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Route 66

Grand Canyon Caverns

Far, far away from the high-speed freeway frontage, midway between Williams and Kingman, 22 miles northwest of Seligman and a dozen miles east of Peach Springs, a large green sign marks the entrance to Grand Canyon Caverns (928/422-3223, daily, $20-100), which has somehow managed to survive despite being bypassed by the I-40 superslab. Once one of the prime tourist draws on the Arizona stretch of Route 66, the Grand Canyon Caverns were discovered and developed in the late 1920s and still have the feel of an old-time roadside attraction. Tours start every half hour at the gift shop, where you hop on the elevator that drops you 200-300 feet to underground chambers, including the 18,000-square-foot Chapel of the Ages. Regular tours last around 45 minutes. Back above ground, there’s also a gas station and a motel. If you want a truly unique experience, ask about staying overnight in the Cavern Suite, a fully furnished two-bed suite dating back to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when a corner of the caverns was set up as a fallout shelter.

Old Route 66: Grand Canyon Skywalk

Midway along the Historic Route 66 loop between Seligman and Kingman, the road comes close to the Grand Canyon as it passes through the large and lonely Hualapai Indian Reservation. The 2,300-strong Hualapai tribe has its community center at the town of Peach Springs, which marks the halfway point of this 87-mile, old-roads loop and offers at least one reason to stop: the comfortable Hualapai Lodge (888/868-9378, $134 and up) and Diamond Creek restaurant, right on Route 66. Apart from this, Peach Springs is mostly a prefab Bureau of Indian Affairs housing project with few services, though there is a photogenic old Route 66 filling station at the center of town.

The lodge was the first sign of tourism in Peach Springs, but the Hualapai community seems to have embraced commerce in a big way: 2007 saw the opening of the much-hyped (and much-troubled) Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-floored steel horseshoe that juts out from the edge of the Grand Canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. Installed at a cost of $30 million, the daring and impressive Skywalk is certainly unique, but it’s also expensive (count on it costing close to $80 per person, including lots of annoying fees and charges to park and ride the bus out to the Skywalk itself). The Skywalk is most popular as a day-trip destination from Las Vegas, but you can get here from Peach Springs via 91 miles of rough roads. The recommended route is to take I-40 or Route 66 to Kingman (50 miles southwest of Peach Springs), then head north via US-93, Pierce Ferry Road, and Diamond Bar Road, sections of which are still unpaved, though that extends the route to 132 miles.

A museum is planned and facilities are supposed to start being improved once the money rolls in, but for now there isn’t much apart from the Skywalk itself. There’s an ambitious long-term plan to develop the entire western end of the Hualapai Reservation into “Grand Canyon West,” with all sorts of water-rafting tours and outdoor activities on offer; time will tell if the Skywalk endures once the novelty wears off.

West of Peach Springs, Route 66 winds along the railroad tracks, passing through a few ghost towns (like Hackberry, where the old gas station still stands in rusting splendor) before zooming into Kingman.