Kaibab National Forest, Williams
|Davenport Hill Trail|
|Trainspotting from Davenport Hill|
|Dog Town Lake|
Train whistles invoke a haunting, mournful yearning for the days when locomotives were the poster-technology of both the new frontier and old west. Williams Arizona, with its buckskin-and-rail-tie-hybrid persona is one of few remaining places offering a serious locomotive “fix”. Home to a matrix of train depots and a main drag replete with saloons, malfunctioning neon and leather-clad, wandering “cowboys” spewing booze-addled folklore while engaging in mock shoot outs, Williams is a hot spot of activity in the middle of nowhere. Yup—it’s a loud, crowded, hokey-as-all-get-out slice of Americana anchoring the best preserved stretch of the “Mother Road”---historic Route 66. People who like trains gravitate to this time warp of a whistle-stop (located 35 miles west of Flagstaff) for its perpetual clamber of metal on rails and diesel fumes.
Although it’s pretty easy to spend a day in town noshing at trackside joints like Cruisers Café, Doc Holliday’s Steakhouse or Pancho McGillicuddy's, a more alluring way to view the trains (and get some exercise to work off the Grand Canyon Brewing Co. beers that will have seduced you) waits 700 feet above town. To get there, just head a few miles south to Dog Town Lake where three shady trails feature easy hiking and high-altitude train spotting.
A hike up Davenport Hill trail offers aerial views of colorful freight cars gliding over expansive prairies below. Whether hauling human cargo or shipping containers bound for Wal-Mart, the trains put on a good show as they snake through town, cross the flatlands and disappear into forests of Ponderosa pines---a sight that’s impossible to see at street level.
In addition to Davenport Hill, two other routes depart from the same trailhead. Dog Town Lake trail is just a flat path used by anglers to access the best fishing spots along the shores of a pine-rimmed lake. The Ponderosa Nature Trail is a short, self-guided educational loop with signposts that correspond to information in booklets available at the trailhead, making it a good choice for kids and those who want a side order of learnin’ with their hike---or one of the amusing local brews.
Davenport Hill: 2.5 miles one-way
Dog Town Lake: 1.8 mile loop
Ponderosa Nature Trail: 1-mile loop
ELEVATION: 7,100’- 7,805’
FEES: none for hikers
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic tables, camping, fishing, boat ramp, site host and ranger programs
RULES: no swimming, dogs must be on leash
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 184 miles one-way
From Phoenix, go north on I17 to the I40/I17 interchange south of Flagstaff. Go 30.3 miles west on I40 to Williams exit #165. At the off ramp stop sign, go left and follow Railroad Ave. 2.6 miles to Fourth Street (a.k.a. Perkinsville Road, CR 73), turn south (left) and continue 3.8 miles to FR 140. Turn left onto FR 140 and go 2.8 miles to FR 132, go left again and drive 1.2 miles to the boat ramp/campground turnoff on the right. Park in the boat ramp lot. Davenport Hill Trail begins at the Ponderosa Trail sign at the far, east end of the parking lot. Last few miles are on maintained dirt suitable for passenger cars.
INFO: Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest, (928) 635-5600