Following Route 66 through California

Historic Route 66 through California takes travelers through every type of Southern California landscape there is. Following this classic road trip passes through the demanding Mojave Desert, over mountains and through lush inland valleys, to the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica.

The old road, which survives intact almost all the way across the state, is marked for most of its 315 miles by signs declaring it Historic Route 66. Across the Mojave Desert the route is also marked as the National Old Trails Highway, its title before the national numbering system was put into effect in the late 1920s.

Map of Route 66 through California - Road Trip USA

Sights on Route 66 in California

Traveling the traditional road trip going heading west from Chicago, historic Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, a classic beach town that makes a good base for seeing the rest of the Los Angeles area. (Both Los Angeles and Santa Monica intersect with the other most popular Road Trip USA route: the epic Pacific Coast road trip.) Route 66 passes through these notable stops in California:

  • Needles – The boyhood home of Charles Schulz
  • Old Route 66 Loop: Ludlow and Amboy – Easy detours include Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park
  • Mojave National Preserve – One of the driest places on the planet
  • Newberry Springs – Setting of the cult classic Percy Adlon movie Bagdad Cafe
  • Barstow – Home of the Mother Road Museum
  • Oro Grande – Featuring Bottle Tree Ranch, a quirky roadside attraction of mostly metal “trees”
  • Victorville – Home of the California Route 66 Museum
  • San Bernardino – Featuring the First Original McDonalds Museum and for baseball fans the home of the Anaheim Angel’s farm club
  • San Gabriel Valley – Once full of orange groves and the site of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
  • Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens – Housing an excellent collection of art including Gilbert Stuart’s familiar portrait of George Washington
  • Pasadena – Sights include the Rose Bowl Stadium and some of the most important architecture in Southern California
  • Route 66 Across Los Angeles – Including California’s first freeway, Hollywood, and Sunset Boulevard
  • Santa Monica – The western terminus of historic Route 66

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