While it is easy enough to travel to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim by tour bus, you can also explore the Grand Canyon National Park and South Rim by taking a train from Williams, AZ. Williams is located north of Sedona and east of Flagstaff on Historic Route 66. It marks the beginning and end of Grand Canyon train travel to and from Williams and Grand Canyon National Park.
Year-Round Train Travel
Besides being home to rodeos, Williams provides plenty in the way of recreation. Its small-town charm and laid-back demeanor makes this town the ideal place to take a Grand Canyon train. You can enjoy traveling by train year-round from this location, as the town enjoys cool summers, given its pine-forested surroundings, and white but peaceful winters. Spring or fall weather can be hard to predict, as snow clouds my cover the sun every now and then. If you travel in July or August, you may experience a thunderstorm on an afternoon train trip.
A Brief History of the Grand Canyon Train
Williams was named for William Sherley Williams, a legendary mountain man who was also called Old Bill. While sheepherders first established the town in 1874, railroad workers settled the locale in 1880 with the construction of the Santa Fe line.
Part of the Wild, Wild West
When the track was completed in 1882, Williams grew into a hub for industries, such as lumber and ranching. The place, at the time, catered to cowboys, copper miners, lumberjacks, and a Chinese labor force. An atmosphere of general lawlessness secured Williams reputation as being a part of the Wild, Wild West. Other profitable ventures included gambling parlors and saloons.
Train Travel and the Economy
In 1901, the Santa Fe Railway built a 60-mile spur to the famous Grand Canyon. This scenic track represented an extension of a previous mining line, and attracted the first tourists. While the mines eventually got stripped of their copper and the hills lost many of their trees, the Grand Canyon train from Williams continued to feed the local economy.
A One-of-a-Kind Western Town
Today, the Grand Canyon Railway and Williams have revived the past, thriving on the renovation of old west designs, reclaimed pines forests, and restoration of part of Route 66. Its resurrected railway enables Williams to call itself the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” Because the train travels directly to the South Rim, this appellation seems to be fairly accurate. Downtown Williams is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all which adds to the charm of taking a train from this one-of-a-kind western town in Arizona.
Travel by Grand Canyon Train or Bus Today
Whether you travel by bus, through a premium travel operator, such as Grand Canyon Destinations, or take a train directly to the Grand Canyon, you will find the travel experience to be as memorable as it is fun.