Crossing Arizona on I-40, The New Route 66

Part 4 of Northern Arizona

Red Rock Mountains near Sedona

Driving across Northern Arizona means crossing the historic land of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. The drive can take several hours or several days, depending upon your curiosity level. You can follow a two lane road that cuts north then wanders eastward to the four corners area; or you can take Interstate Highway 40. It rushes the traveler from the California state line to New Mexico in relative comfort and safety.

While you will see some amazing things from the Interstate highway, you will miss much more. You’re racing past such magical places. You’re in the land of legends, with deep blue skies and red sandstone mountains all around you, and centuries of history. From the dry Mojave to the pine forest, through the painted desert, pinon forests and grassland, it’s a long but beautiful drive.

Tribute to The Eagles, Winslow

After Flagstaff you’ll pass by Meteor Crater. Further east is the town of Winslow, Arizona, with its tribute to Glenn Frey and the Eagles for the mention in their hit song, ‘Take It Easy’. You can stand on the corner with a statue of Glenn Frey, and check out the flatbed Ford parked on the street. I don’t know where the girl went but she’s probably a grandmother by now.

Beyond the Petrified Forest – and yes, it’s worth the time to take the loop drive through the park to see the colorful petrified logs and tree stumps – there’s a detour you can take to spend a little time on the Navajo Nation. US highway 191 cuts north to the town of Ganado. From Ganado you can travel east to Window Rock then to Gallup and get back on the Interstate. The route may add a couple of hours, but it will be time well spent.

Hubbell Trading Post entrance, Ganado

First stop would be the Hubbell trading post just west of Ganado. This is the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. The Post is now a National Historic Site and is operated by the National Park Service, but it has a general store that has been selling goods and Native American Art since 1878. The Rangers are happy to share the history of the trading post and show off their wares. Some of the very best Navajo rugs are on display, as well as beautiful turquoise jewelry and native pottery. While there will be several gift shops on the way through Window Rock and Gallup, a stop at Hubbell is worthwhile. The loop continues through Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation, then crosses the New Mexico border near Gallup and the Interstate.

Well, that’s the fast way across Northern Arizona. In the next episodes we’ll talk about the history of the Navajo and the Hopi, then we’ll take the back roads and travel from Tuba City to the 4 corners.

Painted Desert, near Petrified Forest

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