Spanning eight states and 2,448 miles (3,940 kilometers), Route 66 has become a cultural icon, immortalized in song and on the silver screen. This romanticized road trip from Chicago to Santa Monica offers drivers an inside look at classic America—kitschy roadside attractions, diners, historic motels, and plenty of 1950s nostalgia.
One of America’s first highways, Route 66 is rife with culture, views, and history. With such a long length, there are numerous ways to experience a slice of Route 66 from any number of the states it passes through—Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Drive along Route 66 to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and catch the views on guided day trip, or step into the Wild West at some of Arizona’s ghost towns. Pass through the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, tour the Cahokia Mounds of Collinsville, explore Downtown Albuquerque, and play on the pier in Los Angeles; the options are endless.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Some modern maps don’t show Route 66, but detailed directions are available online.
- Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, California, but only segments of the original road remain.
- Fuel up often along the road, especially in western states like Arizona where gas stations can be scarce.
- Don’t forget sunglasses; the east-west orientation of Route 66 means you’ll likely be driving into the rising or setting sun at some point.
How to Get There
Old Route 66 passes through eight different states; the segments that remain in each state are often well marked with Historic Route 66 signage. Road tripping is by far the most popular way to experience the route.
When to Get There
The best time to visit Route 66 depends largely on which section you’ll be visiting. Spring and autumn are both good times to experience the entirety of the road. Expect high summer temperatures in the West and icy winter conditions along the road’s eastern expanse.
Time Allowance on America’s Mother Road
With so much to see and do along Route 66, trip length can vary greatly. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least seven days one-way, and add extra days in destinations you might want to explore in-depth on side trips from the road.