About Gallup, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 6,468 ft (1.971 m), population 21,678 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Gallup is the county seat of McKinley county, and is the most populous city along Route 66 between Albuquerque NM and Flagstaff AZ. Its native Navajo name is Na'nízhoozhí.
New Mexico has been inhabited for more than ten thousand years. In historic times, the Pueblo people lived in the valleys and used the rivers to irrigate their crops of corn and squash. The Zuni Pueblo people were the first to meet the Spanish when Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's expedition reached the area in 1540 searching for the wealthy cities of Cibola.
Gallup Main Street
Lack of gold dismayed the Spanish who put off conquering the region until 1597, when they incorporated it to their American Empire. The Pueblo Revolt in 1680 expelled the Spaniards until 1692, when they returned and pacified the Natives.
The Navajo people from the north raided these pueblos and settlers constantly. In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain and New Mexico became part of the new country but after its defeat during the 1846-48 war with the U.S., Mexico ceded it to the victors.
The American Army scouted the area and an expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale passed through Gallup en route to the Colorado River in 1857 (it used camels as pack animals). The constant warfare with the Navajo led to the establishment of The "Old" Fort Wingate, near Grants in 1862, which in 1864 moved to Wingate, just east of Gallup.
The name: Gallup
David L. Gallup was an auditor and paymaster for the A&P Railway, he was based at this station, and the railway workers used to go to "Gallup's" to collect their paychecks.
By the way, Gallup is an ancient name dating back to Anglo-Saxon Britain and meant a fast runner (old Norse "walup"), it evolved into "wallop" and "gallop".
The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (later the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe RR) laid its tracks west, across the continental divide and built a stop at its railhead in 1881 which it named Gallup.
The spot had been chosen because it was a stage coach stop and because there was a small village including a saloon, general store (the Blue Goose). The local Navajo Indians traded there and knew the town as "spanned across" in refrence to a footbridge across the Western Rio Puerco River next to the station.
Right from the start, the coal mining industry was important as there were mines located very close to the town (see Defiance, just 9 mi. west of Gallup on Route 66). It was shipped out by rail. Water was scarce so wells were drilled. The town incorporated in 1891.
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned through the town following NM state highway 6 and the town began catering to the travellers. It cultivated a mysterious air of Western and Native American charm which attracted tourists. It adopted the name of the ""Heart of Indian Country" as it lies in the middle of the Navajo Reservation and many local residents are of Native American origin.
Where to Stay
There is lodging along Route 66 in Gallup:
> > Book your Hotel in Gallup
Lodging Near Gallup along Route 66
Heading West...in Arizona
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
>> There are RV campgrounds in Gallup.
The weather in Gallup
Located in the high western part of New Mexico, Gallup has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters. The altitude and dry air make summer nights cool and winter nights very cold.
The average summer high is 89°F (32°C) and the low is a cool 51°F (11°C). During winter the average high is 45°F (7°C) and the average low is a chilly 11°F (-12°C).
The annual rainfall is relatively scarce: 11.5 in (292 mm), with most rain taking place between July and Nov. (6.81 in, 173 mm). There are 71 days per year with precipitation.
Snow is common during winter, and quite heavy averaging 30.4 inches (77.2 cm) and it falls at any time between Oct. and May, but mostly between Nov and March.
There is virtually no tornado risk in Gallup: McKinley County has no Tornado watches. The area west of this point has no tornado events at all.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Map of Route 66 through Gallup
You can also check out our Route 66 Map of New Mexico, with the complete alignment and all the towns.
The alignment of Route 66 through Gallup
Click on this link > > Map with US 66 alignment in Gallup
Route 66's alignment in New Mexico: the Historic Route 66 through Gallup
Route 66 across New Mexico
Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)
Our Santa Fe Loop page describes the complete 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque through Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in this town.
Gallup: its Attractions
Landmarks, Route 66 sights
Getting to Gallup
"Indian Capital of the World"
Gallup where Indians meet Route 66... visit the Red Rock Park, a venue for rodeos, bull-riding and the Red Rock Balloon Rally.
See the vintage Route 66 El Rancho Hotel, the 1928 El Morro Theatre and the 1952 Lariat Lodge. Take a day tour and visit Zuni Pueblo.
Native American Route 66
Zuni, Navajo, Hopi and other tribes are located close by and one out of three residents have Native American ancestry. At Gallup you start to get a feeling of the "Old West" along Route 66.
Start your tour through Gallup on the Eastern side of the city at the Former Denny's
1960s Denny’s in Gallup. A. Whittall, click for street view
1310 E Historic Highway 66, Gallup
The Avalon is a former Denny's Diner diner, which has the classic "Boomerang Roof". It was a design from the early 1960s by Armet & Davis. There are more on US 66: the Kingman AZ Denny’s, the Denny's Diner in Barstow CA , one in Needles CA, the Denny’s Tucumcari Diner and another one in downtown Albuquerque (now the Whole Hog Cafe).
Next to it, also to your left is the Capitan Motel, followed just ahead, to your left by several classic Route 66 motels: Arrowhead Lodge, Blue Spruce and the Lariat.
1029 Route 66 east of the downtown area.
The motel opened on July 4, 1952 with 35 rooms and a sign that displayed a cowboy with a lariat (a lasso).
Classic Lariat Lodge
Ahead, to your left is a historic site:
El Rancho Hotel
1000 East 66 and Ford Dr. , Gallup, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
An iconic Route 66 motel linked to the movie business, built on a grand scale in 1936.
R.E. "Griff" Griffith, the brother of the famous movie director D. W. Griffith visited Gallup in the 1930s, fell in love with it and in 1936 commissioned Joe Massaglia to build a hotel.
El Rancho Hotel
The three-story building has an air of a Southern mansion and was built of brick, stone and wood. The fireplace, hunting trophies and Navajo rugs create a hunting lodge ambiance.
From the start it was linked to Hollywood crews and stars filming on location and remained so until the western movies waned in the late 1960s.
John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn, Kirk douglas, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are some of the stars who stayed at El Rancho Hotel.
Among the films shot in Gallup we can mention: Billy the Kid (1930), The Sea of Grass (1947), Four Faces West (1948), Only the Valiant and Ace in the Hole (1951), Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) and The Hallelujah Trail (1965).
The Rancho Hotel is still open and receives guests. (elranchohotel.com)
Next to the hotel to the west is the Armco Service Station:
Armco Gas Station
Pictured below, it has a flat roof canopy and a very tall steel structure with its sign on it:
Armco Gas Station
Head west along Route 66 and on your right you will see the Zia Motel followed by the Redwood Lodge and the El Coronado Motel, below we have pictured the neon signs of these last two motels as well as the Historic Route 66 sign that is located just across the road from the "El Rancho Hotel":
US 66 Neon Signs in Gallup. A. Whittall
Historic US 66 road sign in Gallup. A. Whittall
Continue west to the downtown area, the Cultural Center will appear to your right. You can stop here to start your walking tour in the downtown area, there are some interesting sights within walking distance:
300 West Historic U.S. Highway 66, Gallup NM.
The museum is housed in a building which served as a brothel and a grocery. It has collections and artifacts from Gallup's past.
Mon. through Fri., 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM. (505) 863-1363.
Native Art at the Gallup Cultural Center
201 E. Historic Highway 66, Gallup.
At the historic Santa Fe Depot, view contemporary and traditiopnal Native American artwork (www.southwestindian.com).
Code Talker Mural
View of the Code Talker Mural, Gallup NM, click image for street view
The U.S. employed Navajos to transmit coded messages in their obscure language, Diné during World War II and the Korean War. The Navajo language was complex, unwritten and known only to the native speakers who were all American making it ideal for the purpose. It was used by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific War Theater, against the Japanese.
Visit the Chamber of Commerce (thegallupchamber.com) to learn about the first 29 original Navajo Code Talkers or see the colorful mural at on S. Second St. between Coal Ave. and Route 66.
There are many murals in the downtown district, learn more about them: Murals
Nightly Native American Dances
200 W. Hill Ave. in the McKinley Courthouse Square Plaza.
Every night during summer from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Enjoy and experience the traditional Indian dances and visit vendor stalls. From Memorial Day (Last Monday of May) through Labor Day (Last Monday of September).
El Morro Theatre
207 W Coal Ave. Gallup. www.elmorrotickets.com
El Morro Theater in Gallup, click image for street view
A classic Route 66 theater which was built in 1928 in a Spanish Colonial style with Pueblo-Deco touches. It seats 460 vieweres and was restored in 1991.
Ran by the City of Gallup, presenting films and live performances (like the Land of Enchantment Opera), it takes you back in time to the heyday of Route 66.
Return to your car and head west again. At the far end of town (1200 block of W Route 66) is the Colonial Motel, and on the street behind it, (W. Coal Ave.) is the Ranchito Motel.
Colonial Motel neon sign
Some Gallup Trivia:
Get your Kicks in Gallup
"Route Sixty-six": is an emblematic song that immortalized Route 66 in the minds of several generations: an iconic Road Trip, a journey where the traveler can get his kicks, enjoying and savoring the moment and the freedom of riding the Mother Road. It was written by Bobby Troup in 1946 and since then, it has been a hit evoked by all those who have driven (or dream about driving along) Route 66.
Gallup is the only town in New Mexico mentioned in the song, and it appears in the following stanza:
Now you go through Saint Looey
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,
Don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.
The Route of the Beast, U.S. 666
Superstition meets the Mother Road...
Once there was a spur of Route 66 (spurs add a digit in front of the US highway number so this was the sixth spur on US 66) into the Four Corners region: It was the U.S. Highway bearing the number 666 but on May 31, 2003, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved a new number for it: the route became U.S. 491, a spur of U.S. 191.
Route 66 and U.S. 666 shared the roadbed between Gallup and Sanders in Arizona (where US 666 headed south all the way to Douglas on the Mexican border).
It was an unsafe highway and things were made worse by those D.U.I. But state officials thought that the cause was supernatural and voted to have the number changed for the following reasons:
WHEREAS, people living near the road already live under the cloud of opprobrium created by having a road that many believe is cursed running near their homes and through their homeland; and
WHEREAS, the number "666" carries the stigma of being the mark of the beast, the mark of the devil, which was described in the book of revelations in the Bible; and
WHEREAS, there are people who refuse to travel the road, not because of the issue of safety, but because of the fear that the devil controls events along United States route 666; and
WHEREAS, the economy in the area is greatly depressed when compared with many parts of the United States, and the infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road will only make development in the area more difficult....
Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun
Nearby Route 66 Towns
Visit Defiance, Mentmore and Twin Buttes
To the west, very close to Gallup is Defiance (only 9 miles away). Drive down the original Route 66 alignment and also visit the now vanished (or waning) villages that one time were coal mining boom-towns: Allison, Twin Buttes and Mentmore.
Red Rock Park
To the east, very close to Gallup is Red Rock Park.
Pueblo people at Ohkay Owingeh. Carptrash
A 640-acre park in an amazing setting, ideal for picnics, hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Plus a Convention Center that is the venue of many classic Gallup events. It also has an RV campground and a museum.
The Park is named after the red colored sandstone cliffs that surround it, formed 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the image below shows the Pyramid Rock and Navajo Church.
Red Rock Arena
It seats 5,000 spectators who enjoy the summer Rodeo Events: The annual Lions Club Rodeo, said to be the best in the state of New Mexico. The National Junior High School Finals Rodeo. The USTRC team roping serie and the bull riding "Rock the Rocks" Wild Thing Bullriding Championship.
The rodeos include parades, country-western dancing and battle of the bands.
Native American Ceremonies
Each August the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial takes place with dances and music, crafts and traditional native foods. An All-Indian Rodeo, Miss Indian Queen, and the three-day powwow where dance groups compete against each other in colorful native regalia.
Full details on these events:
The Red Rock Balloon Festival
During the first weekend of December. It is a balloon rally with over 100 participants. Come to witness the mass ascensions and the balloons.
See the main natural features in the area: on the north side of US 66 and I-40 are Navajo Church (2.3 mi east of Rehoboth), and was an object of veneration by the Navajo and to the west of it, Pyramid rock.
Kit Carson Cave
Just north of the Red Rock Park is the famous Kit Carson Cave. Drop by and visit it.
Pyramid Rock and Navajo Church, near Gallup, NM, click image for street view
Day Tour to Zuni Pueblo and Grants via El Morro and San Rafael
A full 175 mile-long circuit. Or make it shorter and only visit Zuni Pueblo (74 mi. round trip). See the Itinerary Map.
The Day tour described below, between Grants and Gallup via Zuni Pueblo is part of the Trails of the Ancients Byway, one of the designated New Mexico Scenic Byways. For more information on this Scenic Byway, Click here
Head south from Gallup (mile zero of the journey) along NM-36 and at the junction with NM-53 (30 mi.) , take a right to visit the Zuni Pueblo, 9.5 miles to the west.
The place of First Contact in the Southwest between Native Americans and Europeans
The expedition led by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado reached a Zuni pueblo known as "Hawikuh"; it was 18 miles south of the modern Zuni Pueblo and one of the seven villages in the region. It was the mythical "Cibola" described by Friar de Niza as a city of gold.
The Name: Zuni
Zuñi is the deformation of the Native Keresan language name "Sunyi'tsi", of unknown meaning. The tribal land was the "Shi'wona", corrupted to "Cibola" by the first to visit the area, the Spanish friar, Fray Marcos de Niza in 1539.
The Spanish conquered the pueblo in 1540 to punish the natives who had killed a Moorish slave and renamed it Granada, but no gold was found. They departed and returned in 1598, when they conquered New Mexico.
The natives were gathered in the current pueblo in the early 1600s, built on the north side of the Zuni River. The historic mission is located in the central part, surrounded by sandstone houses.
Historic Zuni Mission church
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Old Zuni) Mission, Zuni Pueblo, NM, Zuni Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Univ. of Arizona
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Old Zuni) Mission
Zuni Pueblo, NM.
National Historic Landmark
The Franciscan mission was established in 1630 as an adobe buiding which was partially burned during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After the reconquest in 1692, the Zuni people returned to the pueblo in 1705, and the mission was rebuilt.
The Pacheco altar was added in 1776. After 1821 it began to fall in disrepair until the 1960s when the action of the Zuni Tribe, the Gallup Catholic Diocese and the Bureau of Indian Affairs reconstructed it (1970). Daily tours 10 AM, 1 PM and 3 PM.
The church built in adobe and sandstone has two massive belfries and a balcony over the deep loggia facing the cemetery.
The Zuni crafts and traditions
The Zuni are known for their pottery, silver jewelry and stone carvings.
The Shalako festival takes place during late November or early December and is their main festival and it involves Kachinas up to 9 feet tall.
Kachina at Shalako Festival, Zuni Pueblo in 1895
East towards the Badlands "el Malpais" and Grants
Leave Zuni Pueblo (40 mi.) and head back to NM-36 along NM-53, and keep on eastwards. The road will reach Ramah (62.5 mi.) and continue towards El Morro National Monument (73 mi.).
El Morro National Monument
Visit the Official Website, for more details. By clicking you will leave our Website. Come back soon!
Its Inscription Rock, accessible along an easy trail has over 2,000 inscriptions carved in the sandstone.
The name is Spanish and means "Bluff", "Headland". It is a great sandstone promontory which provides a shaded oasis for those travelling along the trails south of the Zuni Mountains. It was a camping spot and those explorers who passed by left their names dates or simply inscribed their symbols in the soft rocks, a memento of their visit: the Inscription Rock.
Keep on eastwards along NM-53 and enter the El Malpais National Monument:
El Malpais National Monument
The El Malpais National Monument is managed by the U.S. National Park Service. It is adjacent to the El Malpais National Conservation Area south of Grants.
Visit the Official website for more details. By clicking you will leave our Website. Come back soon!
On the right side of the road (90 mi.) is the Bandera Crater and Ice Cave, a private attraction:
The Ice Cave
Known to the Pueblo Indians as the Winter Lake it is a lava cave that is always cooler than 31°F, so the rain water that seeps in, freezes. It has an ice layer that began forming in 1100 A.D.
A 10,000 year-old volcano with a crater 1,400 feet wide and 800 ft. deep (427 m x 244 m). Bandera means "flag" in Spanish.
Along NM-53 is the El Malpais NPS Information Center (92 mi.)
Head east and the road curves around the Zuni Mountains, located on the left, an ancient core of Precambrian granite, 2 billion years old. Then it heads northwards towards the village San Rafael (111 mi.).
Elev. 6,470 feet (1.970 m). Pop (2010): 933.
The town was placed here next to a spring, ("Ojo del Gallo", "ojo" in Spanish, meaning "eye" or spring and "Gallo": "Cock"), perhaps due to the ducks, turkeys and grouse in the wetland next to it. In the past water was abundant and flowed east towards the Rio San Jose River. Later, excessive use lowered the water table and diminshed the flow.
The name later (in the 1880s) was San Rafael (St. Raphael).
During Coronado's 1540 expedition to New Mexico he sent a group of men to explore the area, and they visited San Rafael en route to Acoma Pueblo.
Camel Stopping point
This point was used by the expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale (1822 - 1893) to survey and build a wagon road from New Mexico to the Colorado River in 1857.
Beale employed camels brought from Tunis as pack animals. Though hardier than mules, they frightened the other animals of the expedition so the Army decided not to use them in the future.
Stop at the historic marker at the north tip of the village (112 mi.), right side of the road, at the junction with Old Highway 53.
Inscription on the Historic Marker: "San Rafael, formerly know as El Gallo, is located at a spring near the Malpais, the great lave flow to the east. The area was visited by members of Vasquez de Coronado's expedition in 1540. In 1862, it was selected as the original site of Fort Wingate, focus of the campaign against the Navajos".
Site of the First Fort Wingate
1862 - 1864
During the American Civil War, the Navajo Indians increased their raids on New Mexico. The new Military Commander, Gen. Carleton decided to stop them.
He built a fort which was commissioned on Oct. 22, 1862 near what is now San Rafael, next to the Ojo de Gallo spring. He named it Fort Wingate.
Cap. Benjamin A. Wingate was an infantry officer who died during the Battle of Valverde.
From the fort he began a campaign against the Navajo and defeated them. He relocated them to "concentration" camps during the "Navajo Roundup", where they starved. Gen. Carleton was releived from his duties in 1864 due to these atrocities and the Indinas were allowed to return to their homes in the west.
The fort beame useless, it was to far from the homeland of the Navajo, so the new Commander, Gen. Getty decided to move Fort Wingate to a more western location and chose a site at Bear Springs near Grants, where Fort Lyon (also known as old Fort Fauntleroy) was located. Lyon was renamed "Fort Wingate" (Read more about Wingate). The "old" fort was abandoned.
Head north again and reach I-40 Exchange 81B (114 mi.) next to Grants. Head into Grants, just to the north of the Interstate and visit it, or head back to Gallup along I-40 or the old Route 66, reaching it after completing the circuit of 175 mi.
Accommodation Search box:
The Old alignment of Route 66 near Gallup
Route 66 Near Gallup: from Thoreau to Grants
Route 66 passed right through the town of Gallup since it was created in 1926.
Through Thoreau to Continental Divide (1926 -1937)
The original alignent beyond there is now gone and ran just north of ther railway tracks. There is however one other place where it can be driven: west from NM-27 for 1.5 miles till it veers off towards the north. (This map shows this segment).
After 1937, the current road
Route 66 is now NM-122 and runs next to I-40 as its frontage Road from Thoreau all the way to the Continental Divide.In 1956, I-40 replaced Route 66. At Continental Divide the old road ends in a Dead End just west of Exit 43. So you will have to get on I-40 at that point and head west towards Gallup. See a Map of this segment (Thoreau to Continental Divide).
At Exit 36 leave I-40 and return to the North Frontage Rd. here is another original and Historic segment of Route 66:
Historic Route 66 from Iyanbito to Rehobeth
Old Route 66Rehoboth, NM.
National Historic Landmark
The road was built as part of the National Old Trails Highway which became New Mexico state highway 6 in 1914. In 1926 it was incorporated into the alignment of U.S. Highway 66.
It runs along the valley of the Rio Puerco of the West, which receives the inflow of the water heading towards the Pacific Ocean from the Continental Divide.
The red colored sandstone on the north side of the highway are quite a sight, with Pyramid and the Navajo Church among them.
It was improved during the Great Depression and saw a large flow of migrants heading west towards California during the Dust Bowl period. It was paved by 1937 and after 1956, was replaced by Interstate 40.
Now it is the frontage road of I-40, on the north side of the Interstate at Exit 36 (Iyanbito) all the way to Rehobeth, just before the junction of I-40 and Route 66.
See The map from Exit 36 to Gallup (Historic Segment).
> > See the previous segment Grants to Thoreau
> > See the next segment Gallup to Arizona State Line
National and State Parks
Read about the parks nearby, at Grants: El Malpais National Monument and Cibola National Forest Mount Taylor District and also the El Malpais National Conservation Area with its incredible La Ventana Natural Arch.
Bluewater Lake State Park
48 mi. east of Gallup, read more at Bluewater Parks. Ideal for fishing, hiking and watching wildlife. RV Campground.
Banner image: The Dead Man's Curve, Laguna, NM by Perla S. Eichenblat.
Town website www.gallupNM.gov
Richard F. Weingroff, 2003. U.S. 666: "Beast of a Highway"?
El Rancho Hotel, National Park Service
Guidebook of the Western United States: Part C - The Santa Fe Route, With a Side Trip to Grand Canyon of the Colorado, bulletin 613. Nelson Horatio Darton.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.