Williams, Az

Located on Historic Route 66



There are hotels and motels in Williams with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here. (Hotel Rates, availability, reviews and reservation online)

Location / Description

Located on Historic Route 66 at the end of the Grand Canyon Railway, Williams is the T-bone junction of American travelers’ nostalgia. The town has managed to preserve the best of its past, while shaking free from its raucous reputation. The result is a quaint blend of Old West and early rock ‘n roll, a one-stop fueling station for premium Americana.  

Besides the rodeos and sock hops, Williams, Arizona boasts easy access to outdoor recreation areas that can be enjoyed throughout its four distinct seasons. While many travelers continue to use nearby Flagstaff as their hub to northern Arizona attractions, quite a few are discovering that William’s small-town charm is a cozier stop on the long and sometimes arduous highways. The laid-back pace can be attributed to a lack of urban annoyances. The nearest traffic light is thirty miles away.

Population / Elevation

Population 2845 (US Census Bureau, 1999)

6770 - 6940 feet above sea level


Weather / Climate

With its high elevation of and surrounding pine forests, Williams enjoys relatively cool summers with average high temperatures in the low 80s. July and August often bring afternoon thunderstorms. Winter snow is usually enough to sustain a small ski run and other snow sports. Spring and autumn weather can be difficult to predict, as it’s not unusual for snow clouds to interrupt warm sunny mornings.


Named for legendary mountain man William Sherley Williams, aka “Old Bill,” the town was first settled by sheepherders in 1874. Railroad workers followed in 1880 with the construction of the transcontinental railroad, later called the Santa Fe line.

With the line complete in 1882, Williams grew as hub of ranching and lumber. Other profitable industries included saloons, brothels, opium dens and gambling parlors. All catered to a growing population of cowboys, Chinese labor, lumberjacks and copper miners. A general atmosphere of lawlessness helped secure considerable notoriety for Williams and its role in the Wild West.

In 1901, the Santa Fe Railway added a 60-mile spur to the Grand Canyon. This scenic line, an extension of an older mining line, attracted William’s earliest tourists. More followed when Williams incorporated a segment of America’s Main Street as its own. With surrounding mines emptied of copper and hills stripped of their trees, local industries failed, yet the road and rail continued to boost the economy.

However, the Grand Canyon Railroad shut down in 1968.(Now reopened) And as Interstate 40 loomed closer, threatening to divert traffic away from Williams, the little town fought to keep its stretch of the Mother Road. It resisted I-40 until October 13, 1984, opening date for the final bypass that officially closed Route 66.

With a certain skill for reviving the past, Williams now thrives on renovated Old West architecture, reclaimed forests, a resurrected railway and a restored strip of 66.   

Things To Do

Williams bills itself as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon ®,” which seems fair enough, given its direct rail to the South Rim. It also marks the starting point of the Grand Canyon Highway, the shortest route between Interstate 40 and the Grand Canyon.

However, Williams has developed into a destination in itself. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Williams maintains 19th century character while catering to 21st century shoppers. Meanwhile, hotels and cafés along Route 66 evoke neon nostalgia for the mid 20th century.

Nestled at the base of Bill Williams Mountain in the heart of Kaibab National Forest, Williams attracts its share of outdoor enthusiasts. Seven fishing lakes and an endless system of hiking trails surround the town. Nearby camping, hunting, golfing and skiing facilities add to the draw.

Events Calendar

June: Railhead -  Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association’s annual Southwest Regional Championship of cowboy action shooting.  www.acsainc.com 602 993-3121

Fabulous 50's Ford Club of America - classic car show www.williamschamber.com 928-635-1417

5th Annual AZ Hog (Harley Owners Group) Rally - live bands, street dances, poker runs www.williamschamber.com 928-635-1418

July: Small Town Fourth of July -  parades, local marching bands and fireworks. www.williamschamber.com 928-635-1418


August: Cow Puncher's Reunion Rodeo - Bull riding, horse riding, and calf roping. 928 632-7680

Cool County Cruise-In and Williams Route 66 Festival - 50's and 60's battle of the bands, sock hop and classic cars. 928 635-1418

September: Cool-Vette Cruise Car Show car show, street dance featuring 50's and 60's music 928-635-1418

Labor Day Rodeo www.williamschamber.com 928-635-1418

October: Fall Festival - local artisans, entertainment, and a golf tournament. www.williamsfestivals.com

December: Mountain Village Holiday – Parade, caroling, art show



There are hotels and motels in Williams with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here.(Hotel Rates, availability, reviews and reservation online)

Resources & Nearby Attractions

Cities & Towns

(Highway Miles)

  • Ashfork: 18 miles west.
  • Sedona, Arizona: 65 miles southeast.
  • Seligman: 41 miles west.
  • Page: 166 miles northeast.
  • Flagstaff: 32 miles east.
  • Prescott: 72 miles south
Parks & Monuments
Recreation & Wilderness Areas
  • Kaibab National Forest
  • Coconino National Forest
  • Strawberry Crater Wilderness (USFS)
  • Kachnina Peak Wilderness (USFS)
  • Lamar Haines Wildlife Area
  • Oak Creek Canyon Natural Area
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area  
Historic & Points of Interest
  • The Arboretum at Flagstaff: (Flagstaff)
  • Museum of Northern Arizona (Flagstaff)
  • Navajo Indian Reservation
  • Hopi Indian Reservation
  • Riordan State Historic Park (Flagstaff)
  • Fort Verde State Historical Park (Camp Verde)
  • Tusayan Ruin and Museum (Desert View)
  • Meteor Crater
  • Jerome State Historic Park (Jerome)
  • Homolvi Ruins State Park (Winslow)

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