Route 66 – East of Flagstaff
Today we left Sedona quite early and headed straight up towards Flagstaff again, only this time we caught I40E to see Route 66 – East of Flagstaff. The history, natural beauty and wigwams on this section of Route 66 had us smiling all day.
This was a great stop, with a really nice visitor center and museum.
We thought about the Island Trail, which descends 185 feet into the canyon where you could see 25 cliff dwelling rooms. A strenuous almost mile round trip, this is one of the best ways to experience the park, but when we saw a group of young kids on a field trip huffing and puffing as they neared the top (240 steps back up), we opted to worship it from atop, read the park signs and enjoy yet another beautiful overlook. Across the canyon walls are remarkable formations and ancient cliff dwellings, where you can see the homes of ancient inhabitants. The Rim Trail offers an easier overview of the canyon.
Next stop was the most well-known, best-preserved meteorite crater on the planet. Meteor Crater is the breath-taking result of a collision between a piece of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 mph and Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. Nearly one mile across, over 2 miles around and more than 550 feet deep, this crater is something to see! There is indoor viewing and a wide screen movie theater in the Visitor Center where they offer a short movie and a guided tour to the rim. It’s very interesting how they determined it’s a meteor and not a volcano crater. It is an easy drive just south of I40. Since it’s privately owned, there is an admission fee and it’s not covered under your Arizona National Parks pass, but to us it was worth it. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and there’s a great view of the San Francisco Peaks.
Winslow suffered quite a loss of commerce when U.S. Route 66 was bypassed by Interstate 40, but the popularity of the song “Take It Easy” by the Eagles, led to renewed attention for Winslow and a commercial upswing.
We couldn’t go by Winslow, Arizona without Standin’ on the Corner now, could we? We were annoying a local who may have flipped us off for being such tourists. All we could say to him was “Dude, take it easy!” There wasn’t a whole lot else to do in this small town, except grab a great burger and hit the road for our next stop.
Holbrook is called the Gateway to the Petrified National Forest, but we mostly wanted to see the Wigwam Motel. Like other grandmas out there who have seen the movie “Cars” more than we’d like to admit, this was a great stop! There’s a really nice website that gives some history of the Wigwam Motel. Turns out it was restored and reopened in 1988 with 15 rooms.
El Desierto Pintado (the painted desert) is a natural canvas millions of years in the making. The Painted Desert was created from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and sunlight. It is simply stunning and mounds of colorful rock seem to bulge from the earth, which made for some breathtaking pictures. Standing on the edge of the vast landscape, a Spanish explorer is rumored to have named it because the hills looked like they were painted with the colors of the sunset.
It’s quite a drive all the way out there to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, and our group was split as to wether it was worth the trip. I enjoyed it and if you are planning to see Canyon de Chelly, why not drive thru. Allow at least an hour to drive through, or two or three if you walk the trails and stop at all of the turnouts.
Long ago, The Petrified Forest was covered with huge trees, but lava destroyed the forest and the remains were embedded into sediment of volcanic ash and water. Erosion set the logs free, revealing the petrified wood – made mostly of quartz.
But there’s more to the Petrified Forest than just wood (or stone), with remnants of human history, including Puerco Pueblo, an extensive collection of prehistoric pottery fossils and even a protected section of historic Route 66.
We drove straight back to Sedona and got home after dark. It was a really long day. I would recommend an overnight somewhere around Holbrook. Then you could catch Canyon de Chelly (which we heard from two relatives was awesome) and head back the next day. But there was not an extra day in our schedule to do that. So again, sometime soon…
We slept really good that night and planned some sightseeing and shopping around the Sedona area for the next day. Then we were off for The Grand Canyon!
Route 66 – East of Flagstaff is NOT to be Missed!
Next Stop: The Grand Canyon