Below the Surface

It’s true, you can get your kicks on Route 66, because some pretty cool attractions still lie along the old route. On the longest unbroken original stretch of the Mother Road, you will find the Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona.
These are the largest dry caverns in the U.S., meaning you won’t find bugs, bats, or any other signs of life, other than the tourists, because there is absolutely no moisture in the caverns. This is very unique, as 97 percent of the world’s caverns are wet, with water seeping in.
The caverns were discovered in 1927 when a young man named Walter Peck literally stumbled into them, falling through a hole. Peck originally thought he had found gold in the caverns, but it was only iron oxide, so instead of mining, he made money by starting tours. He charged 25 cents to lower guests into the cave by a rope. This early method was later coined “dope on a rope,” because if the person became detached from the rope or lost their light source, they were all alone in complete darkness. Today, there is a dope on a rope replica display outside of the caverns.
Guests now ride in an elevator down 21 stories to enjoy a much more comfortable tour of the caverns. There are a few different tour options to suit your needs, running from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The regular tour is most popular, lasting about 45 minutes and visiting a good portion of the caverns, with views of the Cavern Grotto, Cave Motel Room, safety bunker and several selenite and limestone crystal formations.
The regular tour does require climbing up and down some steps, so those who are not physically able may choose to do the short tour, which is handicap accessible. The short tour lasts about 25 minutes, so it may also be a good option for those with time constraints. Children 5 and under are admitted free on both the short and regular tours.
If you seek further exploration of the caves, you can book an explorer tour, lasting about 2.5 hours, which will take guests off the trail into deeper parts of the cave.
For an even more exciting experience, book the wild tour, which takes guests to the “Mystery Room” — the newest section of the caverns that has only been seen by a select few visitors. See gccaverns.com/tours-activities/ for pricing and more information on the tours.
For those with paranormal curiosities there is yet another option — the ghost walk. Over the last 50 years, eight people have died or been buried on the caverns property, and guests have claimed to experience ghost sightings. This one-hour tour starts at 5 p.m., with guests being lead through the dark with EMF meters to register any possible activity in the caves.
Guests can also choose to dine or even stay the night underground! The Cavern Grotto is a fairly new restaurant setup within the caverns where visitors will be served lunch 210 feet below the surface. Reservations are suggested because there is limited space at the Grotto. The main restaurant is above surface and open for dining from noon-7 p.m.
Dubbed as one of the world’s top 10 most unusual places to stay the night, the Cave Motel Room is available to sleep overnight, if you dare. Deep, dark and eerily quiet, the suite is set up with two double beds, a queen sleeper sofa, a table and chairs, bathroom, a library of books and magazines, a record player and personal lighting. It’s an experience you simply cannot find anywhere else.
If the Cave Room isn’t your cup of tea, there are several other options for staying at the Caverns. The Caverns Inn is a 48-unit motel next to the general store, bar and laundromat. The Ranch House is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom space great for large families. There is also a 48-site RV campground with water and electrical hookups.
Aside from the caverns, there are several other activities to enjoy if you are staying on property, including horseback rides, hiking trails, disc golf and more.
Peach Springs is also the gateway to the Havasupai Waterfalls. It is the closest place to stay the night before departing for a hike to the falls at the bottom of the canyon. Rafting adventures within the canyon are also available at Grand Canyon Caverns. Call 928-422-3223 for more information on these tours.
After the caverns, tourists can drive about 25 miles further on Route 66, to reach Seligman, a somewhat famous stop. Seligman was left to turn to dust when nearby Interstate 40 was built, which may remind you of the storyline in Pixar’s animated “Cars” film. The movie’s town, Radiator Springs, has been said to be inspired by Seligman, which now lives off Route 66 nostalgia.
The town’s most notable figures are the Delgadillo Brothers, Juan and Angel. In 1953 Juan built the Snow Cap Drive-In, which is still serving up malts and cheeseburgers with playful humor carried on by his children. Visitors from all over the world stop at the diner and leave a dollar with their name on it stuck to the wall, which shows the magnitude of little Seligman’s reach.
Angel opened a barbershop in 1950 and later added a souvenir shop in the same building. Stop in Angel and Vilma’s Route 66 Gift Shop for great souvenirs and to see the original barbershop (which is no longer in service).
Angel also founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, working to preserve the Mother Road and its history.