Route 66 Ghost Roads Convergence

A spring house on the Route 66 Ghost Road trail

Historic Route
66 embodies a uniquely American sort of inertia: constantly changing, evolving
and adapting to innovations while respecting its roots.

The Mother
Road that ran for 2,448 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles is no
longer the arterial travel corridor is was from the 1920s to the 1960s, but its
legacy has been curated in stretches of drive-able pavement and backwoods “ghost
roads” accessible only by way of bike or foot travel.

In
Northern Arizona, the iconic road was re-routed several times before being
replaced by Interstate 40. Today, bits and pieces of the decommissioned road
have been repurposed into scenic driving tours, bike trails and walking paths
that preserve its heritage and crumbing imprints on the landscape. One
interesting location to explore on foot is where remnants of the road’s 1921,
1931 and 1941 alignments converge north of Interstate 40 in the tiny community
of Parks.

Three alignments of Route 66 meet at this point on the trail.

Hiding in
plain sight along a motorized stretch of Old Route 66 about halfway between
Flagstaff and Williams, in Kaibab National Forest, a dusty pullout and information kiosk mark the beginning
of an easy stroll at the juncture of three ghost roads.

Plants take root in the abandoned 1931 alignment of Rt. 66

Located not far from
the Pines General Store Deli & Café and postal annex that’s been around
since 1906, the who-knew trailhead surrounded by a fading log-pole fence directs
hikers onto a mile-long segment of the 1931 alignment–the northernmost vestige
on the hike.

Trailhead sign shows the evolution of Route 66 near Parks.

A few yards to the south,
the 1921 alignment is a barely-there dirt two-track that’s slowing being
reclaimed by the forest. South of the vanishing dirt passage, cars whiz by on
paved Old Route 66 (1941- 1964) while the hum of vehicles on Interstate 40 betray
the location of the freeway that diluted Route 66’s status as a major thoroughfare and gateway to the Southwest
down to a recreational curiosity.

The ghostly footprint of the 1921 alignment of Route 66

The 1931
road-turned-hiking-trail makes a straight shot through pine-oak forests and
weedy meadows.

Calliopsis grown in drainages along the trail.

At the start of the
hike, part of the road appears to have been bulldozed away.

A decommissioned segment of Rt. 66 is now a hiking trail.

Piles of broken
concrete along the north edge of the route soon give way to patches of intact pavement
in varying degrees of decay. Underfoot, the remains of the road include a
montage of blacktop, concrete and a pinkish pebble conglomerate that hint at
the challenges of Depression-era road maintenance.

A Depression-era culvert spans a drainage on the trail.
The route passes through pine-oak woodlands in Kaibab NF.

About a quarter-mile in, a culvert
bearing the clean lines and subdued edges typical of 1930s design spans
a drainage area replete with wildflowers.

Gate at trail's end.

Beyond that, near where a wall of
basalt bolsters the road’s edge, there’s a stone spring house that had been
used as part of a defunct forest service camp.

The trailhead is in a pullout on the 1941 alignment of Rt.66

A few steps past the spring house, the trail passes a wooden gate where
a pair of culverts–one from 1931 and the other from 1941—mark the merger point
of the three ghost roads that are the invisible predecessors of the modern-day
interstate highway system.

An old forest service camp spring house along the trail.
Yellow sweet clover grows along the edge of the trail.
The 1931 alignment is composed of various materials

LENGTH: 2
miles out-and-back

RATING:
easy

ELEVATION: 7,015 – 7,171 feet

GETTING
THERE:

From
Interstate 40 about 13 miles west of Flagstaff, take the Parks exit 178 and go
0.4-mile north to Old Route 66. Turn right and continue 0.4-mile to the
trailhead on the left.

INFO: Kaibab National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/kaibab/recreation/scenicdrivinginfo/recarea/?recid=80822&actid=105
Route 66 Association of Arizona
https://www.historic66az.com/

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