Route 66 Trip to Albuquerque in New Mexico

Night view of neon on Central Avenue in AlbuquerqueNight view of neon on Central Avenue in Albuquerque

The first route alignment of 1926-1937 ran north-south through Albuquerque as it covered the distance between Santa Fe and Grants and Gallup to the west.

Dozens of motels, cafes, gift shops and restaurants spring up along the route.

Some of these vintage motels remain, and historic neon signs still glow on old Route 66 through Albuquerque, now Central Avenue.

Tourism is a big industry in Albuquerque, hosting events such as the International Balloon Fiesta.

It offers a variety of things to do such as the Sandia Peak Tramway, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, National Museum of Nuclear History, San Felipe de Neri Church and Albuquerque Old Town.

Central Avenue in Albuquerque New Mexico

The original length of Route 66 in New Mexico in 1926 was about 507 miles. Funding for a straighter, shorter route was approved in 1931.

With realignments and road improvements, the distance of Route 66 in New Mexico was reduced to 399 miles by 1937. The longest sections of the 1926 alignment created a large "S Curve" as it headed north to Santa Fe through Tecolate, Bernai, San Jose, Pecos and Glorieta Pass, and then back south to Albuquerque, as shown in the map below.

The 1926 alignment came into Albuquerque from the north on Highway 313, and ran through downtown along 4th Street. Today the Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District just south of downtown is a popular attraction, with shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Route 66 then continued south to Los Lunas, where it turned west to Laguna.

This aligment was replaced in 1937 with a more direct westward route from Albuquerque to Laguna, and beyond to Gallup, following the current route of I-40 in many locales. Route 66 passed through downtown Albuquerque, running west-to-east on Central Avenue.

 

Route 66 alignment in central New Mexico in 1926 and post-1937
Map of U.S. Route 66 alignment in central New Mexico in 1926 and post-1937

Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque
Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque
San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico
San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

Interactive Map of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lodging Options Along Route 66

Hotels in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hotels in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Gallup, New Mexico

Click to review hotels and restaurants, read reviews and make reservations at TripAdvisor

Vintage Views in Albuquerque

De Anza Motor Lodge, 4301 Central Avenue East, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66
De Anza Motor Lodge, 4301 Central Avenue East, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66


Texas Ann Court, 2305 W. Central, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66
Texas Ann Court, 2305 W. Central, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66


Maisel's Indian Trading Post, 400 W. Central, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66
Maisel's Indian Trading Post, 400 W. Central, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66


Santa Fe passenger train at the Albuquerque railroad station
Santa Fe passenger train at the Albuquerque railroad station

A Day Trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe Up La Bajada Hill

Aerial view of present-day La Bajada switchbacks on old Route 66Aerial view of present-day La Bajada switchbacks on old Route 66

Today, the fastest route between Santa Fe and Albuquerque is I-25, a distance of about 65 miles. An alternate route is on the Turquoise Trail, Highway 14, through the quaint villages of Cerillos and Madrid

In earlier times Route 66 was the primary road northward to Santa Fe.

North of Ambuquerque, Route 66 headed for Santa Fe and made the steep, 500-foot ascent up the La Bajada precipice in only two miles via a series of  26 switchbacks with a 28% grade.

Remnants of the swtichbacks and their scar on the earth can still be seen by hikers and those in high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles, and from satellite photos like the one shown to the right.

In 1932 Route 66 was moved about three miles to the east near the current route of Interstate 25.

Read more about La Bajada Hill and El Camino Real at the National Park Service website.

Switchbacks on Route 66 at La Bajada Hill between Santa Fe and Albuquerque
View from the top of the mesa looking south (left) and from the bottom looking north (right)
View of the switchbacks on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at the top of La Bajada Hill View of the switchbacks on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at the bottom of La Bajada Hill

 

The "Big Cut" on Route 66

The "Big Cut" on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Big Cut as seen in this early 1900s vintage postcard

South of La Bajada between Santa Fe and Albuquerque was the "Big Cut". Located near the present-day San Felipe Pueblo, this was an engineering marvel when it was completed in 1909 as part of New Mexico's Route 1. Route 66 passed through the notch from 1926 to 1931.

It consisted of a 75-foot long, 60-foot deep cut in Gravel Hill in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains made by hard working constuction workers with dynamite, picks and shovels. The 18-foot wide roadway was no longer used when Route 66 was realigned in 1931.

Remnants of the cut can still be seen from southbound I-25 at Exit 252 in back of the casinos on the east side of the interstate.


Map of Route 66 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Map of Route 66 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico


Nighttime view of Santa Fe and Old Route 66 looking west from La Fonda on the Plaza

Nightime view of Santa Fe looking west from La Fonda on the Plaza


More Information About Albuquerque

Albuquerque Visitor Center: VisitAlbuquerque.org

 

City of Albuquerque website

 

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce website

 

Albuquerque and Central New Mexico Tourism at NewMexico.org

 

Albuquerque Travel Guide at TripAdvisor: Hotels, restaurants, things to do

Driving West
on the Next Route 66 Segment?

Holbrook thru Winslow to Flagstaff

Route 66 Road Trip westbound from Holbrook thru Winslow to Flagstaff, Arizona

 

Click to travel on more scenic roads of America!


Travel Guides for Other Segments of Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for the major segments ...

Historic U.S. Route 66 ... An Introduction to the The Mother Road
Route 66 in Missouri Route 66 in Texas Route 66 Across Arizona Route 66 Across New Mexico
Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois Route 66 Across California Route 66 in Kansas

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