Did you know that Doc and Wyatt got their kicks on Arizona’s Route 66 decades before Tod and Buz? Well, maybe not exactly, but they did get their kicks on Beale Wagon Road, from west of Sanders to just east of Winslow (neither town existed in 1879), where the trail veered south at Sunset Crossing, the historic ford on the Little Colorado River, to the road to Camp Verde and Prescott. Between Sanders and Winslow, Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp’s wagon party in 1879 would have followed Lt. Edward Beale’s famous road through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and past a series of small crossroad settlements and trading posts, all built at key water stops near the modern towns of Chambers, Holbrook, Joseph City and Winslow.
While Doc never went further west than what is now Winslow, getting your kicks on Route 66 on the trail of the two Tombstone gunfighters should be extended through Flagstaff, Williams and Kingman, all of which Wyatt may have visited on transcontinental train trips years after the famous shootout. The Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to Grand Canyon National Park is a fun way for travelers of all ages to experience steam train travel similar to how Wyatt and Josie Earp traveled a century ago. If you choose to follow the state highways from Winslow to Prescott across the Mogollon Rim to Camp Verde, schedule time for a side trip to Fort Verde State Historical Park, one of Arizona’s finest 19th-century living history centers, which Doc and Wyatt would definitely have visited en route to Prescott—and their date with destiny in Tombstone two years later.
Stuart Rosebrook is the senior editor of True West magazine. He is greatly indebted to the research of Gary Roberts in his biography Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend and Casey Tefertiller in his biography Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend.