1-Day Grand Canyon Itinerary  

2-Day Grand Canyon Itinerary  

Stop 6: Kingman, Ariz.

The El Trovatore Motel on Route 66 in Kingman

The El Trovatore Motel on Route 66 in Kingman

At the "king" of Route 66, see heartbreaking photos and life-sized depictions of the Dust Bowl refugees at the museum, then eat and sleep in iconic Mother-Road spots.

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More Route 66 Adventure

Big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress, Public Domain

Big Blue Whale in Catoosa, Okla. 

Kingman, Ariz. is the end of our Grand Canyon stretch of the road. Have time to complete the entire length of Route 66? Take the 2,448-mile odyssey from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif.

Kitschy Roadside Attractions
See the Gemini Giant, swim by a blue whale, and drink soda under a 66-foot neon sign and other roadside attractions along the way.

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Route 66 Angel Connected to Mother Road for 89 Years
Born near Arizona's Historic Route 66 five months after the road was established, barber Angel Delgadillo brought back its neon lights after they had faded.

Read more.

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