Route 66: America’s Most Iconic (Off) Road Trip of All Times
If there is an off-road trip that has something to offer to any driver and adventure seeker, it could only go through the famous Route 66 in the US. You might have heard about it in the songs, and have definitely seen its pictures, made by hundreds of travelers from all other the world. The unique story and romance behind this route have literally turned it into a legend. Thus, we can’t help but encourage you to join the movement and explore Route 66 if you have not yet done so!
You might wonder, why do we call this an off-road experience? Well, in fact, Route 66 does not exist on the map, as it was shut down years ago. However, it is still alive in as a beautiful memory, and you can follow parts of the original route in your car. These remaining areas now bear a name of Historical Route 66.
Let’s be honest: this makes the whole thing even more attractive for an inspired off-road lover, and adds a certain degree of allure to this experience!
Now, it’s time to dig in and discover the most important things you need to be aware of before starting this epic (off) road trip.
Route 66 at a glance
• Original length – 2,400 miles (3,862 km), Current length – approximately 1,410 miles (2,269 km);
• Major cities – Chicago, Detour, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Sedona, Los Angeles;
• States– 8 States (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California);
• Officially existed from 1926 to 1985;
What is Route 66 and the history behind it?
US Route 66 was born as a result of the increasing need for a big artery connecting different parts of the rapidly growing American economy. Officially opened in 1926, it was de-facto a mix of numerous roads, connected within the U.S. Highway System. Originally, it ran from Chicago and ended in Santa Monica (Los Angeles), passing 8 states and over 2,400 miles. In its essence, Route 66 symbolized the wind of change foregoing the bright future of America, yet full of long, lonely distances.
In the 1930s, Route 66 served as a link connecting the West and Midwest of the country. This created numerous opportunities for relocation, driving massive flows of migration and boosting the economic development of the Western States. For years, it acted as an important source of income for numerous communities and became one of the most known symbols of America. However, as the progress does not stay still, it was finally bypassed by Interstate Highway System and officially closed in 1985.
Why is Route 66 so famous?
Despite the fact that Route 66 was decommissioned over 30 years ago, its fame is still live, and it keeps attracting adventure seekers from the entire country and beyond. Featured in TV shows, songs, and novels, Route 66 became a symbol of America and the essence of US driving society. Till the present day, you can find museums and organizations devoted to this epic road. Are you wondering why it is so?
Here’s the answer! Route 66 acts a tangible heritage of American nation, demonstrating the way it moved from being a decentralized country to one of the world’s strongest nations. On top that, it has preserved numerous “artifacts” of this epoch, which you will encounter as you follow the route. To illustrate, you will see dozens of abandoned buildings, pit stops, retro signs and even motels on your way. Many of these buildings and installations were renovated/newly created, preserving the “Route 66 style”. Does not this look like a giant museum of American history?
Where does Route 66 start and end?
Conquering the ¨Main Street of America¨ is a lot of fun, especially since you will see a bunch of exciting attractions on your way. To start the journey, head to Chicago and find iconic “Historic Rote 66” sign. Now, your adventure beings!
Your journey will end in Santa Monica, in the suburb of Los Angeles…although no one says you should stop driving. In other words, why not make a quick visit to this vibrant city?
Traditionally, drivers would follow Route 66 in exactly this way, going from Chicago to Los Angeles. Thereby, it is best to stick to the tradition so that you can feel the true authentic spirit of this experience.
How long does it take to drive through historic Route 66?
In reality, the time you want to spend exploring Route 66 will totally depend on your own needs and desires. With fewer stops, you can easily complete it in less than a week or in two weeks in case you are up to some sightseeing. However, many say that to get the most of the Route 66 road trip, you should spend a month or so, avoiding interstate highways as much as possible. This would include multiple overnight stops in various towns and retro motels, visits to numerous pit-stops, and long walks through historic streets.
Can you still drive the entire Route 66?
Unfortunately, the good old dates of Route 66 have passed and it does not exist on the maps anymore. Nowadays, some of its sections are pathless, meaning you cannot drive the entire route as it used to be. However, the good news is that you can still follow parts of the original route, which now bear the name of the Historical Route 66. In some places, the old route will parallel modern highways.
No need to worry! Even with these alterations, you will get a chance to enjoy the journey and immerse into the unique ambiance of this iconic route. Since the interpretation of Route 66 has always been a little bit blurred (and it is especially true for the modern period), there are several ways you can plan your journey. For more ideas on that, check this selection of maps created the official Route 66 travel website.
Top attractions on Route 66
The best thing about traveling Route 66 is a myriad of attractions you will see along your way. From spectacular views and scenic natural attractions to “ghost” streets and retro pit stops, everyone will get something to enjoy.
Best natural attractions on Route 66:
Let’s start this list by looking at the most impressive natural wonders you will admire on your road trip.
Route 66 State Park in Eureka.
View this post on Instagram
Yesterday was awesome! I can’t wait to ride again next weekend 😍🚵🏼♀️🤙🏻✌🏻 . . . . #mountainbiking #mtb #mountainbike #bike #cycling #bikelife #mtblove #freeride #cyclinglife #mountainbiker #mtbiking #mtbpictureoftheday #ride #mtbdaily #mtbshed #mtblifestyle #trail #adventure #mtbgirl #optoutside #strava #marin #bikestagram #rideyourbike #cyclistlife #bikegirl #girlsonbikes #ridelikeagirl #roamingwithpurpose #sunset
Looking for a place to stretch your bones? Say no more!
Grand Canyon (Arizona)
The Grand Canyon in Arizona does not need a single promotional word, as it is recognized internationally as one of the world’s most fascinating natural wonder. By good fortune, you will get a chance to see it during your Route 66 road trip!
Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
If you feel like some Martian landscapes could make up a couple of good pictures, this crazy (and crazily beautiful) natural attraction is right what you need.
Barringer Crater (Arizona)
Well, since it is a giant crater created by a meteorite, why not include it in our list of top natural attractions to visit on your Route 66 journey?
Top landmarks to see on Route 66
Now, let’s get to the fun part and look at some of the most exciting points of interests (created by humans) that Route 66 has to offer. Note that there are much more spots you will see on your way, while these are the hottest places you can’t help but visit.
Cadillac Ranch (Texas)
View this post on Instagram
Make sure to visit Cadillac Ranch when you are traveling Route 66, you will be amazed at all the beautiful colors painted on the ten Mid-Century Cadillacs buried nose down on a farm field in Amarillo Texas on Historic Route 66. #historicroute66 #route66 #roadtrip #adventure #cadillacranch #amarillotx #texas #motherroad #mainstreetofamerica #lighting #storm #phototography #travelphotography #fineartprints #roadsideattraction #artinstallation #americana #art #commerce #theantfarm #hippies #tailfins #midcentury #roadsideattraction
Isn’t it the most epic installation you have ever seen?
Directions: 13651 I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX 79124, USA
Historic Wigwam Motel (Arizona)
View this post on Instagram
Wigwam. @scotchybob #worldingram #westcoast_exposures #earthexperience #exploreeverything #route66 #thebest_capture #igrecommend #illestgrammers #phenominalshot #peoplescreative #pacificcoastleague #globaldaily #justgoshoot #loseyourself #neverstopexploring #california_igers #californiaholics #wigwammotel
If accommodation with a twist is your thing, then welcome! (all those trending Instagram hotel locations can’t hold a candle to that place, right?)
Directions: 811 W Hopi Dr, Holbrook, AZ 86025, USA
Glenrio – ghost town (New Mexico/Texas)
Are you afraid of ghosts? In this case, make sure to visit this spot before the sun goes down!
Directions: Texas State Highway Loop 504 / New Mexico State Road 1578 Glenrio
Cars On the Route (Kansas)
This is probably one of the most known Route 66 spots inspired by the Cars movie.
Directions: 119 N Main St, Galena, KS 66739, USA
Santa Monica Pier (California)
Yeah, this place has it all for a perfect ending of a perfect journey.
Directions: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Where to sleep and eat during your Route 66 journey?
You will be passing by dozens of eateries and accommodation options on your way, from high-end hotels and restaurants to retro motels and cafés. What is the best part? You can try our every historical spot on your way and truly plunge into the atmosphere of Route 66!
Your accommodation options are limitless and include such epic places, as:
Blue Swallow Motel
Directions: 815 E Rte 66 Blvd, Tucumcari, NM 88401, USA
Wagon Wheel Motel
View this post on Instagram
Another Route treasure and delightful place to stay. The Wagon Wheel in Cuba Missouri. #wagonwheelmotel #wagonwheel #trb_ipoft_signs #ig_ruralamerica #route66 #rte66 #66 #missouri_photos #missourimoment #sign #signage #everything_signage #signgeeks #route66 #neon #neonporn #everything_signage #roadsideamericana #signage #signporn #trb_members1 #ig_signage #gas_food_lodging #motel #ipulledoverforthis #trb_rurex #sign_geeks #sign_of_the_times #justsigns #americana #everything_signage #ig_ruralamerica #trb_ipoft_signs #trb_rurex #tgj66 #tgjmo #tgjwagonwheel
Directions: 901 E Washington Blvd, Cuba, MO 65453, USA
Fender’s River Road Resort
Directions: 3396 Needles Hwy, Needles, CA 92363, USA
Besides, you will have a bunch of catering options, including the famous 66 Diner and Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner. Of course, there are all other options of classic and modern restaurants that you will see on your way.
How to get ready for the Route 66 road trip?
If you are now itching to start your Road 66 road trip, it’s the right time to prepare everything you might need for your journey! Remember that this is going to be a minimum of the one-week drive: so, packing all the essentials might help you in any unexpected situation.
First of all, make sure to plan your itinerary ahead and map your Route 66 trip. As you remember, there are numerous ways of how you can plan your journey.
What to pack:
- Medical kit and first aid kit
- GPS navigator
- Consider taking portable WiFi router
- Portable phone charger
- Chargers, adapters
- Car essentials and tools
- Snacks, water
- Several sets of clothes depending on the season
- Sports (hiking) set
Here we are! You are now completely ready for your upcoming trip across the Main Street of America. Make sure to get the most from the unique ambiance of the places you will be visiting, admire every moment and take a dozen pictures. By the way, you can share those and tell about your experiences in our off-roading community to inspire others and help them in planning their own trip.
Eager to share your Route 66 experience with the world? Join the BurnsOffRoad community!