What is the best time to travel Route 66?
The Short Answer:
The best time to take a Route 66 road trip is between April (late spring) to early July (early summer), and then, after the summer break ⁄ summer holidays: early fall (Labor day till late October).
Why are these the best times to drive US 66?
- Weather is good (not too hot or too cold)
- Roads are open (no snow or floods)
- Summer crowds are still at school or work
- Route 66 shops and businesses are open
- Not high season for hotels -cheaper room rates
Read on below for a detailed explanation and a long answer:
When? The best time of the year
Seasons and Route 66
US 66, like most of the tourist attractions around the world has its High and Low Seasons. During the High Season throngs of tourists flock to visit its sights and attractions.
Summer vacation period is more crowded, and winter with its threat of snow, ice and inclement cold 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 along 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.
>> Check the Weather along Route 66
Geography and Weather along Route 66
Route 66 winds its way 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 South eastern Kansas.
From the desert in the Mohave to the Midwestern plains in Oklahoma and Texas.
It crosses a wide range of altitudes, latitudes and longitudes through different climate zones.
So it may be warm in one region and cold in another during the same time of the year. Sun, rain and wind or snow may appear along the route the same day!
Below we will check out each season along US Route 66
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.
Snowiest City in the US is on Route 66
Flagstaff NM, on Route 66, has an average yearly snowfall of 100.3 inches (254.76 cm) and is one of the snowiest incorporated cities in all of the United States.
Winter of 2019 record snowfall
On February 21, 2019 a strong winter storm shut down schools across northern Arizona and dumped 40.8 inches (103.6 cm) of snow on Flagstasff, beating the 104-year-old-mark.
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.
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.
Cherry trees and dogwood blossom across the Ozarks, don't miss them!
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.
June, July, August
High Season. 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, including thunderstorms and torrential downpours, even in the desert areas of California and Arizona.
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.
Fall - Autumn
Fall (or autumn in British English) is another good season to drive Route 66.
Good warm weather, less crowds, this is a great time for your road trip.
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.
Avoid the long weekend of Labor Day, which in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. There is a lot of traffic and the hotels are usually fully booked or have exorbitant rates.
November. Again transition between Fall and Winter. Weather cools, days are shorter. Less crowded -remember Thanksgiving will bring a surge in travelers (Thanksgiving falls on the Fourth Thursday in November).
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).
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.