Step back in time in this Route 66 town

Williams, Arizona Route 66
Welcome to Williams, Arizona.Terrance Siemon
Welcome to Williams, Arizona (Elevation: 6,765’; Population: 3,158)

Take a walk down the main drag of Williams and you will find classic cars and neon signs nestled within the tall Ponderosa pines, a hidden gem of a town just 33 miles west of Flagstaff.

Daniel Volkart busking Williams, AZ
Rain or shine, you will find Daniel Volkart sitting on the main drag playing his guitar. Any money he receives from passersby is handed out to those in need.Terrance Siemon

A true Western town, Williams is located on Historic Route 66 and is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” While Grand Canyon National Park offers plenty of hiking opportunities from the South Rim, there are plenty of other ways to experience the outdoors around Williams.

Grand Canyon Colorado River Phantom Ranch
A suspension bridge carries backpackers, hikers and runners across the Colorado River from the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch. Tiona Eversole
Grand Canyon National Park

Williams is located 70 miles from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and can be reached from Williams by car via State Route 64 or by train on the Grand Canyon Railway for a scenic and interesting trip with a rich history.

From the South Rim, you can access an abundance of trails including the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel Trail, both of which take you to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. If you are planning to hike all the way to Phantom Ranch, we suggest turning it into an overnight backpacking trip as the hike down then back to the rim is steep and challenging. An overnight trip will require a backcountry permit. 

While the backpacking trip to Phantom Ranch is highly recommended, both the South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail offer shorter, day-hike options ranging from 0.9 miles with an elevation change of 590 feet to 7.7 miles with an elevation change of 4,340 feet. 

For the ambitious distance runner, the Rim to Rim to Rim run is a sought-after feat. Most choose to begin on the South Rim since parking is available near the trailhead. This 47.5-mile, out-and-back run takes you from the South Rim on the Bright Angel Trail, then up the North Rim via the North Kaibab Trail before turning around and returning to the South Rim.  

Kaibab Lake Williams, Arizona
Kaibab Lake is a quick way to cool off and relax. Terrance Siemon
Coconino and Kaibab National Forests

Both the Coconino and Kaibab national forests around Williams offer hiking, mountain biking, camping and fishing. 

Kaibab Lake is a short, 10-minute drive from Williams and offers camping, fishing, boating and stand-up paddleboarding with beautiful mountain views. 

If you’re looking to rock climb, check out Paradise Forks located 15 miles southeast of town. The basaltic rock along the Mogollon Rim offers more intermediate and advanced trad climbing routes, but you will find a couple bolted sport climbs. Depending on the time of year and the previous winter’s snowpack, Sycamore Falls plunges from the cliffs to a pool below, providing a stunning backdrop to your climbing day.

In the same area as Paradise Forks, you will also find the Sycamore Rim Trail, a 10.9-mile intermediate to expert mountain biking loop that includes rocky outcrops and rim riding. Parts of this trail might require you to hike your bike depending on your ability level, but the views are definitely worth it. And if you’re looking for a multi-sport day, simply throw your rack in your backpack and make a pit stop to scale a climbing route or two.

Historic Brewing Company Williams
Stop into the Historic Brewing Company, located just off the main road in Williams.Terrance Siemon
Celebrate With Beers

At the end of the day, head back into Williams for a much-deserved beer at Historic Brewing Company. A Flagstaff-based brewery with a location in Williams, Historic Brewing Company offers a great selection of beers from the light and refreshing Salt River Lager to the bold and hop-forward Alternative Facts – Double IPA.