Tourism and Tours

Route 66 California | A journey of discovery and adventure.

Route 66 California

Get your kicks on Route 66. This iconic highway includes the best scenery the Golden State has to offer, from the wide-open spaces of the Mojave Desert to the sea views of Santa Monica.

Length: 506.9 km
Constructed: 11 November 1926
Highway system: US Numbered Highways
East end: US 66 at Arizona state line

The California section of Route 66 runs through magnificent desert terrain and exciting urban landscapes, making for a fabulous road trip.

US Route 66 is a bucket-list road trip for many travelers. Immortalized in songs, movies, and books, the road is both historic and romantic. John Steinbeck called it the Migrant Road or the Mother Road.

Leading to California, the promised land, the road represented hope for migrants moving west.

The road used to end in Los Angeles, but today’s full Mother Road route between Chicago and Santa Monica is just short of 2,300 miles.

With hundreds of attractions and numerous towns and cities along the way, it takes a good amount of time to do justice to the full route.

The California portion of Route 66, between Needles, on the Arizona-California border, and Santa Monica, on the Southern California Coast, is less than 350 miles: ideal if you want to experience some of the historic route in a short amount of time.

Although the route is not very long, it does feature several kitschy roadside attractions and classic Americana for which Route 66 is known!

We’ve described a road trip that starts in Needles and ends in Santa Monica, but of course you can do the trip in reverse as well. We just think it’s exciting to end at the western terminus of the full route and pose for a photo by the End of the Trail sign!

The Best Time to Do at Route 66 Road Trip

We suggest driving Route 66 through California any time between October and April.

A good part of the route is through the California desert, where winter highs generally tend to be in the 60-70 degree range, and spring and fall highs in the 70-80 degree range. At these temperatures, it is comfortable to explore outdoors in the desert.

In spring and fall, you will have longer daylight hours, making it possible to see and do more in the course of a day if you so choose. The desert can be flush with wildflowers come spring, making for great photo ops.

Winter can be a wonderful time in the desert, with beautiful sunsets. But it is cold early and late in the day, so pack jackets, hats, scarves, and gloves if you plan to explore at those times.

Summer can be extremely hot in the desert portion of this route, making it dangerous to explore outside for any length of time. Triple degree daytime highs are pretty routine!

If you do the route in the summer, plan on staying inside your air-conditioned vehicle for the desert portion of the route, only getting out for quick photo stops.

Closer to the coast, the climate is more temperate, making weather a non-factor, but fall through spring is still a great time to pick for this Route 66 road trip, for lower crowds at popular attractions, and lower prices on accommodations.

What is the most interesting part of Route 66?

The best stops on Route 66
  • Gemini Giant, Wilmington, Illinois. …
  • Springfield, Illinois. …
  • St Louis, Missouri. …
  • Meramec Caverns, Stanton, Missouri. …
  • Rainbow Bridge, Riverton, Kansas. …
  • The Blue Whale of Catoosa, Catoosa, Oklahoma. …
  • The Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park, Foyil, Oklahoma. …
  • Tower Conoco Gas Station, Shamrock, Texas

What is Route 66 most famous nickname?

The mother road
John Steinbeck gave it one of its most famous nicknames
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” about Dust Bowl migrants of the 1930s, Steinbeck devoted a chapter to Route 66, which he dubbed “the mother road,” a nickname that stuck

Other Things to Keep in Mind about at Route 66 Road

Drinking Water: Make sure you have an adequate supply of drinking water loaded in your car.

Especially if you plan to hike in the desert, you need to make sure you stay well hydrated.

Although there are little towns along the desert part of the route, you want to make sure you have enough in case your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

Food and Snacks: Carry plenty of non-perishable snacks, and bring a cooler for perishable food.

Again, while you will want to try out roadside diners, you should have enough food for a couple of days in your car.

This is especially true if you have dietary restrictions or special needs: your food choices along the desert portion will be limited.

Gas: There are gas stations all along the route, but on the desert portion, it is safer to start out with a full tank, and fill up when you see gas stations along the way so you never run low.

On the desert portion of the route, services are spaced farther apart and tend to be minimal.

Cash: Carry a little bit of cash, just in case a museum or attraction along the route does not accept credit cards.

We always take cash in bills and a roll of quarters on every road trip.

Sun Protection and Other Essentials: You will be traveling through the desert for a part of the route.

Sun protection and a first aid kit are must-haves. Wear closed-toed sturdy shoes if you plan to hike.

10 Things to See on Route 66 in California

If you’re traveling westwards then you’re coming to the final stages of your journey, but that doesn’t mean that sites and attractions are low in number. Route 66 in California is home to many natural wonders, oddities and historical sites. And let’s not forget the wealth of tourist attractions that await you in Los Angeles that aren’t even listed here – there are enough for a whole list of their own!

Listed in no particular order, here are my 10 things to see on Route 66 in California…

  • Amboy Crater, Amboy
  • Bottle Tree Ranch, Helendale
  • Calico ghost town, Mojave Desert
  • Galco’s Old World Grocery, LA
  • Hollywood, Los Angeles
  • Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles
  • Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino
  • Original McDonald’s Museum, San Bernardino
  • Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum, Barstow
  • Cucamonga Service Station, Rancho Cucamonga
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