Whether you’re a road trip enthusiast or not, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with historic Route 66. This fabled road has garnered a special place in American history as a name that resonates with the spirit of adventure and the pursuit of dreams. Stretching an impressive 2,448 miles from the heart of the Midwest to the West Coast, this section of the United States is affectionately referred to as the “Mother Road” to some and “Main Street of America” to others.
With the rich and complex history of the iconic highway in mind, we’re taking a closer look at the wonders of the Painted Desert that runs along Route 66 in Arizona: Discover how this captivating region pays homage to the famous road while showcasing unique landscapes and abundant history of the Wild West.
History and geography of the Painted Desert
If you’ve been wondering if Main Street of America makes its way through Arizona, the short answer is — yes. Covering more than 400 miles of terrain, Route 66 in Arizona was one of the original states the highway ran through when it was first constructed in 1926. So, where does the Painted Desert come in? The desert is intimately linked with historic Route 66 as the highway is the gateway to this magnificent natural phenomenon. In fact, the original alignment went right through the park.
Northern Arizona’s Painted Desert extends 150 miles from the eastern end of the Grand Canyon into Petrified Forest National Park. With colorful hills, flat-topped mesas and sculptured buttes — often compared to pastel mounds of Neapolitan ice cream — these badlands unveil an enchanting tapestry of natural wonders that leave visitors mesmerized.
Explore the Petrified National Forest
Along the Arizona route and within the kaleidoscope of colors of the Painted Desert, you can find the Petrified Forest National Park. Located in northeastern Arizona, about 50 miles from the New Mexico border on Interstate 40, this national park is home to a treasure trove of ancient petrified wood, stunning geological formations and archaeological sites. This landscape, spreading over 221,390 acres, now remains the only national park containing a portion of old Route 66.
Painted Desert and Petrified Forest points of interest
Within the enthralling expense of the Painted Desert, you can treat yourself to a myriad of activities and things to see. Many enjoy visiting the Agate House, a unique ancestral Puebloan ruin, for a better look into the ancient civilizations that once lived and thrived in this region. Travelers also take care to see the incredible natural wonder offered by the Agate Bridge, formed by petrified logs, and Kachina Point, which provides a panoramic view of the painted cliffs and the iconic Grand Canyon.
Or, you might opt for an exploration down the Blue Mesa Trail, an alternately paved and gravel trail loop offering hikers a rare journey through the badlands. Explorers also take advantage of the Long Logs Trail, where Puerco Pueblo tells the story of an ancient village and features fascinating rock art.
Regardless of the historic places along the park road travelers choose to take in, every attraction is sure to offer a unique, awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience.
Going on a Painted Desert Route 66 trip
When you’re ready to traverse Route 66 in Arizona, taking the time to enjoy the mesmerizing landscapes of the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, Route 66 Tours offers a variety of options to suit your adventure needs. Between our larger Plus Tour and compact Express offerings, there’s something for everyone looking to experience the majesty of the historic highway.
We’re booking for our 2023 Fall Route 66 Plus Tour, running from October 2nd to the 28th. Fully guided by our road trip specialists, this 26-night tour takes you from Las Vegas to Chicago and back for a remarkable experience through the twists and turns of the Mother Road.
We know that no two adventures are ever the same: Because our trips are meticulously planned, you can ask our tour company at the time of booking if there are particular interests on your guided expedition that might be included along the way. We can also plan your pre and post-Route 66 adventure travel itineraries.
To book the journey of a lifetime and experience North America’s most famous highway, contact us today!