""Gateway to the Grand Canyon", plus trails" Top 5 Page for this destination Williams by glabah

Williams Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 165 photos

At one time known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, there are not a huge number of people that come to Williams these days. While the Grand Canyon, of course, remains a very popular tourist attraction, most people simply drive north from the interstate. However, the fact remains that the junction so many people take is close to Williams.

The city remains a gateway to the Grand Canyon in the sense that this is where the former Santa Fe branch line to the Grand Canyon divided from the main line. The main line through town was relegated to branch line status in the 1960s when an entirely new main line passing through the north of town was constructed. There are still one or two freight trains per day going to Phoenix that go through downtown Williams, but today even most freight bypasses the city.

Today, the branch line from Williams to the Grand Canyon operates as a tourist railroad, carrying at least one (and during peak season two) trains a day from Williams to the Grand Canyon.

Naturally, traces of the railroad are all over Williams. For example, the gateway to Williams shown here is made from old railroad signal masts.

On the south and west, Williams has very close access to the Kaibob National Forest, and there is a one mile trail that links downtown Williams sidewalks pretty much directly to the National Forest trail system. This link trail is called City of Williams Link Trail #124.

This deer was photographed on the trail, about 200 feet (62 meters) after leaving the city sidewalk on the local residential road that leads to the trail.

There are a few surviving old buildings in downtown Williams, and you will find that most of the town is fairly easily to access just by walking from place to place.

There are a number of hotels and motels between the Interstate and downtown, and there are several recreational vehicle campgrounds available as well. The hotel I stayed at was the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, and of course that is the hotel closest to the train station. Train traffic through downtown is fairly rare now that the main line has been relocated to north of the interstate, but there are a few trains a day.

A visitor's center and museum is available for those wanting to become more familiar with the area.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Preserved (somewhat) historic small town, many different hotels.
  • Cons:Over an hour from the Grand Canyon, or 2.5 hours by train. Small town with not a huge variety.
  • In a nutshell:Has some good things, but is too far from the Grand Canyon to be a viable overnight option for that attraction except on way there.
  • Last visit to Williams: Nov 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (3)

  • johngayton's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Very useful, informative, page. Cheers, John.

  • Faiza-Ifrah's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    seems like ideal small travel destination for my family. we would love its trails and then head into the national park. great pictures too. how are you and your family?

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Mar 5, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    Nice page! The town looks lovely decorated for xmas. I like railway trips, saw the Train when we were there. I understand what you said about the "vistadome windows", I too, doubt if they would be an advantage there.


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