Thinking of packing the family up for a road trip to the Grand Canyon?
Chances are you’re picturing a hike down the deep gorge at Grand Canyon National Park or a stroll out on the Grand Canyon Skywalk®, the glass bridge perched over the great expanse below.
These awe-inspiring adventures are located at two separate attractions, so make sure to plan your Grand Canyon getaway ahead of time.
Whether traveling to Grand Canyon National Park or to Grand Canyon West®, home of the Skywalk®, you’re likely to tread through Kingman, the Heart of Historic Route 66.
The Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center & Route 66 Museum, located in a century-old power plant, can help you plan your family’s Grand Canyon adventure, wherever you go.
Kingman is a promising little town with a surprising number of small and interesting attractions, including four museums, a historic downtown, a rum distillery and lots of hiking and outdoor adventures.
The Route 66 Museum, with detailed dioramas, old signs and enlarged maps, is a must-stop for anyone interested in the Mother Road and early American travel.
Another worthwhile point of interest is the Bonelli House, which stands as a living documentary to pioneer days.
On weekdays (the house is closed on weekends), volunteers escort tours through this historic home where the family safe once served as a town bank. Cowboys would deposit a couple of bills to keep from expensing their full week’s pay on, let’s just say, “life’s pleasantries.”
Gateway to the Outdoors
Among the most accessible places in Arizona, the Kingman area has nearly 1,000 miles of ATV and foot trail systems, from cool mountain trails to former desert mining roads.
Dozens of trail miles surrounding Kingman are exclusive to hiking and mountain biking, often providing an escape into the backcountry with an historic perspective.
White Cliffs Wagon Trail, for instance, offers hikers the relic of 150-year-old wagon-wheel ruts hewn into the rock.
Hualapai Mountain Park, just 14 miles from Kingman, boasts 20 miles of trail systems, historic cabins and campsites.
A hike into the Hualapais carries you to fantastic views at 8,000 feet, nearly a mile over the desert floor.
Grand Canyon West and the Grand Canyon Skywalk
Kingman is also on America’s route to Grand Canyon West®, home of the Skywalk®. This remote viewpoint is tucked away in northwestern Arizona, roughly a 250-mile drive northwest from Grand Canyon National Park.
Kingman, only 72 miles from the Grand Canyon Skywalk®, has the nearest accommodations, with reasonable rates year-round.
A road trip to Grand Canyon West winds through ranch land, a dry salt flat and Joshua tree forest.
Grand Canyon West rests 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. Here, the canyon walls come within a few miles of each other, affording a magnificent, up-close encounter with all the layers and colors in the strata.
Here, you can also take a horseback ride to the rim at Hualapai Ranch, breathe in unfettered views from multiple points without obstructing fences, watch traditional American Indian performances, and take a walking tour of an American Indian village, with authentic structures open for visitors to walk right into to study the architectural styles of multiple American Indian tribes.
Most notably, this is the home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk®, jutting out some 70 feet from the canyon’s edge.
Taking small steps out onto this glass carpet ride will conjure a flying sensation – if you dare to look down, of course.
The ground below moves fabulously under your feet in huge strides with each small step you take on the platform.
Even helicopters below are nothing more than gnats, so far into the canyon that you don’t hear them, but just see their busy little bodies gliding between the walls.
And, yes, this is also the only place you can ride a helicopter down into the Grand Canyon to capture a truly unique point of view in the deep crevice.
Traveling to Grand Canyon National Park
Considering a trip to Grand Canyon Village at the national park’s South Rim? A 185-mile road trip from Kingman on eclectic Old Route 66 will carry you east to the park, through a fun hodgepodge of roadside attractions.
One newer operation on the outskirts of Kingman is Desert Diamond Distillery, a rum factory that produces dark and agave rums, as well as other rum varieties.
D3’s distinct rums have received awards from the International Spirit Tasting (2011) and San Francisco World Spirit Awards (2012).
Late in the summer or early fall of 2012, another Kingman attraction, Stetson Winery, will open a tasting room, event center and courtyard, with views of their exclusive Route 66 vineyard in the heart of Arizona’s West Coast region.
Keep traveling east on the Mother Road for a chance to climb aboard a Pinzgauer (all-terrain military utility vehicle) for a safari tour at Keepers of the Wild Animal Sanctuary. From your seat, spy 25 magnificent tigers and 150 other exotic animals in natural habitats.
Once you reach Peach Springs, take a side trip down the only road meandering to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
If you want to see an interesting geological attraction, stop at Grand Canyon Caverns. This roadside stop offers tours 21 stories below ground through the largest dry limestone caverns in the U.S.
After the quintessential Route 66 town of Seligman, the route turns into Interstate 40. Continue to Williams, where you can tour the Bearizona drive-through wildlife park from the comfort of your own car before heading up Highway 89 for the final hour of your trip to Grand Canyon Village.
For more than a century, Americans have vacationed at the Grand Canyon to connect with something larger than life. As if secrets are spoken through its rhythmic shades, even the casual picture-taker is inspired to snap shots until fingers go numb.
When you go, contact the Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center for help in planning your Route 66 and Grand Canyon adventure.
(Brought to you by the Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center, (866) 427-7866, www.gokingman.org.)