Who’s up for a road trip? If you want something a little different from the usual Arizona sightseeing, check out this one!
Arizona is full of abandoned places. Some are protected sites, others are abandoned and unmonitored, and others are completely off limits. This road trip will take a look at some of those places sitting along the road between Flagstaff and Holbrook, a classic section of Route 66. One of the best parts? Since the distance between the two cities is only 91 miles, this can easily become a day trip for a weekend!
You can view the road trip map by
clicking this link here
. (Note: it is for viewing only, it will not allow you to make alterations.)
A. Elden Pueblo
We’re starting this road trip on the eastern outskirts of Flagstaff at Elden Pueblo. Quite a few ancient ruins exist in the area, such as Walnut Canyon and Wupatki, but Elden Pueblo is one that is often ignored.
The ruins were home to the Sinagua people from about 1070 to 1275 AD and may have once functioned as a trading site. In addition to finding the usual pots and tools in the site, archaeologists have also excavated uncommon items such as macaw feathers and shell jewelry unique to the Pacific coast here.
After parking, you can walk a short trail right up to the ruins, where most of the rooms have been uncovered. Brochures are typically available on site with information for a self-guided tour. Expect to spend about 30 minutes walking around and learning about the area.
B. Twin Arrows Trading Post
Our next stop, or rather drive-by, is just over 18 miles away and is the first the many Route 66 icons we’ll see. Twin Arrows was once a vibrant trading post and rest stop for Route 66 travelers from 1937 until it closed for good in the 1990s.
The area is now state trust land and is blocked off by concrete barriers just tall enough to prevent vehicles from stopping here. This hasn’t, however, stopped some people from pulling off the road just before or after the barriers and proceeding on foot. Stay safe and you might be able to get away with slowing down just enough to get a decent photo or two from your car.
C1. Two Guns Trading Post
Just off Exit 230 is this stop which features the old Two Guns trading post that never quite saw a fruitful existence. In addition to the trading post, you can find a campground, petting zoo, and other buildings that now sit in ruins. For more information, check out our article that
featured this abandoned place
C2. Canyon Diablo
This next place is only a mention since it is nearby but is for the most part inaccessible. Canyon Diablo is an old ghost town dating to 1882 and was supposedly a place that really put the “wild” in wild west. To give you an idea, its Main Street was instead called Hell Street with gambling parlors, saloons, and brothels open 24 hours a day. These days, just the foundation ruins and random items can be found.
The ghost town sits right on the edge of the Navajo Nation, making the area inaccessible to most Arizonans. The foundations of a few buildings sit on the south side of the tracks but more exist on the north side, which would require either dangerously crossing the tracks (I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS) or slowly driving many, many miles on dirt roads from Highway 99.
I have read a couple of rumors that the Navajo Nation is considering rebuilding a portion of the town for a tourist attraction but there’s no telling when that may take place. In the mean time, you can explore the area
E. Meteor Crater Observatory
Most people tend to drive right past this abandoned building but its history is related to Meteor Crater. It initially opened in the 1930s along the old Route 66 as a stop right off the highway where visitors could pay a small fee to see the crater through a telescope. It eventually closed then opened up in 1946 as the American Meteorite Museum for a few years by Dr. Harvey Nininger. The museum later moved to Sedona.
Today only remains of the building continue to stand.
E. Old Visitor Center at Meteor Crater
Next stop, Meteor Crater! Located just a few minutes south of the observatory is this attraction and the ruins of its former visitor center which is what we’ll be focusing on today. This is accessed via a long walkway along the rim of the crater. You can see the ruins plus debris and artifacts from yesteryear strewn about the area.
While here, you might as well enjoy the crater and the new visitor center, so expect to spend about an hour or so walking around. If you get hungry, there is a Subway located here, so you can choose to eat there or wait until you get to Winslow.
F. Meteor City
Here’s another trading post and Route 66 stop that has fallen into disrepair. The trading post was first established in 1938 as a gas station and eventually became an attraction after additions were made. It enjoyed a briefly vivid life and was featured in the 1984 movie
Starman. All things come to an end though. The trading post closed in 2001, then again for good in 2012.
This place was once the home of the world’s largest dreamcatcher—which has since been demoted by one in Russia—and the world’s largest map of Route 66. The map has fallen over and been destroyed by time and weather.
G. Homolovi State Park
Located a few miles north of Winslow, Homolovi State Park actually features two abandoned spots: the ruins of an ancient pueblo site and what remains of an old Mormon settlement called Sunset.
Homolovi features four pueblos sitting along the Little Colorado River but only two of them are open to the public. Both are a short distance from the visitors center. Occasionally, the park will host guided tours to the other two pueblos in addition to workshops about petroglyphs, petrified wood, and Hopi culture.
Sunset, or rather what remains of it, is located in the same area and sits a few hundred feet west of the visitors center. The settlement was established in 1876 by a group of Mormons who were sent to colonize the Little Colorado River Valley. The group of 102 built small homes, a dining hall, and even set up a small post office and a newspaper. They stayed for only a few years before moving to other parts of the West. Today, all that remains is a little cemetery and a small plaque marking it as a historic site.
H. Ella’s Frontier Trading Post
Now, we continue back on to Interstate 40/Route 66. Our next stop is yet another abandoned trading post just outside of Joseph City, past the still-operating Jack Rabbit Trading Post.
Ella’s Frontier Trading Post began in 1927 as a place called San Diego’s Old Frontier. It went through a couple of owners before landing in the hands of Ella Blackwell in 1955. Blackwell was a classically trained pianist who somehow ended up near Joseph City and ran the store until her death in 1984. Since then, the property has sat abandoned and nearly forgotten.
Nearby is the Big Arrow Campground, an abandoned camping site that was another casualty Route 66’s closure. You can find light posts, swing sets, and other fixtures still sitting here almost undisturbed.
I. Bucket of Blood Street
The last destination on our list is Holbrook’s Bucket of Blood Street, which we’ve featured in
an article before
. You can read up on the story behind the street’s name—which is about as violent as you assumed—and check out the abandoned saloon with the same name. Also sitting on the same street is the old Holbrook train depot; it dates to 1892 and operated until 1984.