About Parks, Arizona
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 7,079 ft (2.158 m). Population 1,188, (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).
Parks is a small village located in Coconino County on the old alignment of Route 66 in nortwestern Arizona. See a Map of Parks.
View of Parks General Store from Route 66
The forests between Williams and Flagstaff have been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Until the 1400s, the "Sinagua" natives, grew their crops in the area but were forced east after very severe dry periods. The Spanish who incorporated Arizona into their American colonies never settled the area, and left it to Mexico after it became independent in 1821.
Mexico lost Arizona to the U.S. after its defeat in the 1846-48 War and the region was explored by U.S. Army officer Edward "Ned" Fitzgerald Beale who surveyed a route from Fort Smith in Arkansas to California (roughly following the course taken later by Route 66 west of Oklahoma City).
Beale rode through what is now Parks in 1857 and the trail he opened can still be seen.
Arizona became a separate territory from New Mexico during the American Civil War (1863).
Settlers arrived after the Navajo were relocated to their reservation and sheep herders set up their homesteads in the grassy patches in the forest west of Flagstaff.
The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad) built its tracks westwards towards California and built a siding near modern Parks in 1883. T. Dennis opened a saw mill there, shipping out railroad ties cut from the local timber.
A village grew around the mill and the post office opened in 1898. Dennis named it Rhodes, which somehow mutated into "Rhoades". Shortly after the U.S. battleship Maine was sunk in Havana, Cuba by an explosion in 1898 (which led to the Spanish - American war), the town and station were named Maine and approved by the U.S. Postal Service in 1907.
When the first highway was laid through the area in 1906, the village relocated two miles to the northwest, and the old station became "Old Maine" while the new town became "Maine". That was when the original general store was built by McMillan on a grant of land given to him by the U.S. Government in 1910.
The National Old Trails (N.O.T.) highway was completed through Parks in 1921 and the first road to the Grand Canyon was built north of the town that same year. Harold Longfellow and Harold Cameron opened a gas station and grocery store there (though some versions say that the store was built on the junction by Art Anderson and Don McMillan in 1921).
That same year, the town was renamed Parks, after the post office which had moved there in 1915. In 1926, Route 66 was aligned down the N.O.T and a growing flow of motorists drove down the new unpaved highway.
In 1928, the Trans-Continental Footrace was organized by C.C. Pyle and the runners passed through Parks as shown in the photograph below:
The 1928 Trans Continental Route 66 Footrace and the General Store at Parks.
Later second road was completed to the Grand Canyon from Williams. Even as late as 1930, the town was still named "Maine" on some maps or Maine followed by (Parks P.O.). The Grand Canyon road and the town don't appear in the Arizona D.O.T. highway map of 1935, but it shows that route 66 was paved at that time.
The road was realigned in 1964 along what is now I-40, bypassing the few stores and gas stations in Parks.
Where to Stay
There is lodging on Route 66 close to Parks:
> > Book your Hotel next to Parks, in Bellemont
Lodging Near Parks along Route 66
Heading East.... In Arizona
- 8 miles. Motels and Hotels in Bellemont.
- 23 miles. Motels and Hotels in Flagstaff.
- 44 miles. Motels and Hotels in Twin Arrows.
- 77 miles. Motels and Hotels in Winslow.
- 110 miles. Motels and Hotels in Holbrook.
- 156 miles. Motels and Hotels in Chambers.
>> There is a RV campground in Parks
Weather in Parks
Parks has a dry and semi-continental climate with well defined seasons. Winters are cold and have heavy snowfall while summers are hot and dry until the humid summer monsoon period that begins in July. Spring is windy but dry like Fall.
Due to its heig altitude there is a lot of snwo during winter.
The average high temperature in summer (July) is 79°F (26°C) and in winter (Jan), the average high is 42°F (5.8°C).
The average low in summer is 44°F (6.4°C); falling in winter to a below freezing 11°F, (-11.4°C).
Rainfall is not abundant, reaching 20.1 in per year (512 mm). Of these about 8.8 in. (224 mm) fall during the Summer Monsoon period from July and Oct with another 8 inches during Winter.
74 inches of snow fall in the area each year (188 cm) snow starts during late Sept. and even in early May you may encounter snow.
Tornados are extremely rare west of the Rocky Mountains and almost unheard of in Arizona. Nevertheless there were tornadoes in neighbouring Bellemont, four miles east of Parks:
The 2010 Bellemont Tornadoes
Bellemont was hit by two tornadoes in the largest single-day tornado-event in the history of Arizona: eight tornadoes struck the state.
They hit during Oct. 2010 and the 1st Bellemont tornado was the longest tracked tornado in Arizona history with a path of 34 miles (54 km) it damaged 100 homes and injured 7 people.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Parks
You can reach Parks along Old Route 66 from Bellemont or via Interstate 40 west of Bellemont at exit 178. Head east from Williams along old US 66 into Parks.
Map of Route 66 through Parks Arizona
Display Parks Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
The map above shows US 66 alignment through Parks, the color key For Parks only is the following:
(for the other parts of the map, check the color key of the map of the corresponding city)
Pale Blue: the 1931 - 1941 alignment from Bellemont to Parks.
Green: The 1941 to 1963 alignment at Bellemont and Parks.
Blue: The 1926 to 1931 alignment of Route 66 at Parks and Bellemont that can still be seen.
Route 66's alignment in Arizona: the Historic Route 66 through Parks
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.
Parks Arizona all about its Sights and Attractions
Things to Do and Places to See
Parks is best known for its General Store, Maurice's Motel and Cafe, the Wagon Wheel Lodge and the historic segments of Route 66 that passes right through it. This is the highest part of the whole Route 66, at Brannigan Park.
Historic context, the classic Route 66
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse mentioned the small village of Parks in his book "A Guide Book to Highway 66", published in 1946. He states that 8 miles west of Bellemont is "Parks, another of those 'one establishment towns,' offer gas and a few cabins". In clear allusion to the Parks General Store. One mile west of the store was the "Fireside Inn" which also had gasoline and "a few cabins". Three miles west of Parks was a free camping spot maintained by the U.S. Government, followed, 2 miles west by the "Wagon Wheel Lodge" with gasoline and log cabins. Only the General Store and the Wagon Wheel are still standing.
The name: Parks
The myth is that the owner of the general store was a man named Parks and the town took its name after him. But that is not true.
The village is located near many open areas, free of timber, which the local residents called "parks", and that gave it its name.
Parks in the Pines General Store
On Old Route 66 and N. Spring Valley Rd.
When the first highway was built through the area in 1906, the town moved away from the railway station and relocated on the new road, about 2 miles northwest of the old location.
Don McMillan built a general store there in 1907 (pictured above), at the townsite that was named Maine. In 1910 he received a land grant from the U.S. Government and therefore owned the land where he'd built the store.
When the road was improved and the The National Old Trails (N.O.T.) highway was completed through Parks in 1921, a road was built to the Grand Canyon, and it began right next to the General Store.
At that time Harold Longfellow and Harold Cameron opened a gas station and grocery store there.
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned along the old N.O.T., and its remains can still be seen west of the store on the north side of the road.
By the time it was paved in 1931 US 66 had already been realigned just a few yards to the south of its original alignment, and passed on the other side of the sto the owners moved the gas pumps, windows and main entrance to face the new alignment.
The store, which predates the Mother Road is still open (Visit its website).
Tours & Itineraries Near Parks
More Route 66 icons near Parks
Parks had a strategic location on Route 66, roughly halfway between Flagstaff and Williams. It provided travellers with gasoline, lodging and food. Besides the General Store mentioned above there were other places that catered to the tourists. Some are now gone, but others survive:
East of Parks
The road through Brannigan Park, which is the highest stretch of the whole of Route 66, crossed an open meadow (hence the name "Park") surrounded by high mountain forest. During Route 66's heyday there was lodging here: Jensen's Log Cabin resort, with a restaurant and Harwoods, with a lodge, guest cabins and gas station. Both are long gone.
West of Parks
By the General Store was "Pine Springs Camp" and a garage, both from 1933.35.
The Cafe (12431 E Old Route 66) dates to around 1935. (See Street View).
Maurice's Motel and Café
Maurice's Motel - Café, at 12260 E Old Route 66 was operated by Pat O'Neil, who intended to restore the old Auto Court. Since his death in 2004, the place has gradually fallen in disrepair. It formerly was known as Louie Long Apartments & Louie Long Motel. Dating from the 1950s.
View of Maurice's Motel and Café Parks Route 66
Places that have closed or faded away
The Fireside Inn was located at 11961 E Old Route 66, was built in 1938. It had tourist cabins, filling station and lunch counter.
The Garage at 12102 E Old Route 66 (from the 1950s), is also gone.
The Service Station from 1945 and the Three Bears Café, from 1948 at 12913 E Old Route 66 no longer exist.
Spitz Springs Forest Camp was a camping spot, but camping is no longer allowed there.
Pitman Valley and its log cabin: The Wagon Wheel
Pitman Valley lies at the western tip of the Old Route 66 segment at Parks, next to Exit 171 on I-40.
The two story log cabin at Pitman Valley
The oldest building in the area is a two-story log house, on the north side of the road just before interchange 171.
It was known as the McHat Inn, and later as the Wagon Wheel Lodge. At one time it had cabins and a gas station, now it is a private residence.
The Elmo Dance Hall which stood across the highway, is no longer standing. The railway had a watering stop here, named "Chalender".
Beale Wagon Road
A 48 mile tour from Parks to I-40 at Williams, through dirt roads in the Kaibab National Forest. See Map.
The Beale Wagon Road was surveyed and opened by Lieutenant Beale and his expedition in 1857. It was the main route into California across the Great Plains from Fort Smith in Arkansas.
Gold seekers and settlers used this Trail to reach the Pacific coast until the railway replaced it in the early 1880s.
You can still see relatively undisturbed stretches of Beale's Wagon road and walk them or ride along them on horseback (cars, ATVs and bikes are not allowed on the trail).
In some section Beale's historic Road is now a Foreset Service Road and can be driven on. There are parking areas and interpretative stations along the way. Don't miss the words “Laws Spring” engraved on a basalt boulder, at the key watering spot in the area. It was the work of a tombstone engraver who was part of Beale's expedition.
Beale Wagon Road Trivia: Camels
The expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale (1822 - 1893) to survey and build a wagon road used camels, imported from Tunis as pack animals.
Though hardier than mules, the camels scared both horses and mules. The Army decided not to use camels in the future.
More information: Kaibab National Forest, Williams Ranger District, 742 South Clover Road, Williams, AZ 86046. (928) 635-5600.
The Alignment of Old Route 66 from from Bellemont to Parks
Historic Road Segment
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
There are three separate sections of Route 66 at Parks that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We will describe them below along the itinerary between Bellemont and Parks:
1931-1941 Brannigan Park Road
First section of the Historic Landmark
Leave I-40 at Exit 185 and head north along the Frontage Rd. it soon heads north towards Brannigan Park in the Kaibab National Forest.
View of the junction of the 1926 & the later Route 66 alignmment east of Parks. The old road is on the left side of the image, lined by pines.
This is a 6.2 mile segment that you can drive all the way into Parks. This is the Map of the Brannigan Road segment.
This was also the highest point of the whole Route 66, at 7,405 feet above seal level, it was not easy for the early drivers to climb Brannigan Park pass.
The historic section starts where the pavement ends and the road surface becomes gravel.
The older 1926 to 1931 alignment at Brannigan Park
The original 1926 meets this alignment at its northern tip, turning back south again with it. It then splits with a more western course, of which only a part can be driven today, (See map).
The 1926 alignment took a now abandoned course between Old Route 66 and Brannigan Rd., and finally swung to the north of the later alignments. And it can be still seen close to the General Store:
Historic abandoned Section East of Parks
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
This section, just east of the General Store was the 1926-41 alignment (Shown in this map. Now it is a trail that can be walked. Along it are the remains of a springhouse where tourists would camp and get fresh water.
The road continued west, passing on the north side of the iconic Parks Store, heading westwards.
Historic abandoned Section West of Parks
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
A 0.35 mile section of road was built in 1921 as the National Old Trails road and incorporated into Route 66's alignment in 1926. It is a narrow road with a "paved" surface formed by tarred gravel. And it can still be seen and walked along as it lies just a few feet north of modern Old Route 66:
A view of the original Route 66 roadbed west of Parks, Google
Click on the image for a Google Street View
Dead Man's Curve
The western tip of this segment ended in a sharp curve which the local newspaper called the "Dead Man's Curve" after the accidents it caused.
The 1931 realignment improved the road and straightened the road west of Parks.
The old section and the deadly curve are shown in Blue in the map above, west of the Parks General store.
Westwards towards Williams
The 1926 alignment then turned to the SW and met current I-40 at the N. Spitz Spring Rd. overpass.
This map shows the alignment all the way to I-40's Exit 171; it is 5.5 miles long.
After exit 171, the roadbed is now under the Interstate but there are three places were the original alignment can still be driven along:
- On the south side of I-40 for about 0.4 miles as can be seen in this Map of this section.
- Then it can be seen for another 0.5 mi on the north side of I-40 at Exit 167 (See the map).
- It then goes through Williams; see the map of Route 66 in Williams.
The alignment after 1941
Shown in Green in the map above at Parks.
The road was moved south to a lower altitude alignment, and it continued west after the dead end in Bellemont, along the course now followed by I-40, which was built over it.
You can drive the part that lies closest to Parks by taking I-40 exit 178, and heading north to Old Route 66. It is 1.4 miles long. This is the map of the extant 1941-1963 road into Parks
What would become I-40 was built in 1964 and finished in 1979.
> > See the previous segment Flagstaff to Bellemont
> > See the full Flagstaff to Williams segment
> > See the next segment Williams to Ash Fork
National and State Parks
There are several National Monuments and both National and State Parks in the area such as the Grand Canyon National Park and we describe them in our Parks near Flagstaff page.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.