Route 66 can trace history back to the late 1920s when it was first proposed and published. However, it was not until 1938 that the road was completely paved from its eastern beginning in Chicago, Illinois, to the western terminal of Santa Monica, CA, approximately 2450 miles later. Of course, the route can be run either east or west, although most Route 66 travelers prefer to travel from east to west just as the Joad family did in John Steinbeck's famous literary work, The Grapes of Wrath.
Unfortunately, Route 66 began to be replaced in the 1960s by new Interstate freeways that bypassed many small towns along the way and were completely removed from the freeway to interstate freeways in 1985. However, in part to many Route 66 organizations, small-town chambers, enthusiasts and historians have refused enough to let it die. Over the last 25 years there has been a new boom of heritage tourism that has aroused interest in preserving this wonderful piece of Americana history and nostalgia which is Route 66.
Often referred to as "The Mother Road," "America's Main Street" or the "Will Rogers Highway" route goes through eight different states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Let's look at the state of Arizona in more detail.
Heading west, Arizona is the seventh of the 8 sections of Route 66 and has 401 miles from border to border. It boasts some of the most beautiful scenery, some of the most unique establishments you must see, the highest elevation and the longest unbroken stretch of Route 66 of the entire journey.
Geographically, Arizona is home to Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. These places provide some incredible photo opportunities, but also a chance to explore and hike in these natural attractions.
About 75 miles into Arizona, past both the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, is the town of Holbrook. Home to the Wigwam Village Motel, most Route 66 travelers look forward to sleeping in a tepee, and many cite this landmark as a highlight of the trip. Further west lies Joseph City, a Mormon establishment that was created in the late 1870s. Located in Joseph City is the famous Jackrabbit Trading Post. One of Route 66's most well-known signature sites is the famous signboard that reads "HERE IT IS" located at the Jackrabbit Trading Post.
Further west past the Meteor Crater and the towns "stand on the corner" Winslow, the extinct two weapons, the abandoned Twin Arrows and the "don't forget" Winona lie the town of Flagstaff. Flagstaff is home to the famous Lowell Observatory and is also the gateway to the Grand Canyon, which is an hour's drive north. The Canyon is well worth a side trip off Route 66 to see one of the eight natural wonders of the world. If you prefer, you can also access the spectacular Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway out of Williams just 30 miles west of Flagstaff. Between Flagstaff and Williams lies Brannigan Peak. At 720 feet above sea level, it is the highest peak along the entire route to Rt. 66.
25 km west of Williams lies Ash Fork, the capital of the world's flagstone. Just past Ash Fork, you can say goodbye to I-40 as you embark on the longest unbroken stretch of Route 66 of the entire journey. Be sure to stop by the legendary Snow Cap Drive-in in Seligman and the fascinating Hackberry Country Store before arriving at Kingman. Here you will find many still-preserved business businesses serving Route 66 travelers, including a very well-executed museum.
Be sure to leave Kingman while you still have daylight, because you won't miss the incredible scenery ahead as you travel through Black Mountain switchbacks & hairpins ahead. Oatman waits, and so do the many wild burros who call the old mining town home. Be sure to check out the historic Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon.
By leaving Oatman, you can take a quick trip to the casinos in Laughlin Nevada and try your luck, or continue through Golden Shores, Topock and return to I-40 to cross the mighty Colorado River into California.