I’ve always appreciated a vacation where I come home feeling smarter and I had some great history and science lessons on my trip to Arizona last weekend. My dad, brother and I took a two day road trip along Historic Route 66 in eastern Arizona.
I let my dad plan the trip and was just happy to tag along, but experienced so much more than expected from hiking along 13th century homes of Native Americans to admiring 225 million year-old fossilized trees. There’s so much I want to share about this trip that this post would be all over the place, so let me present this to you as a road trip guide for amazing sights you won’t see anywhere else.
We left Phoenix early in the morning and headed north for Walnut Canyon where we hiked the Island Trail and Rim Trail. Be sure to take the Island Trail, you’ll trek up and down hundreds of stairs, but the views are worth it. You’ll walk along several canyon homes of the Sinagua people from more than 700 years ago. Plenty are in great shape and let you imagine what life in the canyon was like. It was a hot, sunny day while we were hiking, but you’ll feel how cool the canyon shelters are and see the thick, black carbon stains of many fires that kept the Sinagua warm in the winters hundreds of years ago.
Two Guns was as tourist stop that flourished and died with Route 66. It’s now a ghost town off I-40 where you can find ruins of a roadside zoo, campsite and gas station. This was an impromptu stop along the road between the canyon and crater, but fun to explore and photograph.
About a mile wide, 570 feet deep and 50,000 years young, this meteorite crater is known to be the best preserved in the world. Explore the museum onsite to learn about the science of meteorites, but be sure to take the 30 minute ranger tour. The ranger will tell you the story behind the discovery of the crater and its namesake which is just as interesting, if not more, than the science that created it in the first place. The largest known fragment of the meteorite is on exhibit for looking AND touching so… that’s cool!
4. Standin’ On the Corner in Winslow, Arizona
This one is self explanatory if you know of a little band called The Eagles. It took some convincing from my dad, but I’m glad we stopped to strike a pose before we hit the road again.
We set up camp at Homolovi State Park in Winslow, Arizona and while the campsites are nothing spectacular, the pueblo ruins are worth the stay and give you first-hand look at the history of this land. Homol’ovi is a Hopi word for “place of the little hills,” and there are two excavated sites you can hike around. It gives you a view at how large these communities were, housing around 700 people, and there are shards of pottery dating back to the 13th century everywhere you look. It was amazing to find pieces of pottery scattered about with different textures, colors and designs (please don’t take any home with you, though!). If you take the rocky hike past Homol’ovi site II you can find some great petroglyphs as well.
We also ran into several critters on our hike near dusk. We saw jackrabbits everywhere, a couple bats, a young rattlesnake and a busy beehive.
The next morning, we made the drive to the long awaited Petrified Forest, giving us a peek into the environment of the Triassic period. There are several different hikes where you can view the magnificent colors, and sometimes crystals, of petrified wood from 225 million years ago when Arizona was a swampy jungle home to giant reptiles and early dinosaurs.
After the Giant Logs trail just outside of the museum, we took the Blue Mesa Trail, a one mile loop which had absolutely breath taking sites – or maybe the loss of breath was just from the steep climb. I left my camera in the car for this hike, but the trail takes you through beautiful, colorful badlands scattered with petrified wood – be sure to take this trail if you visit the park.
After two full days hiking in the sun, we were exhausted and ready to head back to Phoenix. We didn’t make it to the Painted Desert, another site at the national park. Though, this is a park I would visit again and be sure to explore some other trails next time.
This was a short road trip that I’ll remember forever and has given me an itch to travel more of the Historic Route 66 and nearby sites. I definitely recommend the route above, but feel free to change it up or extend the trip if you can – I’d love to hear about it too. Have you been to any of these places or taken a road trip down Route 66? Comment below!