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Where is Route 66?

Route 66 is in the USA

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Where is Route 66?: Former US Highway 66 is located in the United States.

As a federal highway it was decomissioned in 1985, but its alignment has, in general survived in pretty good shape.

Route 66 runs between Chicago, in Illinois and Santa Monica in California, crossing eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

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Exact location of Route 66

The following map shows where Route 66 is, marking its alignment, including the "Santa Fe Loop" through Santa Fe in New Mexico.

Map showing where Route 66 alignment is

map with US 66 Alignment across the US
A map showing the general alignment of Route 66 and main cities along it

Description of Where Route 66 is

Route 66 runs with a northeast to southwest direction across the US, from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California

Ilinois

It crosses the state of Illinois from NE to SE, going from Chicago through Joliet, Normal, and the state capital: Springfield. Here the original 1926-30 alignment runs further west and the later alignment furhter east, both meet at Staunton. Further south at Hamel the alignments open up again, as over the years it ran along different courses. But all converge on St. Louis Missouri after crossing the Mississippi River.

Total mileage: 289 miles.

Missouri

It runs for 313 miles and keeps its NE-SW course across Missouri, running from St. Louis through Villa Ridge, Stanton, Cuba, Rolla, across the Ozarks, into Springfield and then wets to Carthage and Joplin.

Kansas

From Joplin, the highway enters kansas, it is the shortest stretch of US 66 (13 miles long) crossing the southeastern corner of Kansas, through Galena, Riverton and then south through Baxter Springs into Oklahoma.

Oklahoma

The 376 miles of US66 run from the NE "tristate" corner to the Texas border in central-western Oklahoma.

South through Miami and Afton then SW through Vinita, Claremore and Tulsa.

Southwest through Chandler and Edmond, into the state capital: Oklahoma City. West again through El Reno and Clinton and then to the SW through Sayre, Erick and Texola on the state line.

Texas

Route 66 crosses Texas east to west (189 mi), from OK to New Mexico, through Shamrock, Amarillo, Vega, Adrian and Glenrio.

New Mexico

In New Mexico it has an East to West course (392 miles long) through Tucumcari and Santa Rosa, here the original alingment (Santa Fe Loop) takes a wide curve north through Pecos, Santa Fe (the state capital city), Santo Domingo and Algodones it crosses the later alignment at Albuquerque, swooping in a small circle to the south and then west (through Peralta and Suwanee).

The main course (post 1937 alignment) runs from Santa Rosa through Moriarty, Albuquerque, Suwanee, Grants, Continental Divide and Gallup.

It crosses the southern Rocky Mountains in its final segment.

Arizona

In Arizona it has a general East to West course from Lupton through Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, and here an arch north to Peach Springs, heading SW again through Kingman and Oatman to Topock on the Colorado River. Total: 388 miles.

California

It crosses the Colorado River into California and heads North from Topock to Needles and Goffs then southwest through Essex -road cut due to some bridges washed away by rain some years ago- to Amboy. West again to Ludlow and Barstow and south through Oro Grande, Victorville to San Bernardino.

East to west through Los Angeles eastern suburbs into Pasadena then South into Los Angeles and west to the Pacific Ocean and its western terminus in Santa Monica.

Total mileage 318 mi.

Total miles from Chicago to Santa Monica: 2,278

State-by-State color coded alignment Maps

Each state has its own interactive map showing where Route 66 runs.

They show the original 1926 alignment and all of the later realignments. Some parts are now the frontage road of the Interstate highways or buried under the freeway, we don't mark these segments in our maps.

Why does Route 66 run as it does?

The purpose of the creators of US 66 was to link the heartland of America with the Pacific coast.

Chicago was a major railroad and Great Lakes shipping hub and at that time it was the coutry's second most populous city (after New York).

Los Angeles had surpassed San Francisco to become California's most populous city in 1920. And shortly after US66 was created it became the 5th most populous city in America.

Cyrus Avery (read more about Avery in our History of Route 66 page)who was the mastermind behind US 66 and the Federal Highway System promoted its virtues:

  • The shortest and most direct route from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Coast
  • No high mountain passes across the Rockies, passes that could get snowed in during winter
  • Key link across Illinois prairies and Missouri's Ozarks
  • Outlet for the lead and zinc mines in the tristate region (OK, KS, MO)
  • Link to the oilfields of Oklahoma and northern Texas

They also lobbied for it to be paved and straighter than the Ozark Trail and National Old Trails "roads" along which it was aligned when it was created in 1926.

Postcard with map of Route 66: Chicago to Los Angeles

Its alignment was also included in postcards, which also mentioned the main sights, cities and included images of them:

postcard showing map or route 66
A postcard from the 1960s with a map of Route 66 alignment.

Legacy of Route 66

Route 66 has been part of the American way of life since it was created in 1926 until its demise in 1985.
Spanning the country from the Great Lakes to the sunny shores of the Pacific Ocean, it was the highway that led people all across the nation to new lives, jobs, a journey that was one of survival during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, of hope and progress during the post World War II years, and of fun, joy and vacations during the 1950s and 60s.


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Credits

Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.

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