Still Kicking: What To See on Your Next Sustainable Roadtrip on Historic Route 66 in AZ & NM
Are you thinking about taking a sustainable road trip to Arizona and New Mexico via the historic Route 66? You may have heard of it referred to it as the “Mother Road” and it surely has some incredible culture that has birthed the great story that is America’s hertiage both before and after European settlement in the 1500s.
We’ve got some suggestions of places to see, experience and connect at, from natural landmarks to historical and cultural sites that are perfectly preserved and conserved for your next responsible travel adventure!
What To Experience on Route 66 in New Mexico
As you travel through New Mexico via Route 66, you will come across many incredible historical sites, many of which relate to Native American cultures, such as the Chaco Culture Park and Acoma Pueblo.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
One place that every history and nature enthusiast should visit is the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just 90 miles from Route 66. Chaco Culture is truly in the middle of nowhere—there’s no food, fuel, or lodging within an hour of the park. However, its remoteness has allowed Native American artifacts and architecture to survive for thousands of years.
The remote beauty of the landscape is reason enough to visit, but there are also Pueblo great houses within the park that date back as far as the 9th century. We recommend a tour of Pueblo Bonito, a Chacoan great house with over 700 rooms!
Pro tip: GPS is notoriously unreliable in Chaco Culture, so use a physical map to find your way instead.
About 2.5 hours south of Chaco Culture, also near Albuquerque and Route 66, is Acoma Pueblo, another fascinating Native American historical site. Nicknamed Sky City, Acoma Pueblo is North America’s oldest continuously inhabited community. Its origins date back to the 12th century, with Native Americans still living in the community today.
Witness the incredibly preserved architecture of Acoma Pueblo and visit the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u museum to learn more about the culture and history of the city and the people who have called it home for centuries. There are plenty of accommodations if you want to turn your visit into a weekend getaway.
What To Experience on Route 66 in Arizona
As you move through Arizona on the historic Route 66, you will discover plenty of fascinating natural wonders you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Meteor Crater, Meteor City
Near Winslow, Arizona, just minutes from Interstate 40, lies one of North America’s fascinating natural landmarks, the Meteor Crater. Approximately 50,000 years ago, an iron rock that weighed about 60,000 pounds smashed into the earth at 26,000 miles per hour, causing an indention 570 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide.
The crater remains a landmark of a seismic event in earth’s history before human civilization, and you can see it for yourself! There are many fun and interesting interactive exhibits and artifacts to check out at the visitor center, and the surrounding town is worth visiting, too.
The Grand Canyon
No Route 66 trip through Arizona is complete without a slight detour to one of the world’s greatest wonders and top must-visit sustainable destinations—the Grand Canyon. What can be said about the Grand Canyon that hasn’t been said a million times before in a million ways? Simply put, you have to experience this wonder first-hand to understand it fully.
If you want to add an automotive theme to your visit, consider taking the opportunity to do some off-roading across the incredible landscape, but make sure you understand the rules of off-roading! We recommend checking out the Grand Canyon Caverns, which go 22 stories below the surface and feature rock formations that are 65 million years old.
When it comes to taking the 3rd leg of a 4 part sustainable roadtrip down Route 66, experiencing the incredible cultural heritage of Native Americans is an intrinsic part of the journey. Whether it’s cultural heritage like Chaco Culture, natural wonder like the Grand Canyon, or the cities and towns that lay in between, you can count on a drive down Route 66 to be an adventure into the past that will be inspiring, transformative, and one of a kind.