Williams - Great Family Getaway
Williams – It's A Great Family Getaway
July 1, 2022
John and I and Mochi went to Williams again this past week and I've got to tell you, it's one of our favorite places to get away in the summer. It can be a bit warm during the day, but since we spend most of our time in the woods, it's shady, breezy, and wonderful!
camping was amazing. There are plenty of places for dispersed camping along the main roads, so you don't need a 4x4 – although I would recommend high clearance. We have the Jeep, so we took some true 4x4 trails, and that's always an option for you if you're equipped.
The most fun way to get to the Williams area is via the Perkinsville Road. Pick it up in Chino Valley or Jerome – it's mostly a graded gravel road, but it becomes paved just past the Drake Road. It's about 47 miles from Jerome to Williams via this road.
Perkinsville Road has glorious views when you get up on top of the plateau – if the sky is clear, you can see the red rocks with the San Francisco Peaks behind them. Last week we saw some honest-to-goodness cowboys rounding up cattle just outside Chino Valley on the Perkinsville Road.
There are lots of places to stop and let the kids run around, including a stop with a bench and great views of the red rocks. (June 2022 there was a detour to the Perkinsville Road at Chino Valley, but just follow the signs and you'll be fine.)
When the Perkinsville Road crosses the Verde River there is a beautiful single-lane bridge to cross. You can pull off just after the bridge, park in the shade, and play in the river, which is usually not very deep but very pretty and cool. Mochi loves it!
Once you get up near Williams you'll pass from the Prescott National Forest into the Kaibab National Forest -- a Forest Service Map is incredibly helpful because it will show you the road numbers, so you know where you are!
Places To Camp
Off to the east of the Perkinsville Road are several beautiful lakes: White Horse is the easiest to get to, and there are plenty of places to camp around there, including campgrounds. Dogtown Reservoir is easy to get to as well, meaning you don't need a 4x4.
Bill Williams Mountain Loop Road
If you're up for a drive that passes through all kinds of different vegetation – pines, oaks, junipers, etc., you should check out the Bill Williams Mountain Loop Road. We had a bit of a hard time finding it from the Perkinsville Road heading north. Watch for the sign that says Lockett Spring, and the turnoff for the Bill Williams will be just a bit farther north, with a sign that says "Coleman Lake".
The loop is Forest Road 108, and it took us about two hours to go from the turn-off on Perkinsville Road (also called Coconino County Road 73 here) to the end on I-40 near Devil Dog exit and McClellan Reservoir.
By the way, McLellan Reservoir is a great place to let the kids burn off some steam. It's right next to I-40 but hardly anyone goes there. It's a very pretty place, not a whole lot of parking, but just a pleasant spot to pull off the road, wind down, and have a bite to eat. There's only one way in or out, so keep your eyes peeled for the sign
Side Roads To Explore
The Bill Williams Loop road passes Coleman Lake very near the Perkinsville Road, but when we went by last week it was mostly meadow. There were some deeper channels that we could see water in, but not much. All along the loop road are lots of nice places to pull off and let the kids play in the woods.
There are some water holes along the road as well, and those are always pretty, plus there are a lot of side roads to explore, and plenty of places to camp. We did the loop on our way home after camping near Pine Flat, and the drive from the Devil Dog exit on I-40 back through Chino Valley to Phoenix took us just under three hours.
Other Things To Do Near Williams
Besides camping, fishing, hiking, off-roading and relaxing in the woods, there are lots of things to do in and around Williams. Bearizona is nearby and that's always fun. It's a drive-through Wildlife park where the animals are loose, and you stay in your car. The girls loved it when we took them there.
Bears, Deer, And A Zonkey
Bearizona also has a walk-through area with more animals, a restaurant, and more. The best time to visit in the summer is early and late in the day when the animals are more active. You can plan a visit at their website http://www.bearizona.com.
There is also a Deer Farm near Williams. We took the kids there when they were little and they lovedt – you get to walk around with the deer! They also have bison, camel, wallaby, llama, elk, and a zonkey! Check their website out for more info: http://www.deerfarm.com.
There are lots of Route 66 themed things to do in and around Williams, and of course a lot of Grand Canyon tours leave from there. We also visited Williams in 2020 and wrote an article full of outdoor things to do around there and you can read that and see the photos at
Off-Road Near Williams
If you do have a high clearance vehicle or a 4x4, check out the various lakes near Williams. If you start looking at a map, you'll be amazed at how many there are around there! Kaibab Lake, Cataract Lake, Dogtown, White Horse, JD, McClellan, Santa Fe, Ashfork Stone Dam – and that's just some of them!
Wowed By The Views
Some of these are a bit difficult to find, but with good maps it makes a fun little adventure. One of our favorites was JD Dam – so pretty, and we were the only ones there! From there it's an easy drive to Sycamore Point, where you'll be wowed by the views! Check out that story I mentioned from July 2020 for details on how to get there.
There are tons of hiking trails at all kinds of difficulty levels in the Williams area. Just remember that it's likely to be pretty warm during the day, so plan accordingly: Take lots of water, wear a hat and sunglasses, and be careful.
For The Kids
For a short, easy hike with the kids, Keyhole Sink is fun. On I-40 east of Williams, near Parks, go to the Oak Hill Snow Play Area. Park there and walk across the street to the trailhead for Keyhole Sink. It's only about a mile long and pretty flat, and it's through the woods.
A sink is an area that has sunk. Imagine that! They usually have some water in them if you're lucky, and when we were there, there was just a little water. But there are Petroglyphs on the cliffs around the Sink, and it's a very pretty place with a cute little gate to go through when you get close. Kids would absolutely love it.
If you're not into camping, no worries. Williams is a good-sized town with places to stay, plenty of restaurants, fun shops (lots of Route 66 stuff!), and all kinds of places to spend time. I could easily spend weeks in and around Williams and never get bored – check it out this summer!