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When to Drive Route 66

The Best Time for your Road Trip

When to drive along Route 66: Plan your trip by knowing which is the best time of the year to take your vacation and drive U.S. Route 66.
 

Summer Forest near Flagstaff, AZ

Forest near Flagstaff, AZ
Summer Forest Flagstaff, Arizona.

When? The best time of the year

Seasons and Route 66

US 66, like most attractions around the world has its High and Low Seasons. Summer vacation period is more crowded, and winter with its threat of snow and inclement weather has slacker traffic.

Weather and Seasons

The period of the year that spans from the middle of spring until mid-fall, including summer (May to October) is the best season for driving Route 66.

The following image shows: the coldest period (foul weather) in purple and pale blue, also the lowest period regarding crowding and traffic. The warmest, balmiest period (yellow, orange and red), which is the period with most travelers, and higher lodging prices.

US 66 Best time to drive it
Route 66 Best Time to Drive it.

>> Check the Weather along Route 66

Route 66 winds across the US, from Chicago in the North, next to the Great Lakes, to Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean's seaboard. It crosses the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountains in Arizona and New Mexico and the Ozarks in Missouri and Kansas. The Midwestern plains in Oklahoma and Texas too. A wide range of altitudes and climate zones, so it may be warm in one region and cold in another. Sun, rain and wind or snow may appear along the route the same day.

Winter

December, January, February

Winter is definitively not the best time for driving along Route 66: it can, and does, snow at any time along the whole route, of course the chances of encountering snow are higher in the north than in California.

Travel in winter

Road, snow, winter, by

Snow, ice on the road surface, sleet, cold weather deter many travelers. You have to take into account that driving on icy roads requires experience.

In severe weather, roads may be closed, so you should factor this into your travel time calculations.

Some accommodation may not be open, but others will be open, and during low season rates are lower than peak season ones.

Days are shorter, nights longer; this will shorten the time available for sightseeing and driving under good daylight conditions.

Early Spring

March and April

March is a month of transition between winter and spring. Weather has a lot of variability during this month.

During March the northern parts of Route 66 will be quite cold and it may even snow in Illinois or the high parts (over 7,000 ft. or 2,100 m) of Arizona.

Also, due to the lower traffic and flow of visitors some places and attractions may be closed. Make sure you check if key attractions are open during your trip.

April, weather is milder and it is still low season, so you will not face crowds along the road and avoid the hot midsummer temperatures of the southern part of U.S. 66.

Mid Spring

May

You will encounter fair weather, not too hot -as during mid-summer- and less quantity of tourists. Places will be less crowded. A good time for traveling along Route 66.

Summer

June, July, August

This is the summer holidays period for most visitors from the Northern Hemisphere (US, Canada and Europe, China and Japan), crowds flock to roads, airports and hotels are fully booked. Expect queues at attractions.

Hotel rates are higher too.

There are many hours of daylight, days are warmer (in the Southwest, hotter - in the 100s - over 37°C) and in some parts it rains more frequently.

Summer can be pretty warm in the Western areas of Route 66, but that is no problem with air-conditioning in cars, motels and diners. Just dress comfortably for the hot weather.

Remember however, that even in Summer, the temperatures drop at night so there is a large swing between day time and night time temperatures. Carry a light jacket with you, even in summer.

Travel in Fall - autumn

Fall, Autumn, by

Good warm weather, less crowds, this is a great time for your road trip.

Early Fall

September and October

After mid-September, as the school year begins (and the folks get back to their jobs), there is less tourist traffic along US 66.

Late Fall

November

November. Again transition between Fall and Winter. Weather cools, days are shorter. Less crowded -remember Thanksgiving will bring a surge in travelers.

Tornados

Tornados (see our page on tornadoes) can and do take place during any month of the year, but they are less frequent in winter and more common during spring and early summer (March to June).

Route 66 in Arizona during Summer

US 66 in Arizona, Summertime
Route 66 in Summer, Arizona.

Sources

Image by A. Whittall.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License.