Historic Roads

Related Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What highways in Arizona are considered historic roads?

Currently, all state and U.S. highways designated as Arizona state highways between 1912 and 1955 are considered historic roads. As a group, they are considered the Historic State Highway System (HSHS), which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The beginning date, 1912, signifies the year when Arizona became the 48th U.S. state. The end date, 1955, is the year prior to the signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which resulted in the construction of the modern interstate highway system.

The three dozen or so roads listed on the Historic Highways page are historic roads within Arizona's HSHS.

Why are these roads important?

Individually and as a group, the history of these early highways is closely linked to the history and growth of Arizona as a special place. Historic highways are fascinating sources of information about indigenous communities and nonnative travelers and settlers who came to Arizona as early as the 16th century.

Historic highways can tell us a story about where people explored, lived, worked and played and when different portions of the state were developed. A study of roads can also tell us why highways occur in different locations. In some cases, historic highways followed the route of ancient American Indian trails and 19th-century equestrian trails and wagon roads. In other cases, 20th-century engineers constructed new routes and roads to facilitate the development of economic resources, such as mines or hydroelectric dams, and link newly established human settlements with existing roads and communities.

Road histories can also tell us stories about who or what was responsible for their construction and demise. Some well-traveled highways, such as US 66 or US 80, created opportunities to begin new businesses and adjacent communities. When alignments changed along these same highways, however, many of the roadside enterprises and associated settlements withered for lack of traffic and income.

In short, creating and sharing stories about Arizona's historic roads can tell us much about the distribution of Arizona's natural resources and its history of human settlement and land use.

Are historic roads protected?

Yes and no. Historic roads are no more protected than any other historic property. When state or federal agencies plan a project that may affect a particular historic highway, the agency is legally required to consider how its proposed actions may impact the road, both as a physical entity within a particular landscape and as a source of historic information.

Where can I learn more about Arizona’s historic highways?

ADOT and the Arizona office of Tourism maintain this sites and Arizona Scenic Roads to discuss historic highways. Of course, reading articles published in ADOT's world-famous Arizona Highways magazine is a wonderful way to learn more about Arizona from the perspective of travel along Arizona's many historic and modern highways.

Where can I purchase maps that show Arizona’s historic highways?

  • Arizona Historical Society, Library and Archives (Flagstaff, Tempe, Tucson, and Yuma)
    The AHS maintains an online catalog of its major holdings entitled Lista. Information pertaining to AHS’s distributed archives is also available.
  • Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records (ASLAPR) (Phoenix)
    ASLAPR serves the information needs of Arizona citizens as authorized in Arizona Revised Statutes §41-1331 through §41-1352. Through its divisions, the Agency provides access to unique historical and contemporary resources, including archives of historical records in Arizona. The History and Archives Division, also know as the Arizona State Archives, is a division of the Arizona Secretary of State, and serves as the archives for Arizona State Government. The Arizona State Archives is mandated by law to collect, preserve, and make available to the public and all branches of government, permanent public records, historical manuscripts, photographs, and other materials that contribute to the understanding of Arizona history. Records at the Arizona State Archives are available to the public in accordance with the Arizona Public Records Act and agency rules. All records are open for use except those specifically restricted by law. ASLAPR hosts the Arizona Memory Project, listed above, and about 33,000 of its 160,000 photographs are online through the Arizona Memory Project website.
    This state institution holds several important collections including the Colorado Plateau Archive and regional records of the Arizona Historical Society (Flagstaff division). They also have an exception map collection. Many of its photographic items are visible online.
  • Sharlot Hall Museum, Library and Archives (Prescott)
    The Sharlot Hall Museum is named after its founder, Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870–1943), who became well known as a poet, activist, politician, and Arizona’s first territorial historian. As early as 1907, Ms. Hall saw the need to save Arizona's history and planned to develop a museum. She began to collect both Native American and pioneer material. In 1927, she began restoring the first Territorial Governor’s residence and offices and moved her extensive collection of artifacts and documents opening it as a museum in 1928. Today, the Sharlot Hall Museum features seven historic buildings, compelling exhibits and beautiful gardens, which serve as the setting for numerous public festivals. The Library and Archives, open to the public, hold a vast collection of rare books, original documents, historical photographs, maps and oral history. The Blue Rose Theater offers an entire season of historically based plays, and Living History programs bring the past alive through hands-on demonstrations.
    Among its collections are more than 120,000 historic images, 11,000 of which are viewable online through the Arizona Memory Project. In addition, the museum holds a large collection of maps, historic documents, and books related to Arizona, Yavapai County, and the West. The library collection can be search through an online catalog through the Yavapai Library Network.