RoadRUNNER’s Bucket List Roads: Historic Route 66 in Arizona (Arizona SR 66)

Apr 02, 2016 View Comments by

Route 66

What is It? Riding Historic Route 66 from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA, or vice versa, has long been a right of transcontinental passage for many touring motorcyclists. RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel has published several articles on riding all, or parts, of the famed Mother Road. If time is limited and riders want to experience a quintessential segment of Historic 66, there’s a largely unchanged stretch in western Arizona, which can be ridden both directions in a single day (see map).

Route 66Historical Perspective: Would you believe that a precursor to Route 66 could easily have been named the Camel Road? The year was 1849 and there was a gold rush going on in California. This event, plus surveys in 1853 for a proposed transcontinental railroad, sparked interest in transportation routes along the 35th parallel. In 1857, Congress commissioned an expedition, headed by Lt. Ned Beale, to identify a wagon route from Fort Defiance, NM, to the Colorado River. What made this expedition particularly interesting was the use of camels instead of horses to navigate the arid terrain. However, the ongoing camel experiment in the Old West was terminated when the Civil War broke out.

Beale’s Survey trail became the Beale Wagon Road, which remained unimproved in this mostly uninhabited region of Arizona. But with the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, the American public began clamoring for the route’s improvement. Some 70 years after the Beale Wagon Road was established the former dirt trail became U.S. Route 66 on November 11, 1926. Sadly, at least for many of us motorcycle wanderers, 2,448 miles of Route 66 were removed from the National Highway System on June 27, 1985.

But if anyone thought decommissioning Route 66 would lessen the historic road’s allure, they were hugely mistaken. People come from around the world to ride and drive on the Main Street of America. Publishing books and leading guided tours that help travelers navigate and experience its historic alignments has become a cottage industry. While riding the storied route, don’t be surprised to hear fellow travelers speaking in many different languages. As the old slogan goes, “Get your kicks on Route 66.”

Scenery: High desert terrain, roadside nostalgia

Curves: Not a lot of curves, mostly straight

Services: Limited services, so start with a full tank of fuel and container of drinking water

Traffic: Generally light

Distance: Approximately 107 mi.

Time Required: Two hours riding time

Technical Difficulty: Not difficult, appropriate for most experienced street riders

Informative Websites:


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Tags: Categories: Destinations, On The Road