Guide to Route 66: Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
However, the most visited portion of this legendary highway, and an integral part of any western USA road trip, is between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
In my opinion, not only is it the most practical part to visit because it nicely fills the drive between these two major destinations, but it is also the most beautiful.
So here is my guide to the Mother Road, one step at a time.
Pick up your Las Vegas rental car and let's go!
On leaving Las Vegas, head south on Route 95 to Oatman (2 hrs 15 mins). This is where your Route 66 road trip begins.
Travellers too often skip Oatman and start directly in Kingman. Big mistake!
It is often said that the Oatman Highway is one of the most beautiful sections of Route 66. This stretch of highway was officially removed from Route 66 in 1953 in favour of the new Interstate 40 between Kingman and Needles, but it is part of the original, historic Route 66.
Oatman is a typical Western ghost town. Its current population is around 130, whereas at the peak of the gold rush it supported more than 10,000.
Between 1904 and 1931, the area's mines produced more than $36 million worth of gold. Then the vein dried up and the prospectors left the region. The re-routing of Route 66 in 1953 sealed Oatman's fate, which became a ghost town in the 1960s.
Today, the town is rising from its ashes and is home to a hotel, restaurants, gift shops and more.
There is also a large population of wild burros, descendants of the beasts of burden brought to the area by long-ago miners, which wander freely through the streets of this magnificent ghost town.
As you continue towards Kingman, you will enter the most scenic section of Route 66 with its winding curves and desert scenery.
About 12 kilometres east of Oatman, you will see Ed’s Camp on your left. Ed’s Camp was built in 1920 to serve passing motorists. However, you will not be able to get close to the abandoned site as it is private property. Please do not trespass, and take photos from the road.
2 minutes further on, on your right, is Cool Springs Camp, another rest stop where motorists could find gas, a home-cooked meal, and a place to sleep. Abandoned and later rebuilt in 2001, today it is a must-see attraction of Route 66.
Now continue on to Kingman (30 km / 25 minutes).
A return to civilization!
In Kingman, you simply must stop at the Route 66 Museum. More than just a museum, the building also houses the official Arizona tourism office.
Did you work up an appetite during your tour of the museum? All you have to do is cross the street to Mr. D’z, an old-fashioned diner from the glory years of Route 66 offering classic American fare and a 1950s decor.
Continue on the 66 towards Hackberry, which is about 45 kilometers away (40 minutes). This is said to be the longest straight section of the Mother Road.
Hackberry General Store is a true icon of not only Route 66 but also driving in the USA itself!
If you ever thought about a road trip in the States, you probably had this scene in mind.
Get your camera ready because Route 66 doesn't get any more authentic than this!
The abandoned cars dotting the landscape give this fascinating spot a certain ghost town feel. It is even said that the store was an inspiration for the creators of Disney's Cars.
Continue to Peach Springs, 40 kilometres away (25 minutes).
Make a quick stop in Peach Springs, which has nothing much of interest to see except the American Indian culture of the Hualapai Tribe.
Hualapai Lodge is the best place in the area to spend the night.
Continue to Grand Canyon Caverns, 45 kilometres away (30 minutes).
#5. Grand Canyon Caverns
Grand Canyon Caverns are the largest dry caverns in the Unites States, and the third largest in the world. The lack of water in these rare caverns prevents the formation of stalagmites and stalactites.
Here you will find one of the most unique places in the USA to spend the night: a hotel room 80 metres underground! Don't hesitate to take a guided tour.
The site also features an authentic diner, a typical Route 66 gas station and a gift shop.
Keep going to Seligman, 40 kilometres to the east (25 minutes).
Seligman is known as the "Birthplace of Historic Route 66" and the home of its rebirth in the 1980s. It is also a required stop along your pilgrimage to the Mother Road.
Start your visit by picking up a map of the walking tour at Angel’s Gift Shop and Welcome Center, where you can learn all about the town's fascinating history.
Above all, be sure to grab an ice cream cone at Delgadillos Snow Cap. This is my personal favourite along Route 66. Enjoy your ice cream as you wander through the collection of old cars and memorabilia behind the restaurant, a real open-air museum with a good sense of humour.
Continue to Williams, 70 kilometres further east (40 minutes).
Founded in 1881, Williams was named after William “Old Bill" Williams, a famous trapper, trader, scout and mountain man.
Don't miss the colourful historic downtown with its authentic small-town atmosphere and history.
You will find several restaurants and shops along the main street. As the interesting section is not very long, it is easily visited on foot. It should take less than an hour.
If you feel like you've had enough, you can drive directly to the legendary Grand Canyon National Park via la Route 64 (a 1-hour drive). If not, your Route 66 road trip ends in Flagstaff, 55 kilometres away (40 minutes).
At an altitude of 2,300 metres, Flagstaff is the highest point of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles.
When the accommodations near the Grand Canyon are full, which happens very often, visitors come here to spend the night.
Downtown Flagstaff is less charming than Williams, but its historical importance makes it a must for true Route 66 buffs.
You can now head north on Route 180 to the Grand Canyon. It will take you about 90 minutes to get there.
And there you go!
Did I forget any must-see attractions along this iconic stretch of Route 66? Don't hesitate to leave your comments below!