Road trip across California on Historic US Route 66



Riding Route 66 Across California

Historic U.S. Route 66 in California

From the Arizona state line to San Bernardino U.S. Highway 66 followed the old National Old Trails Highway. Leaving Needles, the road ventured a bit north, through Goffs. This railroad town remained a stop on Route 66 until 1931, when a more direct alignment between Needles and Essex was opened.

The road then headed south, through Chambless and Amboy, and then west to Ludlow, Newberry Springs and on to Barstow. There it turned south and traveled through Helendale, Victorville, through the Cajon Pass, and on to San Bernardino. A final westward track through Pasadena took the Mother Road to its final end, near Santa Monica.

It covered a wide range of geography and topograpy, including the Mojave Desert, mountains, fertile inland valleys and down to sea level and beaches at Santa Monica.

This road trip features some of our favorite places and scenes along the Mother Road. The route includes all of the best of Route 66, including drivable sections, ghost towns, classic motels and famous roadside attractions like the Wigwam Motel.

This Route 66 trip westbound from Needles to Santa Monica includes both present-day photos and vintage travel postcards.

Our trip on the Mother Road will pass through these cities and towns as it made its way westbound across California:

Map showing approximate Route 66 location from Needles to Santa Monica, California
Map showing approximate Route 66 location from Needles to Santa Monica



Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site

Needles on California Route 66
Click to read more about
Route 66 in Needles

Located approximately two miles west of the Colorado River off Interstate 40, this day use and picnic area memorializes the entryway of Historic Route 66 into California.

The site contains covered picnic tables, an information kiosk, visitor log book, desert plants and trees, and a wind gauge. It is operated by the the Bureau of Land Management.

Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site


Needles California

The famous wagon in Needles
Needles, California on Historic Route 66
Welcome to Needles, and Historic Route 66
Welcome to Needles, California, and Historic Route 66


Needles El Garces Train Station in Needles

The building was formerly a grand Harvey House Hotel, restaurant and Santa Fe train station. The hotel and restaurant were open from 1908 to 1949. The train station closed in 1988.

Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Needles El Garces Train Station in California

 

 

Goffs, California

Goffs, an unincorporated community about 40 miles west of Needles in San Bernardino County, is a nearly empty one-time railroad town at the route's high point in the Mojave Desert. Goffs was a stop on Historic U.S. Route 66, and jogged around the White Cottage Restaurant. In 1931 a more direct Route 66 alignment opened between Needles and Essex.

A historic schoolhouse, built in 1914 and almost totally deteriorated by the early 1980s, has since been renovated to its original plans by the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (MDHCA). The Goffs Schoolhouse is a one-room mission style desert school built by the County of San Bernardino to serve the growing population of the area. Through many of the 23 years it served as a school, dances were held in the building and it functioned as a branch of the county library and community center. The schoolhouse and grounds now house a museum primarily specializing in the area's mining history. Remnants of Goffs's mining days still dot the town.

The Dennis G. Casebier Library houses the Mojave Desert Archives. It is a replica of the historic Goffs Santa Fe Railway Depot (1902-1956).

Goffs today is accessible off Interstate 40 at U.S. Highway 95 north. A left turn onto Goffs Road, the pre-1931 alignment of US 66, becomes a desolate forty-mile stretch that served as home to several towns that have mostly vanished, including Bannock, Ibis, and Homer. Continuing west on Goffs Road brings motorists back to I-40 northeast of the town of Essex. It is located adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve.

Website of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association and MDHCA on Facebook

Entering Goffs, California
Goffs, California sign ... Established 1883, Population 23
Casebier Library
The Dennis G. Casebier Library and Mojave Desert Archives, Goffs, California
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: The Old Schoolhouse
Goff's Schoohouse, Essex, California Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Goff's Schoohouse, Essex, California

Mojave National Preserve

The Mojave Preserve features a diverse mosaic of ecological habitats and a 10,000 year history of human connection with the desert. The park features a variety of wildlife, including mountain lions, coyotes, snakes and bats. Found in the park are Joshua Trees, lava beds, and sand dunes. The National Park Service (NPS) operates the Kelso Visitor Center and the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center.

For more information, visit the website of the Mojave National Preserve at NPS

Mojave National Preserve in California Mojave National Preserve in California


Essex, California on Route 66

Essex is a small town on the National Old Trails Highway and Route 66, and once an important railroad stop. It is one of the many desert towns that was by-passed by Interstate 40.
Abandoned building in Essex, California, on Route 66

Route 66 Memorial

Between Essex and Chambless on the south side of U.S. Route 66 is this Route 66 Memorial.

Route 66 Memorial between Essex and Chambless, California


Road Runner's Retreat near Chambless, California

The Road Runner's Retreat is located on Route 66/National Trails Highway between Chambless and Amboy in the Mojave Desert. The property was first developed in 1961 by Roy and Helwn Tull, and included a Googie-style gas station, auto repair shop with a tow truck service, and a cafe. The business prospered until 1972 when I-40 opened. Today, the owner is actively envisioning a new future for the property, including restoration of the iconic sign, a popular photo-op for Route 66 travelers. Ryan Anderson is the caretaker.

Map of the Road Runner's Retreat on Route 66 near Chambless, California

The property is a recipient of the 2023 NPS Route 66 Cost-Share Grant Award. A work crew usually works the 3rd weekend of October on restoration projects at the site. The 6th annual work weekend in 2023 concentrated on efforts to repaint and restore the iconic 30-foot tall sign, but also worked on outside debris removal, inside cleanup and other related tasks.

For more information, visit the Road Runner's Retreat website and the Road Runner's Retreat on Facebook

Sign at the Road Runner's Retreat on U.S. Highway 66 near Amboy and Chambless, California

Roy's Motel & Cafe in Amboy

Roy's Motel and Café is a historic site on U.S. Route 66 in the Mojave Desert town of Amboy in San Bernardino County. It functions as a 24-hour gas station, gift shop, and famous tourist attraction, due to its 1950s Googie-Style neon sign that can be seen for miles. For more information, visit the Roy's website

Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California

"Founded in 1858, Amboy provided a vital rest stop for weary sun-drenched travelers seeking a better life in California"
Route 66 Roadside Attraction in Amboy Motorcycle stopped at Roy's in Amboy, California, on Route 66


Bicycle rider on Route 66 near Amboy, California

Bicycle rider on Route 66 near Amboy, California

The Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark includes an extinct, 79,000 year old volcano, located about 1.5 miles south of Route 66.
Amboy Crater National Natural entrance area on Historic US Route 66 in California
Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark sign
Amboy on California Route 66
Click to read more about
Route 66 in Amboy

 

Ludlow, California

The Ludlow Cafe ... breakfast, lunch, dinner ... next door is the Ludlow Motel

Ludlow Cafe on Route 66 in California Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark

Earlier days in Siberia, California ... seen here is a Texaco service station and post office between Ludlow and Bagdad

Siberia Texaco service station and post office in Ludlow, California

Newberry Springs, California

Stone Route 66 sign in Newberry Springs, California
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs, California
Originally built in the 1950s, this world-famous restaurant was the location of the 1988 film "Bagdad Cafe" which became the new name of the restaurant in 1995.
The Bagdad Cafe in California The Bagdad Cafe in California
Interior view of the Bagdad Cafe in California


Barstow, California

Barstow is located in the high western Mojave Desert. Several major highways including Interstate 15, Interstate 40, California State Route 58, and U.S. Route 66 converge in the city.

Greetings from Barstow, California Barstow California on Historic Route 66


Harvey House in Barstow, California

Harvey House in Barstow, California

Route 66 Mother Road Museum

For those interested in the history of the old road, we recommend a visit to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum at 681 N. First Street in Barstow.

Barstow Route 66 Mother Road Museum website

The Mother Road Museum, Barstow, California
Barstow on California Route 66
Click to read more about
Route 66 in Barstow

Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch

The Bottle Tree Ranch created by Elmer Long is a forest of colorful bottle trees hanging from large metal vertical pipes. It also features a variety of random collectibles such as windmills made of bicycle wheels, old signs, jeeps, typewriters, bed springs, car parts, and other assorted items. Many of the bottles were originally collected by Elmer's father. As time progressed, Elmer himself started collecting bottles and other old relics he found in the neighboring California deserts.

The "Ranch" is located at 24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368. Read more about the Bottle Tree Ranch

Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, California on Historic Route 66 Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, California on Historic Route 66

 

Oro Grande, California

Oro Grande (Spanish for "Large Gold") is located in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, between Barstow and Victorville, on old Historic Route 66 and the National Trails Highway.

Visitors to the area enjoy stops at Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch, the Iron Hog Saloon and other attractions. Oro Grande features a number of Route 66 murals, such as those shown below!

Route 66 mural in Oro Grande, California

Route 66 mural in Oro Grande, California, at Cross Eyed Cow Pizza Route 66 mural in Oro Grande, California, at Market Liquor

 

Victorville, California

Old Town Route 66 in Victorville, California
Old Town Route 66 in Victorville, California

California Route 66 Museum

The California Route 66 Museum is an interactive museum with over 4500sf of floor space. It offers many photo ops for visitors in settings such as a 50s diner and a VW Love Bus.

Located at 16825 South D Street in Victorville. Learn more at the website of the California Route 66 Museum

California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California

Mural at the California Route 66 Museum
Mural at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California


Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe

Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe is a Route 66 icon that has been serving up meals to locals and hungry travelers on the Mother Road since 1947. The building was built by Bob and Kate Holland from cinder blocks manufactured at the old Fiber Tile Plant. Emma Jean worked at the cafe as a waitress, and her husband bought the cafe and named it after her.

The cafe remains a family-owned institution, and because of its nostalgic Mid-Century ambiance, it has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows.

Emma Jean's is located at 17143 N D Street, Victorville, CA 92394 - Phone 760.243.9938

Read more at the Emma Jean's Website
Emma Jean's Holland Burger Cafe in Victorville, California

Cajon Pass

Earlier days of Route 66 through Cajon Pass ... the highest point on CA Route 66

The pass is located south of Victorville between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains. Rising to 3,777 feet, it is known for high wind, turbulence and fog. Today, Interstate I-15 parallels parts of the original Route 66.

Read about the famous rest stop on the National Old Trails Road ... Camp Cajon on Facebook

Earlier days of Route 66 through Cajon Pass in California

Scenes around the Pass today ...

The Camp Cajon Monument is located at 3351 Wagon Train Road (U.S. Route 66) in Phelan.

Camp Cajon kiosk on Old Route 66 in California Camp Cajon kiosk on Old Route 66 in California ... Old Spanish Trail, Mormon Road, and John Brown Toll Road
New Camp Cajon Monument ... 3,002 feet
Dedicated July 4, 2019
New Camp Cajon Monument, erected July 4, 2019
Santa Fe and Salt Lake Monument
Dedicated 1917
Santa Fe & Salt Lake Monument at Cajon Pass, erected 1917


San Bernardino, California

Wigwam Motel

In 1933 Frank Redford started developing the Wigwam “Villages” by designing teepee shaped motel units. Driving down Route 66, this San Bernardino motel immediately grabs your attention with its one of a kind roadside architecture.

The San Bernardino motel was opened in 1949, at 2728 E. Foothill Boulevard. This was the last of seven Wigwam Motels built across the country; only three survive today, this one, another in Kentucky and the third on Route 66 in Holbrook.

Read more about the Wigwam Motel

WigWam Motel in San Bernardino, California, since 1949


 

The Original McDonald's

Not far from Route 66 in San Bernardino is the site of the original restaurant of fast-food giant McDonald's.  A local fast-food franchise company now owns this site and has turned it into a museum, at 1398 North E Street, featureing an array of memorabilia, menus, toys and other McDonald's artifacts.

The original McDonald's in San Bernardino, California

Mural at the original McDonald's in California ... founders Richard and Maurice McDonald Site of the original McDonald's in California

 

Rancho Cucamonga

The Cucamonga Service Station is a historic gas and automobile service station located in Rancho Cucamonga. Built in 1915, the Station continued to serve motorists when this highway became part of U.S. Route 66 in 1926 until it closed about 1972. Today the station serves as a museum, at 9670 Foothill Boulevard. Read more at the Cucamonga Service Station website

Cucamonga Service Station in California on Historic Route 66 Historic Marker at the Cucamonga Service Station in California on Historic Route 66


Also in Rancho Cucamonga is an original segment of the Mother Road, located in Route 66 Trailhead Park, Foothill @ Highridge Wb Fs, 8476 Foothill Blvd. 

Sign at the Route 66. Trailhead Park, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Original segment of the Mother Road in the Route 66. Trailhead Park, Rancho Cucamonga, California

 

Route 66 overpass in Rancho Cucamonga
Overpass in Rancho Cucamonga, California, over Route 66, America's Main Street

Glendora, California

Glendora, California, on Route 66 and Grand Avenue

The Donut Man in Glendora

The Donut Man is located at 915 East Route 66 in Glendora. Opened in 1972, The Donut Man has become not just a culinary icon, but a cultural example of the American Dream. Jim and Miyoko Nakano opened the donut shop seeking to achieve their dreams through entrepreneurship. The Donut Man is best known if its iconic fresh fruit donuts, especially the Fresh Strawberry Donut.

The Donut Man today looks much like it did in 1972. Every donut is made by hand, on site, and every day. It is a popular stop for Route 66 travelers in California!

Read more at the website of The Donut Man and The Donut Man on Facebook

The Donut Man, a famous stop in Glendora, California, on Route 66

 

Route 66 in Pasadena

California Street Bridge

With majestic arches rising 150 feet above the deeply cut Arroyo Seco, the Colorado Street Bridge was proclaimed the highest concrete bridge in the world upon completion in 1913. The bridge connected Pasadena to Los Angeles; traffic on the bridge was heavy and it became inadequate as early as the 1930s. The bridge remained part of Route 66 until the 1940 completion of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Arroyo-Seco Bridge: Vintage View
Vintage view of the  Arroyo-Seco Briidge, U.S. Highway 66, between Pasadena and Los Angeles, California
Arroyo-Seco Bridge: Recent View
Current day view of the Arroyo-Seco Bridge, between Pasadena and Los Angeles, California
Clark Motel
Clark Motel at 3019 E. Colorado Street, U.S, Highway 66, Pasadena, California
Arroyo-Seco Parkway
The Arroyo-Seco Parkway, U.S. Highway 66, between Pasadena and Los Angeles, California
Downtown Pasadena
Downtown scene in Pasadena, California, circa 1940s


Chicken Boy in Los Angeles

The 22-foot high, fiberglass Chicken Boy, is part man, part chicken, and holds a yellow bucket of chicken. Chicken Boy was originally located on the roof of the Chicken Boy restaurant on Broadway in Los Angeles. After a time in storage, it was relocated to its current site atop the Future Studio Gallery, 5558 North Figueroa Avenue, part of Historic Route 66, in the Highland Park area. It is commonly called the "Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles".
Chicken Boy in Los Angeles, California

 

Santa Monica, California

The original terminus of U.S. Route 66 was at 7th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. However, over the years, and decades, Route 66 has had several “official” and “unofficial" ending points. The route was later extended to the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica, about one mile from the Pacific Ocean. This is often called the official ending point of Route 66.

Earlier Days in Santa Monica
Earlier view of Santa Monica, California, the ending point of Historic Route 66 Santa Monica Auto Camp: Cabins and Trailers

Map showing the "official" and "unofficial" ending points of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California
(click image to open in Google Maps)
Map showing the "official" and "unofficial" ending points of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California

Since this locale can be disappointing after the long journey from Chicago, the Route 66 Alliance partnered with the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation in 2009 to mount an unofficial “End of the Trail” sign on the pier.

The End of the Trail in Santa Monica (Staff Photo)
The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California

Santa Monica Pier in California

MORE CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trip to Needles, California Route 66 Road Trip to Goffs, California Route 66 road trip to Amboy, California
Route 66 road trip to Barstow, California Route 66 road trip to Victorville, California Route 66 road trip to San Bernardino, California
Route 66 road trip to Pasadena, California Route 66 road trip to San Santa Monica, California

Travel Guides for Other States

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for all eight states on The Mother Road ...

Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois Route 66 in Missouri Route 66 in Kansas Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma
Route 66 in Texas Route 66 Across New Mexico Route 66 Across Arizona Route 66 Across California