When Route 66 went through Santa Fe NM
History of Route 66's alignment through Santa Fe
Route 66 was created in 1926, but its original alignment did not go through Moriarty. Instead it took another route that headed north from Santa Rosa towards Las Vegas (New Mexico) and then west towards Santa Fe. From the state capital it headed south again to Albuquerque.
The Ozark Trail Association was the brain-child of William Hope "Coin" Harvey (1851-1936), an entrepreneur, teacher and active promoter of tourism. He foresaw the importance of the automobile in America and established the Ozark Trail in 1913 to promote good roads, road signs and maps.
The Ozark Trail soon grew to span Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and eastern New Mexico. When Route 66 was created, it was aligned along the Ozark Trail from NM to MO.
As there were no Federal highways at that time, monuments shaped like pyramids or obelisks were erected at key locations and the mileage to major cities were painted on the markers.
One can still be seen in Oklahoma (Between Stroud and Davenport).
There was another at Romeroville, the western terminus of the Ozark Trail.
It was a 50 foot obelisk that was located at the junction of the Santa Fe Trail and the Ozark Trail. That is, modern US 85 which was the Santa Fe Trail from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, and current US 84, which linked Las Vegas to Santa Rosa NM, and would later become the 1926 - 1937 alignment of Route 66.
The reason for this alignment was that the Ozark Trail had its westernmost point on the Santa Fe Trail at Romeroville and from there, eastwards, its alignment had been included in the alignment of Route 66.
From Romeroville west, the Santa Fe Trail was part of the National Old Trails, which was also incorporated into Route 66's alignment from Los Angeles to this point.
There was no road at that time linking Santa Rosa with Albuquerque along a shorter alignment. So the existing roads were used.
National Old Trails Road
In 1912, the National Old Trails Road Association was formed with the purpose of promoting a good coast-to-coast highway between Los Angeles and Baltimore with branches to San Francisco and New York.
It got its name from the fact that it followed some of the Nation's historic trails such as the Santa Fe Trail.
The Santa Fe cut off
Although the original alignment of Route 66 was based on necessity and followed the preexisting roads, it was a matter of time for it to adopt a shorter alignment with a straight east to west course along the 35th Parallel across the state of New Mexico.
Arthur T. Hannett New Mexico's governor, who had been mayor at Gallup, was aware of this and after being displaced in his 1927 bid for reelection by the party bosses in Santa Fe, took revenge in an unexpected way:
He ordered that a State Highway built from Santa Rosa to Moriaty, placing Albuquerque on the main crossroads of the state and relegating Santa Fe and Socorro to the backwaters.
The dirt surfaced road was completed in record time before he left office, but it would wait for ten years before it was incorporated into Route 66's aligment.
The Trans-America Footrace 1928 took thus short cut and ran up Tijeras Canyon through Moriarty and on to Santa Rosa.
This "Santa Fe Cut-off" (or shortening of Route 66) as it was known, was backed by the Route 66 Association and finally included in the Federal Aid (FAP) system for execution in 1931 and was finally completed by 1937. Santa Fe was cut-off and the road was shortened. Hannet got his revenge.
Where to Stay along the Original 1926 Route 66
- Motels and Hotels in Albuquerque.
- Motels and Hotels in Santa Fe.
- Motels and Hotels in Las Vegas NM.
- Motels and Hotels in Santa Rosa.
>> There are RV campgrounds along the 1926 Route 66
The Santa Fe Cut-off alignment of Route 66 after 1937
The later alignment of Route 66 was the Santa Fe Cut-Off, it linked Santa Rosa with Albuquerque via Moriarty and Tijeras Canyon. It passes through these places and towns:
Towns that became part of the 1937 US 66 From East to West:
- Santa Rosa (was on the 1926 alignment)
- Clines Corners
- Albuquerque (was on the 1926 alignment)
Map U.S. 66 Santa Fe Loop New Mexico
Display Santa Fe Loop Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
This map shows the alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico. The color key for this town is:
(for the other towns, check their maps - color keys may change)
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Red line: I-40 & where it overlaps the old alignment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Santa Fe (click button to see it).
Original Route 66 alingment between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque
The 1926 Route 66 through Santa Fe
We describe below the alignment of U.S. 66 between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque between 1926 and 1937.
From Santa Rosa to Dilia
Leave the town of Santa Rosa westwards and then head north (U.S. 84), cross to the north side of I-40 at Exit 273 to head westwards along the Interstate.
The 1926 to 1932 alignment
After 7 miles at Exit 267 (119 miles), to the north, is NM 379, the original 1926 alignment of the Ozark Trail towards Romeroville, Las Vegas NM and Santa Fe.
> Map Santa Rosa to Dilia (1926 - 1932).
The 1932 to 1937 alignment
Later the road was realigned in the 1930s following NM state highway 6 westwards from this point and then taking a northern course towards Dilia. The old NM-6 and Route 66 are now gone as I-40 runs along the original roadbed. So head west along I-40 and leave the interstate at Exit 256, (18 miles). Head north along NM 219 and US. 84. This is the 1930s alignment of Route 66 towards Dilia.
> Map Santa Rosa to Dilia (1932 - 1937).
From Dilia to Romeroville
The 1926 - 1937 alignment from Dilia to Romeroville is now part of US 84 almost all the way to Romeroville. Head north along it, from Dilia, passing by the access to the Aurupa Site and as you approach Romeroville, just before the junction with I-25 and US 85, take a right along "Camino Romeroville", into the small village. It will lead you to the place where the Ozark Trail Obelisk once stood.
Take a left and head west along the old U.S. 85 (which used to be the old Route 66) and now is NM-A25A. It will end in a dead end marking the end of the original alignment. You will have to back track and get on to the I-25 at Exit 339 and head west along it towards Tecolote.
Romeroville to Tecolote
Almost the whole roadbed of Route 66 has been destroyed when I-25 was built. You will have to drive along I-25 all the way to Tecolote and once you reach that town, leave the Interstate at Exit 335 head to the eastern side of it and follow the "Camino Viejo" (Spanish for "Old Road") until it ends (0.8 mi.). That is what remains of US 66. Go back to the underpass, and head into the village.
Take B47A southwards towards Tecolote Creek. The road ends there as the bridge is gone. But this is the original Route 66 alignment through Tecolote, you can still see the concrete pylons in the river bed.
From Tecolote to San Jose through Bernal
Head out of Tecolote and take a right along the Frontage Road 2116, cross Tecolote Creek and turn right on the first street. It will take you to the original 1926 alignment of Route 66 (now Cielito Lindo Rd.) which runs with a north to south course from the creek and the "missing bridge". The road keeps southwards and ends in a dead end just before it meets I-25, so you will have to return to the Interstate and head west towards Bernal.
The old road has a winding course and I-25 was built cutting right through it. So you can see bits and pieces of the 1926 alignment. We show them in the following maps in case you want to drive along them:
- Map. On the south side of the Interstate the continuation of the previous segment.
- Map. On the north side of I-25, it ends in on the North Frontage Road.
From San Jose to Pecos
Stay on the Frontage Road from the access into San Jose (at B41D) and pass through Sands, the road then crosses to the south of I-25, passing through Ilfeld and then through Rowe before crossing I-25 again, but now as NM-63, with a northerly course and reaching Pecos.
Route 66 from Pecos to Santa Fe
From Pecos, the old US 66 heads west as NM-50, towards Glorieta, it enters the town, but ends in a dead-end along Firestation Rd.
The dead end means that you will have to get back on I-25 to cross Glorieta Pass and reach Canoncito (Spanish for "Tiny Canyon"). At this point you can follow the old Las Vegas road after Exit 294, which is the 1930s alignment all the way into Santa Fe. (Map along I-25 from Glorieta to Canoncito).
Route 66 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque 1926 to 1932
The road is cut in parts so it no longer exists. We will describe and show a map of each of the segments that can still be driven between Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
1. Map. From the Historic Santa Fe Plaza to Country Road 56C (by airport).
2. Map. From the Country Road 56C to north of Santa Fe River, at the summit of the "Bajada de Santa Fe".
Bajada de Santa Fe
The village of La Bajada (visit its church built in 1837) was established between 1695 and 1737 as a rest stop along the "Camino Real" that linked Santa Fe with Mexico City at the base of a 600 foot (183 m) escarpment. It was located on a native road which later would be used as a U.S. territorial wagon road (1860s), and become the NM-1 highway and the National Old Trails highway (1909).
There is a steep zig-zag road that climbs from the lower mesa (La Majada Mesa) to the upper one (La Bajada Mesa), which became part of US 66 and US 85 when they were aligned through here in 1926. There were very steep grades (up to 15 percen) on the climb, with switchbacks and dangerous curves.
3. Map. "Bajada" into the Santa Fe River Canyon: you can hike it.
4. Map. From the Santa Fe River to NM-16.
5. Map. From NM16 south to Domingo.
6. Map. From Domingo, to modern NM22.
South of this point the road no longer exists, it cut across through Budaghers and on the south side of I-25 kept on towards Algodones, north of which it is now the roadbed of NM-313, which at one time was the Camino Real and US 66 & 85. Keep south along it until reaching Bernalillo.
Detail of a 1927 Map of Route 66 showing Santa Rosa, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the "loop through Santa Fe" and the shorter NM state Highway 6 which would become Route 66 after 1937.
The map is from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, under Fair usage and its BY-NC-SA 3.0, License. Metadata: Author and Publisher: Rand McNally and Company, Chicago. Date: 1927. Full Title: Rand McNally junior auto road map Arizona, New Mexico. Copyright by Rand McNally & Co., Chicago, Ill. (1927). List No: 5755.032 Page No: 66-67 Series No: 36.
The 1932 - 1937 alignment bypassing "La Bajada"
In the early 1930s the road between Domingo and Santa Fe was straighened out and the horrible hairpin Bajada into the Santa Fe River Canyon was bypassed. The road followed the current alignment of U.S. 85 (I-25) from Cerrillos Road to Algodones. Santo Domingo was relegated.
Leave the central part of Santa Fe along Alameda St., Sandoval St. and then Cerrillos Rd. Cross US 84, keep SW, the road becomes NM-14. Get on I-25 at Exit 278.
At Exit 259 you can take a side trip to visit Santo Domingo.
The 1926- 1937 alignment south of Bernalillo
Leave I-25 at Exit 248 and take a right and then a left along Camino Real Pan American Central Hwy or NM-313, and follow it south all the way into Albuquerque.
At Sandia Pueblo the highway merges with NM-556 at a roundabout. Head west along NM 556, it becomes 4th St. NW. At Lomas Blvd., 4th St. changes direction so nowadays you must follow 5th until meeting the other alignment of US 66 on Central Ave.
Banner image: The Dead Man's Curve, Laguna, NM by Perla S. Eichenblat.