Facts and FAQs about Historic U.S. Route 66



Route 66 Facts and FAQs

Historic Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois
Historic Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois, and ends in Santa Monica, CA
The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California
Where did Route 66 start and end?

Route 66 began in downtown Chicago, Illinois, and ended in Santa Monica in California.

How long was U.S. Route 66?

It is generally accepted that, from beginning to end in 1926, Route 66 traversed 2,448 miles, or 3,940 kilometers. However, as the route evolved over its 60 years of existence with new, improved alignments, the mileage varied over time.

Was Route 66 the longest national highway?

Route 66 was not America's oldest or longest road, surpassed by transcontinental highways like U.S. Highway 40 and the Lincoln Highway. But it was the shortest, year-round route between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast. Route 20 is the longest U.S. highway, spanning 3,365 miles.

Was U.S. Route 66 paved?

When Route 66 was officially opened in 1926, only 800 miles were paved, the rest being graded dirt, gravel, bricks, or planks of wood planks. It took 11 more years before the road would become the first national highway to be completely paved.

When was U.S. Route 66 assigned?

The numerical designation of "U.S. Route 66" was assigned on April 30, 1926. Its supporters originally sought the Route 60 designation, and after opposition from several states, Route 62. But it finally, officially became Route 66.

Who named Route 66 "The Mother Road"?

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck wrote a chapter about Dust Bowl migrants traveling Route 66, which he nicknamed “The Mother Road." The highway is also sometimes called "The Will Rogers Highway" and "The Main Street of America".

Who is considered the father of Route 66?

Cyrus Avery was a Tulsa businessman who promoted the establishment of the Route 66 highway, earning him the nickname “Father of Route 66". In 1927, while involved in founding the U.S. Highway 66 Association, he created the Route 66 byline “The Main Street of America.”

What states does Route 66 travel through?

Route 66 traverses eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Historic U.S. Route 66 Map from Chicago to Santa Monica

 


How long does it take to drive Route 66?

This question is asked often ... but is difficult to answer. Total time to drive the route, assuming no stops, is in the 32-38 hour range. But we would never recommend doing that.

On some of our road trips across the USA, we drive 500 miles a day, or more. At that rate, we could drive the entire Route 66 in about 5 days. But we would never do that!

We like to take it slow, stop to visit attractions, and catch all those great photo ops on The Mother Road! As an example, on our recent road trip in 2022 on Route 66 in Oklahoma, Google Maps estimated travel time on our trip from Tulsa to Joplin, Missouri, to be 1:45 ... but in actuality, it took us 8 hours!

For leisurely trips on Route 66, many experienced travelers recommend planning for 200 miles a day, at least on those stretches with lots of attractions, like Illinois and Arizona. At that rate, the trip across the entire length of Route 66 would take 10-12 days.

Kansas travel map from Conoco

Ideally, plan on a minimum of 10 days to make the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, for a more leisurely and complete trip you might want to plan for 14-21 days, or longer. It all depends on how many stops you take along the Route, side trips like to the Grand Canyon, and of course the weather.

Which states had the longest, and shortest mileage, on Route 66?

New Mexico had the most miles, and Kansas the fewest:

  • Illinois - 301
  • Missouri - 317
  • Kansas - 13
  • Oklahoma - 432
  • Texas - 186
  • New Mexico - 487
  • Arizona - 401
  • California - 314
  • TOTAL - 2,448
When is the best time to travel Route 66, weatherwise?

Route 66 travels through vastly different climates, from the mid-western plains and cornfields to dry, arid areas in the west, from near sea level in California to the 7,000 foot peaks along the Continental Divide. Thus, weather conditions are diverse, and sometimes unpredictable.

Travelers will on occasion experience snow storms, dust storms, thunderstorms, flooded roads and high winds. So watch the weather forecasts, and adjust your itinerary appropriately.

Driving Route 66 in winter, with snow and ice! Driving Route 66 in a dust storm out west


That said, the most ideal weather for the trip is in the spring, from March into early June. Likewise, the fall months of September, October and November are typically pleasant and offer good driving conditions. Winter months in the north can produce ice and snow storms, while summer in the desert areas of the great Southwest can be hot.

Read more about the Route 66 weather

It isn't always a sunshine day at the Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo, Texas ... from May 1 - June 12 of 2023 parts of the area received over 10 inches of rain!
A muddy, rain soaked Cadillac Ranch on Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo

 

How can I find Route 66 segments today? What books & maps are available?

Many states have a system of well-marked signs, directing travelers on/off the segments. Also, there is a wealth of paper-based books and maps today that mark Route 66 segments, like the popular "EZ66 Guide for Travelers" and "Here It Is": The Route 66 Map Series" offered at Amazon and other outlets.

Popular Route 66 resources for your next road trip!

EZ66 Guide for Travelers (5th Edition)
by Jerry McClanahan


EZ66 Guide for Travelers ... buy at Amazon

Here It Is! Route 66 Series of 8 Maps
by Jerry McClanahan & Jim Ross

Here It Is Route 66 Map Series ... buy at Amazon
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The Route 66 Road Trip website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Amazon offers a commission on products sold through their affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you.

The Route 66 Store ... click to shop now for books, maps, clothing, videos and more!

Buz and Tod of the TV show Route 66
Tod and Buz
(By CBS, or Screen Gems)
Who wrote the song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66"?

The song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was composed by songwriter Bobby Troup in 1946. It was first recorded by Nat King Cole, and sung by other singers over the years including Chuck Berry, Perry Como, and the Rolling Stones. The song lyrics follow Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Was there a TV show about Route 66?

A popular television show during the early 1960s bore the road's name: "Route 66". Starring George Maharis as Buz, and Martin Milner as Tod, the two young adventurers drove the road in their Corvette for 116 episodes.

Despite the name of the series, most episodes did NOT take place on the historic road, but in 25 different U.S. states. The show was filmed mostly on location, and became known for its cinematography. The show ran from October, 1960, through March, 1964, and created a huge following.

Read more about the Route 66 TV series ... and those Corvettes!

Section of Old Route 66 9-foot wide "Ribbon Road" still visible near Miami, Oklahoma

When was Route 66 decommissioned?

With the advent of the Federal Interstate Highway System, U.S. Route 66 was gradually decommissioned, with the last segment, in Arizona, being removed from the Federal system on June 27, 1985.

What routes replaced Route 66?
Route 66 in 2026 ... celebrating 100 years of The Mother Road during the Route 66 Centennial

The passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 was the beginning of the end for Route 66, and gradually segments were replaced with new, safer superhighways. Route 66 was replaced by five Interstates: I-55 from Chicago, I-44, I-40, I-15 and finally I-10 into Los Angeles.

What is the Route 66 Centennial?

Route 66 was one of the United State's first continuous stretches of paved highway, and served as a major path for those who migrated west. "The Mother Road" was commissioned on November 11, 1926, and ultimately stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.

In 2026, the nation will be celebrating the Route 66 Centennial ... 100 years of the Mother Road serving the traveling public! Many states and organizations are planning special events and tours to highlight the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Route 66.

Can the entire Route 66 still be driven today?

Today, only portions of the original Route 66 can be driven. However, a significant amount of mileage in all eight Route 66 states is available for touring. Most remaining segments are paved.

Some segments remain much as they were originally constructed; other segments have been taken over by Interstate highways. It is estimated that up to 85% of the original route is drivable today.

What influence did Route 66 have on the movie "Cars"?

The animated movie "Cars" produced in 2006 tells the story of Route 66 through characters Lightning McQueen and Sally and their escapades at Radiator Springs, a fictionalized representation of all Route 66 towns.

Classic, rusted trucks from earlier times, on Route 66 near Miami, Oklahoma

Sally liked to say ... "Those were the days we traveled to have a great time, not to make great time"! In the movie, Ramone's House of Body Art looks amazingly similar to the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.

Other real-life locations that inspired parts of the movie at the Cadillac Ranch, the Wigwam Motels, and the Wagon Wheel Motel. The movie was produced by Pixar and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

What was the highest point along Route 66?

At Continental Divide, New Mexico, Route 66 reached its highest point, with an elevation of just over 7,200 feet.

Are there any historical structures left on Route 66?

There are more than 250 buildings, bridges, road alignments and other sites along Route 66 that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can still be experienced today.

Is buying gasoline along Route 66 a problem?

In most places, no. In more populated areas like Illinois, cities and towns are close together, and gasoline stations are plentiful. However, in the western U.S. travelers need to be mindful of their fuel levels. We make it a habit when traveling in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to keep our tank above the half-way mark. In these areas fuel stops may be 30-50 miles apart, so plan ahead.

What time zone is Route 66 in?

Portions of Route 66 are in three time zones: Central, Mountain and Pacific, as shown in the map below. Daylight Savings Time (DST) is observed from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November. Arizona does not observe DST, with the exception of the Navajo Nation, so check for local time depending on where you are in Arizona.

Route 66 time zones map

 

Click to view "The 10-Minute Trip Across Route 66" video ...
The 10-Minute Trip Across Route 66
I have never taken a Route 66 road trip. Can you give me a quick overview of what I might see?

Along the length of Route 66, there are hundreds, probably thousands of attractions. And there are dozens of cities and towns to explore.

While many are experienced Route 66 travelers, there are others who are planning their first journey, which from Chicago to Santa Monica can take from several days to two or more weeks. And they do not have a good vision of what they might see on the trip.

So we have prepared a video to showcase the route, by state, highlighting just a few of the hundreds of attractions along the way.

While some trips on Route 66 take 10 days, this trip only takes 10 minutes! So sit back and get your kicks on Route 66 ... and turn up your volume for some easy-listening music!

View "The 10-Minute Trip Across Historic Route 66" video

Is it true that Route 66 can play "America the Beautiful"?
Section of Old Route 66 in New Mexico that plays "America the Beautiful"

Yes! There is a stretch of Route 66 near Tijeras, New Mexico, that when driven eastbound the road plays the "America the Beautiful" song. If you drive the speed limit of 45 mph for the quarter-mile stretch along the rumble strips, you can hear the song play through the vibrations in your car's wheels.

The singing stretch of road is located just outside of the town of Tijeras, NM, just east of Albuquerque, on eastbound Route 66. You can hear the song only when eastbound, not westbound.

The section of the Mother Road is located near I-40 exit 170; drive east about 3.5 miles on Highway 333/Route 66. Hear the song between mileposts 4 and 5, shortly after Route 66 crosses to the south side of I-40.

Today, in 2024, as the pavement has become worn over time, the music is not so loud, but still can be heard by the careful listener!

Travel Guides for States and Cities Along Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for major segments and cities ... click any image for details!

MORE ILLINOIS ROUTE 66

Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois

Route 66 road trip to Chicago, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Joliet, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Pontiac, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Bloomington and Normal in Illinois
Dwight, Illinois along Route 66 Route 66 road trip to Springfield, Illinois Route 66 road trip to Litchfield, Illinois

MORE MISSOURI ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips in Missouri ... click for details!

Route 66 road trip to St. Louis, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Lebanon, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Springfield, Missouri
Route 66 road trip to Carthage, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Cuba, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Joplin, Missouri
Route 66 Road Trip to Sullivan, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Rolla, Missouri Route 66 Road Trip to Webb City, Missouri

MORE KANSAS ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips in Kansas

Route 66 road trip to Galena, Kansas Route 66 road trip to Baxter Springs, Kansas

MORE OKLAHOMA ROUTE 66

Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma

Route 66 road trip to Miami, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Chelsea, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Catoosa, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Chandler, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Yukon, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Weatherford, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Clinton, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Elk City, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Sapulpa, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Erick, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to El Reno, Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trip to Vinita, Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trip to Arcadia, Oklahoma
  Route 66 Road Trip to Claremore, Oklahoma

MORE TEXAS ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips across Texas

Route 66 road trip to Shamrock, Texas Route 66 road trip to McLean, Texas Route 66 road trip to Amarillo, Texas
Route 66 road trip to Vega, Texas Route 66 road trip to Adrian, Texas Route 66 road trip to Glenrio, Texas

MORE NEW MEXICO ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trip Across New Mexico

Route 66 road trip to Tucumcari, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Santa Rosa, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Route 66 road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Grants, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Gallup, New Mexico

MORE ARIZONA ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips across Arizona

Route 66 road trip to Holbrook, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Winslow, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Flagstaff, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Williams, Arizona
Route 66 Road Trip to Ash Fork, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Seligman, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Kingman, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Oatman, Arizona

MORE CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trip across California

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

 

Looking for a place to stay? Route 66 Hotel Listings and Traveler Reviews
TripAdvisor
Route 66 hotel listings and traveler reviews

Chicago, Illinois Joliet, Illinois
Pontiac, Illinois Bloomington, Illinois
Springfield, Illinois Litchfield, Illinois
St. Louis, Missouri Lebanon, Missouri
Springfield, Missouri Joplin, Missouri
Tulsa, Oklahoma Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Yukon, Oklahoma Weatherford, Oklahoma
Clinton, Oklahoma Elk City, Oklahoma
Shamrock, Texas Amarillo, Texas
Tucumcari, New Mexico Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico Albuquerque, New Mexico
Grants, New Mexico Gallup, New Mexico
Holbrook, Arizona Winslow, Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona Williams, Arizona
Seligman, Arizona Kingman, Arizona
Needles, California Barstow, California
Victorville, California San Bernardino, California
Arcadia, California Santa Monica, California