About Two Guns, Arizona
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 5,415 ft (1.652 m). Population zero (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).
Two Guns is a ghost town that straddles US Route 66 in Coconino County, in the central part of Arizona. See a Map of Two Guns.
The remains of the Zoo at Two Guns, Route 66
For the early history of Two Guns, please see the History of Winslow, located very close to the now abandoned town.
Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo (1540-1585) led an expedition into New Mexico and Arizona in 1582–83, after crossing the Little Colorado River he came across the Canyon Diablo which he managed to cross on his way to the Verde Valley in central Arizona. He was the first European to do so.
After Arizona became a part of the US following the Mexican American War of 1846-48, Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves explored the area in 1851 along the Little Colorado River, passing by the Canyon Diablo. In 1853 Lt A. W. Whipple surveyed the area for a future railroad to California and he came across the Canyon Diablo, which he named, but only managed to cross it well to the north of Two Guns.
The name: Canyon Diablo
The Canyon was named by A. W. Whipple on Dec. 14, 1853 who wrote: "we were all surprised to find at our feet, in magnesian limestone, a chasm probably one hundred feet in depth, the sides precipitous, and about three hundred feet across at top. A thread-like rill of water could be seen below, but descent was impossible. There was not the slightest indication of a stream till we stood upon the brink and looked down into the canon. ... The canyon which interrupted our march to-day has been named Canon Diablo".
The word "Diablo" is Spanish for "Devil", so it is "Devil's Canyon".
In 1857 Lt. Beale used this northern route to reach California, and it was named the Beale Road or the California-Santa Fe Trail.
The last important battle between Indians and the U.S. Army took place at Big Dry Wash on July 17,1882, just south of Two Guns. The Apache Chief Natiotish was defeated.
A shorter route was desireable so the area between Winslow with Flagstaff was surveyed in the early 1880s, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which later became part of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) used it to build a railroad through this barren region. The tracks are located to the north of what would later become "Two Guns" and the Canyon Diablo station was built, now a ghost town. Further north lay the land of the Hopi and Navajo Reservations.
The National Old Trails highway opted for an alignment south of the tracks, shortening the distance between Winslow and Flagstaff. This led to the establishment of Two Guns. Later Route 66 was aligned using the National Old Trails road. Read more below (Recent History).
Where to Stay
There is no lodging on Route 66 in Two Guns, but you can find hotels nearby in Twin Arrows and Winslow
Lodging Near Two Guns along Route 66
Heading East.... In Arizona
- 24 miles. Motels and Hotels in Winslow.
- 57 miles. Motels and Hotels in Holbrook.
- 103 miles. Motels and Hotels in Chambers.
East... In New Mexico
- 12 miles. Motels and Hotels in Twin Arrows.
- 34 miles. Motels and Hotels in Flagstaff.
- 45 miles. Motels and Hotels in Bellemont.
- 67 miles. Motels and Hotels in Williams.
- 84 miles. Motels and Hotels in Ash Fork.
- 110 miles. Motels and Hotels in Seligman.
- 147 miles. Motels and Hotels in Peach Springs.
- 182 miles. Motels and Hotels in Kingman.
- 25 mi from Kingman, Motels and Hotels in Yucca.
- 29 mi from Flagstaff Motels and Hotels in Sedona.
- 30 mi from Williams Motels and Hotels in Valle.
- 52 mi from Williams Motels and Hotels in Tusayan.
- Motels and Hotels in Grand Canyon Region.
>> There is a RV campground close to Two Guns
Weather in Two Guns
Weather widget for Winslow, the town nearest Two Guns
The climate of Two Guns is dry, temperate and arid. Relative air humidity is low and this leads to wide variations beween night and day temperatures all through the year, causing hot dry summer days but cool summer nights and cold winter ones.
During summer (Jul), the average high temperature is around 94.5°F (34.7°C) and the average low is 61.9 °F (16.6°C). In winter the average high (Jan) is 49.5°F (9.7°C) and the average low is about 20.8°F (-6.2°C), well below freezing pont.
As expected for an arid area, rainfall is scarce: 6.99 inches (178 mm) yearly and about half of it falls from July to September (3.1 in. - 79 mm). Snowfall is also light, with only 6.4 inches (16.3 cm) per year, between Oct. and April.
It is sunny in Two Guns, only 53 days per year are days with precipitation.
There is almost zero tornado risk in Two Guns: Coconino County has no Tornado watches. The area west of the Rocky Mountains has virtually no tornado events at all.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Two Guns
You can reach it very easily along Interstate 40, heading west from Winslow or east from Flagstaff.
Map of Two Guns & Route 66 and Canyon Diablo
The map below shows several alignments through Two Guns, the color key is the following:
Pale Blue: Driveable 1926 to 1938 Route 66 alignment from Meteor Crater to Two Guns and beyond, it coincides with the National Old Trails Highway after 1915. Red: I-40 where it overlaps the 1938 to 1979 roadbed of Route 66. Black: there is no road to drive, but you can still make out the original roadbed (1926 - 1938). Green: The National Old Trails Highway in its pre-1915 alignment. Blue: The 1930 - 1938 alignment of Route 66.
See Route 66's alignment in Arizona
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Route 66's alignment in Arizona: Two Guns
Route 66 across Arizona
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Arizona.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Arizona.
Ghost town of Two Guns, Arizona, its Sights and Attractions
Things to Do and Places to See
A ghost town on the Canyon Diablo
Two Guns is now a ghost town, with the ruins of service stations, trading post and remains of a zoo, an some service stations. It has a 1915 bridge listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a sinister Apache Death Cave. Visit the nearby, the Canyon Diablo ghost town an its Railway bridge.
Historic context, the classic Route 66
In 1946 Jack DeVere Rittenhouse published his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" and gave a very interesting description of US 66 in those days; many attractions and landmarks are mentioned and give us a very rough idea on how it was to drive along Route 66 in the 1940s. When he mentioned Two Guns, he pointed out the following:
Four miles west of Rimmy Jim's (see Barringer Crater) was "Two Guns", which had "one establishment" consisting of a curios shop, lunchroom and service station. He pointed out that it had a zoo behind the main building with some "western animals"; he added that the former alignment of Route 66 "ran behind this building", referring to the 1926 - 1938 alingment of Route 66. He also mentioned the "Apache Caves" that could be visited near the service station.
Just west of Two Guns, the road crosses Canyon Diablo, which he describes as "Amazing ... over 100 feet deep and several hundred feet wide." His next entry is about Toonerville, ten miles west of the Canyon.
Sights in Two Guns
If you reach Two Guns via the freeway, head south from I-40s Exit 230, to the junction with Old Route 66 (if arriving from the east, from Meteor Crater, you can reach Two Guns via the Old Route 66).
Abandoned Service Station and Campground
Straight ahead is Two Guns Rd., and on the left side of the almost abandoned road are the remains of an deserted service station (the third one built here). The gravel road heads south for couple of hundred yards and reaches the remains of a campground.
you will see a steep gabled building with the word "Kamp" painted on the roof, a tank with a cowboy painted on it, and a grafitti decorated swimming pool. All in ruins. Turn back to the Service station.
Two Guns, the abandoned KOA campground
At the service station head right along Old Route 66 as ut curves around I-40s exit and you will reach the remains of the "Second Service Station" just ahead, to the left, where the concrete paving of Route 66 ends. Take a left turn and the dirt road leads to the remains of the "Zoo" the words "Mountain Lions" are clearly visible on the stone wall. Behind it is the Canyon. From the Zoo take a left and you will reach the gravel road that leads to the Historic Bridge.
Route 66 Canyon Diablo Bridge
Old Route 66, Two Guns, AZ.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
This centennial bridge (built in 1915) spans the Canyon Diablo gorge at Two Guns.
It is a reinforced concrete Luten arch bridge with cantilevered roadway (Daniel Luten patented this strong yet light type of bridge). The deck has an earth fill. It is 146 feet long and has a 128 ft. span (44.5 and 39 m). It cost $ 9,000.
The bridge is 11 years older than Route 66 because it was built on the National Old Trails highway to avoid the riverbed crossing in use until then. Later when Route 66 was aligned through the area, it adopted the course of the National Old Trails road.
It is now on the abandoned grade of U.S. 66, which was replaced in 1938 when the paved road was built just to the north of Two Guns (now under I-40's roadbed).
Ruins beyond the Canyon
On the south side of the bridge is a derelict building: the old trading post. If you head west along the 1915-1926 National Old Trails & 1926 - 1939 Route 66, for a few yards, you will see on the south side of the road the remains of the old cottages, and beyond it, the meandering Canyon. Further west are the foundations of the first service station built here.
From the Trading Post, head east along the trail and you will reach the Canyon Diablo. Beyond it, on its eastern edge are the famous Apache Death Cave.
Recent History of Two Guns
The name: Two Guns
William Surrey Hart (1864 - 1846). Was a world famous silent movie star, who took part of about 70 films shot between 1914 and 1925.
His "Two Gun Bill" look was known around the world. He retired in 1925 to his ranch and became a philanthropist.
Harry E. (Indian) Miller said that he worked in silent movies and knew Hart, the town's name is a homage to the actor.
To put this in context, let's learn more about the history of Two Guns:
The Railroad crossed the Diablo Canyon at a point where a bridge could be built easily, but the road that linked Winslow with Flagstaff adopted a more southern course shortening the original wagon road that went through Mormon Crossing. The 1907 highway crossed the Canyon at Two Guns. It did not have a bridge, instead it zig-zagged down the embankment on one side, crossed the dry river bed and climbed up on the south side of the Canyon. In the Map above, the Green line shows the National Old Trails Highway in its pre-1915 alignment.
The first settlers were the Oldfields who built their post 3 miles south of Two Guns along the Old Trails Highway. They were followed by Ed Randolph, who set up his store next to Apache Cave. In 1915 the bridge was built across the Canyon, and in 1922, World War I veteran Earl Marion Cundiff purchased Randolph's claim and built his store on a homestead of 320 acres.
Cundiff leased the property for 10 years to a man named Harry E. "Indian" Miller in 1925. Miller claimed to have lived among the Philippine headhunters while he was in the Army during the Spanish American War (1898). He called himself "Chief Crazy Thunder" and said he was part Apache and part Mohawk.
The zoo was home to gila monsters, cougars, coral snakes, birds and even a lynx.
You can still read the words "Mountain Lions" on the old stone walls.
Miller moved there with his wife and built his trading post as a cylindrical shaped turret to the back, with an entrance facing the Texaco gas pumps. He placed a Hopi House just south of the bridge. He added fake stone ruins and and posted a sign stating that they were part of the "Apache Caves". He also built his "Zoo" along the Canyon behind his store (and home) it held local wild animals like mountain lions (pumas).
Apache Death Cave
The cave is actually a series of natural caverns that extend for several miles under the sandstone.
The legend behind the caves is the following: Apache warriors would attack the Navajo people and disappear without a trace. After a bloody raid the Navajo set out after their attackers and by chance discovered them hidden in these natural caves. After learning that the Apache had killed their Navajo hostages, the furious Navajo blocked the narrow entrance to the cave with wood and branches and lit a fire. The smoke killed 42 Apaches and disuaded them from further raids in the area.
Miller found some potential in the caves, and built some fake Pueblo ruins by the first cavern's entry linked by a path and wooden bridge to the store. The tourists paid to visit the Hopi ruins and the caves.
Miller called his complex "Fort Two Guns", but when Cundiff applied for a post office, the name was not acceptable, so "Canyon Lodge" was used instead; the post office opened in 1925.
But Cundiff and Miller did not get along well, and on March 3, 1926 Miller shot an unarmed Cundiff and killed him; he claimed it was in self-defense and was acquitted.
The store's interior burned in 1929, and that year Earl's widow, Louise Cundiff built her tourist store to the northeast of the bridge. But in 1930, Miller left the state to avoid further prosecution and just beyond the Arizona state line in New Mexico he repeated his show; building a zoo on US 66 with fake ruins and a phony cave, the "Cave of the Sevin Devils". He remained there until his death in 1952.
Louise Cundiff married Phillip Hesch in 1934 and they built their Two Guns Texaco service station in 1938 along the brand new alignment that had just been completed that year. Behind it they relocated the zoo.
The zoo had already closed by the time S. I. Richardson bought the place in 1950. He leased it to several operators and finally sold it to Benjamin Dreher, who replaced the old service station in 1963 by a more modern one which burned down in 1971 (the "Second Service Station").
In the late 1960s, the place revived: a motel, restaurant, coffee shop, gift shop, garage and service station were now on site. The zoo was rebuilt and a reptile exhibit added. Some of the old stone buildings were restored. But the fire ended it all.
Later, a Shell sevice station (Third one) was built and KOA campground opened. Both went out of business and are now abandoned.
Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun
Nearby Route 66 Towns
The area around Two Guns
Heading west from Two Guns the road climbs into the Arizona Plateau, a table-land which will rise all the way to Flagstaff. The dry desert will gradually become a forested region.
To the west you can see the snow capped summits of volcanic San Francisco Peaks around Flagstaff. These are relatively young volcanoes (6-million-years-old) and the highest one is Humphreys Peak which is the highest point in the state of Arizona (12,633 ft - 3.853 m).
Canyon Diablo ghost town
Getting to Canyon Diablo
It is 4.2 miles NW of Two Guns; this is the Map from Two Guns to Canyon Diablo.
Head north from I-40s Exit 230, turn west (left) and then right. The gravel road heads north on the east side of Canyon Diablo. If the weather is dry and your vehicle has high clearance and 4WD you should not have problems getting there. But if it is wet and muddy or you car is low, don't try it. Watch out for rattlesnakes -wear boots. Respect the site and don't remove anything.
Elevation 5,429 ft (1.656 m). Population zero (2010).
The ghost town is very close to Two Guns along a rough road. See this Map with its location.
It is located inside the Navajo Reservation in Coconino County, Az., its native name is "Kin Ligaaí".
In 1881 the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later absorbed by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) reached the Canyon Diablo gorge en route to Flagstaff and began building the bridge to span the chasm.
Some financial difficulties halted construction and delayed the bridge until the end of 1882; in the meantime the construction crews had fun in a boom town that sprouted beside their camp: Canyon Diablo.
It soon had around 2,000 residents and its main street aptly named "Hell Street" had 14 saloons, 4 brothels and 10 gambling places. The town was renown for its debauchery and violence. Trains were robbed here at Canyon Diablo station, a famous one took place in 1889, when four cowboys led by Jack Smith took off with over $140,000 in gold and currency plus $2,500 in silver dollars. Only $100 was recovered when the bandits were captured, so the rest of this treasure chest lies buried in the Canyon Diablo rim near Two Guns.
Once the bridge was completed, the workers moved out and the railway soon reached Needles California where it linked with the Southern Pacific Railroad on Aug. 9, 1883.
But this marked the demise of the town. Residents moved out and the town died. The Trading Post became a post office in 1886, but by the early 1900s it was the only building in town. When the Flagstaff to Winslow highway was built a few years later, it bypassed the town and chose an easier passage further south: Two Guns. However the post office survived for some time, and that is why the official name for the neighboring Barringer meteor crater is "Canyon Diablo Meteorite".
Now the place is compeletely abandoned and you can see the foundations and some rubble from the walls of the trading post. There is a also an abandoned cemetery.
The rowdy workers violence and the shootouts led to the creation of a cemetery which has 36 graves, only one of them belinging to a man who died a natural death: the German trading post owner Herman Wolfe.
He was born in 1805 and passed away in 1899 at his post at "Wolfe's Crossing" 12 mi. north of Leupp, on the Little Colorado River his body was taken to Canyon Diablo for burial. He traded with the Navajo, who called him "Hostiin Chaa" or "Mr. Beaver", after the beaver pelts he dried, caught in the river. His grave was improved by a German relative after World War II.
Canyon Diablo Railway Bridge
The canyon is about 256 ft. deep at the bridge (78 m) and presented an obstacle to the tracks being laid westward across Arizona by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.
The original bridge served from 1882 to 1942, and was a trestle bridge (its foundations are still visible). Heavy World War II payloads required a stronger bridge, so the current one was built at that time.
The current bridge is a steel arch bridge with one central 300-foot hinged arch and two side spans measuring 120 ft each. The total lenght is 544 ft. (166 ft.).
It belongs to the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, former AT&SF RR) and is private property within the Navajo Reservation. No trespassing allowed.
The Canyon itself
The Canyon is a temporary water-course that is mostly dry and only has water during the wet spell of the summer Monsoon and during spring, when snow melts in the mountains near its sources. The total land area of the Canyon Diablo basin is 767,000 acres (3.104 km2). The Canyon Diablo river is 80 miles long and has a roughly southwest to northeast course.
The canyon (and also that of nearby Canyon Padre, part of the same drainage basin) is quite narrow and very steep walled. This is caused by the erosion of the hard Kaibab limestone by swift current streams carrying sand that cuts away the limestone. Even though the canyon is mostly dry, the summer rain causes considerable transient flows of water.
To the north and west, beyond the canyon there are many ridges of volcanic rock, announcing the volcanic area that surrounds Flagstaff, the San Francisco Mountains, these provide snowmelt to feed the river.
The canyon meets the Little Colorado River 6 miles nortwest of Leupp.
It was a formidable obstacle for those trying to cross it along the wagon trails opened after the 1850s.
The Alignment of Old Route 66 near Two Guns
Leave central Winslow and head West along West 3rd St. (Map: Leaving downtown Winslow), at the junction with Old W Hwy 66 you have two options:
- 1926 road: Head west along the 1926 alignment until it reaches a dead end just south of I-40. (1926 alignment map).
- later road: keep along W 3rd St. to its end, just past Exit 252 of I-40. (Later alignment).
Both options end on the south side of I-40 and their roadbeds further west are under the freeway, but you can meet them further west on the north side of I-40, so head there crossing to the North Frontage Rd. at Exit 252 and head west.
There is a segment 1.3 miles long shown in Map of Route 66 just west of Winslow.
To Leupp Corner
This segment also ends in a dead end, making it necessary to backtrack and get on I-40 at Exit 252 and head west along it until Exit 245, where you can go to the North Frontage Rd. again and head west along Route 66 (AZ-99). This segment passes by Leupp Corner.
1926 - 1935
The road continued further west and heads along the Red Gap Ranch. This segment passes Exit 239 and (this is the 1926 alignment) it ends in a dead end on the east side of the railroad tracks after 8.1 miles. ( see a photograph of the dead end here). By clicking you will leave our Website. Come back soon!
This is the Map alignment through Leupp Corner.
Where the dead end is now located, the old road crossed the tracks and headed towards what is now the south of I-40; the road then arches in a wide curve further south and then back again towards I-40, crossing a creek and what is now I-40 at the Westbound Rest Area. You cannot drive this segment, but you can still see the old roadbed in many places south of I-40. This alignment is shown in the image below:
Meteor City on the Later 1940s - 1969 alignment
The road took another course after it was paved in 1935, at the point where modern I-40s Exit 239 is located, the road veered towards the south, passing in front of Meteor City trading Post and keeping west south of what is now I-40, across Cow Wash, the railway and then heading north into what today is the Rest Stop West, merging with the previous alignment.
This is the Map of the 1940s road through Meteor City; the western part of the road cannot be driven as it is cut by the tracks and I-40.
Both alignments by Barringer Crater
At Barringer Crater there arte two alignments:
The late 1940s alignment is now covered by the roadbed of I-40 between the Westbound Rest Area and Two Guns, but the older aligment used until the mid 1940s can still be driven; but to do so you must reach it via Exit 233 on I-40 and head south for 0.4 mi. till reaching "Old Route 66" by the RV campground. Options:
- Go East: Take a left and drive all the way to the end of the segment, which is beside the of the Eastbound Rest Area of I-40. Actually the old road is now interrupted by the rest area and I-40, as it came from the north side of I-40 (now the Westbound Rest Area). This is a 1.6 mile long segment. This is its Map.
- Go West: Take a right and drive straight to the next Exit of I-40 (Exit 230) at Two Guns 5.4 miles away. This is the Map.
These two options are also shown in the map above
The Map of Route 66 in Two guns, shown above, indicates the different alignments of US 66 through the town. The color key is the following:
- Green: shows the National Old Trails Highway in its pre-1915 alignment. Notice how it curves in an out of the Diablo Canyon and crosses its bed.
- Pale Blue: Between Meteor Crater and Two guns it shows the 1926 to 1938 Route 66 alignment that can still be driven today. West of Two Guns, it coincides with the National Old Trails Highway after 1915 and the 1926 - 1930 Route 66. This part can also be driven nowadays.
- Red: I-40 where it overlaps the 1938 to 1979 roadbed of Route 66.
- Black, these are the sections where the old roadbed has gone, there is no road to drive, but you can still make out the original roadbed (1926 - 1938).
- Blue: The 1930 - 1938 alignment of Route 66 which cannot be driven either.
West of Two Guns the 1915 -1930 roadbed can be seen, but it is no longer a road that can be driven. It is shown in black in the map. The later 1930s alignment lies under I-40 (Red). At the next exit (I-40 Exit 225), you can head to the south side of I-40 and drive a tiny section of the original 1915 - 1930 road (shown in pale blue). Further west, at Twin Arrows and Toonerville you can access the old road again.
> > See the previous segment Joseph City to Winslow
> > This segment Winslow to Winona
> > See the next segment Flagstaff to Winona
National and State Parks
To the west, near Flagstaff are the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument and Slide Rock State Park among others.
Gladwell Richardson, 1968, Two Guns, Arizona.
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
Will Croft Barnes, Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988.
Historic Route 66 in Arizona All-American Road, National Scenic Byway, www.fhwa.dot.gov.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.