Driving Route 66 Across California
Route 66, the Mother Road, ran southwest out of Kingman through Cool Springs to Oatman, and onward to Golden Shores and Topock where it turned west to Needles, California.
The Mother Road then passed through cities and towns like these as it made its way westbound across California:
- Newberry Springs
- Cajon Pass
- San Bernadino
- Santa Monica
From the Arizona state line to San Bernardino U.S. Highway 66 followed the old National Old Trails Highway.
Leaving Needles, the road ventured a bit north, through Goffs. This railroad town remained a stop on Route 66 until 1931, when a more direct alignment between Needles and Essex was opened.
The road then headed south, through Chambless and Amboy, and then west to Ludlow, Newberry Springs and on to Barstow. There it turned south and travled through Helendale, Victorville, through the Cajon Pass, and on to San Bernadino. A final westward track through Pasadena took the Mother Road to its final end, near Santa Monica.
In 1936 U.S. 66 was extended from downtown Los Angeles to U.S. 101, at Santa Monica.
In 1940 the first freeway in Los Angeles was included as part of U.S. 66, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, later known as the Pasadena Freeway.
The highway is now mostly replaced with several streets in Los Angeles, State Route 66 (SR 66), Interstate 15 (I-15) and I-40. The route ended near the famed Santa Monica Pier in the Los Angeles area.
Highlights of California Route 66
This road trip features some of our favorite places and scenes along the Mother Road.
The route includes all of the best of Route 66, including drivable sections, ghost towns, classic motels and famous roadside attractions like the Wigwam Motel.
Shown below are highlights of a Route 66 trip westbound from Needles to Santa Monica, with both present-day photos and vintage travel postcards.
|The famous wagon in Needles, California on Historic Route 66
Earlier view of the old wagon in Needles
Welcome to Needles, California, and Historic Route 66
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Needles El Garces Train Station in California
Formerly a grand Harvey House Hotel, restaurant and Santa Fe train station. The hotel and restaurant were open from 1908 to 1949. The train station closed in 1988.
Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site
Located approximately two miles west of the Colorado River off Interstate 40, this day use and picnic area memorializes the entryway of Historic Route 66 into California.
The site contains covered picnic tables, an information kiosk, visitor log book, desert plants and trees, and a wind gauge.
Operated by the Needles Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management.
Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California, on Route 66
Time for a stop on a hot day of bike riding ... at Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California
An area attraction: the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark
The Amboy Crater is an an extinct, 79,000 year old volcano, located about 1.5 miles south of Route 66.
The Ludlow Cafe ... breakfast, lunch, dinner
Siberia, California Texaco service station and post office between Bagdad and Ludlow
Newberry Springs, California
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs, California
Originally built in the 1950s, this world-famous restaurant was the location of the 1988 film "Bagdad Cafe" which became the new name of the restaurant in 1995.
The Bagdad Cafe in California
Greetings from Barstow, California
Several major highways including Interstate 15, Interstate 40, California State Route 58, and U.S. Route 66 converge in Barstow.
The city is located in the high western Mojave Desert at the entrance to the Mojave National Preserve. Among its attractions is the Western America Railroad Museum.
For those interested in the history of the old road, we recommend a visit to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow.
Located at 681 N. First Street
Barstow has a number of well known murals around the city, including this one
Harvey House in Barstow, California
|View of the Cactus Motel on U.S. 66 in Barstow
||Sage Motel at 220 W. Main Street in Barstow
Vintage postcard of the El Rancho Motor Hotel, 112 E. Main Street in Barstow
Elmer's Bottle Ranch, Helendale, California
Old Town Route 66 in Victorville, California
California Route 66 Museum at 16825 South D Street in Victorville, California
Website of the California Route 66 Museum
Mural at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California
Earlier days of Route 66 through Cajon Pass ... the highest point on CA Route 66
The pass is located between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains 6
San Bernadino, California
In 1933 Frank Redford started developing the Wigwam “Villages” by designing teepee shaped motel units.
This was the last of seven Wigwam Motels built across the country; only three survive today. This one was opened in 1949, at 2728 E. Foothill Boulevard.
Driving down Route 66, this San Bernardino motel immediately grabs your attention with its one of a kind roadside architecture.
|Not far from Route 66 in San Bernardino is the site of the original restaurant of fast-food giant McDonald's. A local fast-food franchise company now owns this site and has turned it into a museum, at 1398 North E Street. The museum features an array of memorabilia, menus, toys and other McDonalds artifacts. Admission is free.|
|Vintage view of the Arroyo-Seco Parkway, U.S. Highway 66, between Los Angeles and Pasadena
||Clark Motel at 3019 E. Colorado Street, U.S. 66, Pasadena, California
Santa Monica, California
The original terminus of U.S. Route 66 was at 7th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. However, over the years, and decades, Route 66 has had several “official” and “unofficial" ending points.
The route was later extended to the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica, about one mile from the Pacific Ocean. This is often referred to as the official ending point of Route 66.
Since this locale can be disappointing after the long journey from Chicago, the Route 66 Alliance partnered with the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation in 2009 to mount an unofficial “End of the Trail” sign on the pier, seen below in 2020.
The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California (Staff Photo)
Classic Motels Along Route 66 in California
California has always been a popular destination for tourists and those migrating to the Far West.
During the 1930s, as automobiles became a more dominant and affordable means of transportation, and more highways like Route 66 were constructed, tourist courts were built, offering the privacy and comfort of a one-room accommodation.
Whether they were called courts, cottages, cabins, or lodges, they offered similar amenities.
Gradually a newer, but similar, concept evolved: the motel, between an auto tourist camp and the traditional downtown hotel.
And many adopted the "art deco" theme popular at the time.
Included here are several motels from the earlier days of Route 66 in California which exhibit the typical lodging colors, textures and designs of that era.
The Route 66 Motel in Barstow, California
This World-Famous Route 66 Classic is located in the heart of Barstow. It is the only renovated motel to have antique cars to photograph and 'round beds' for a quiet night sleep.
The property offers great room rates and clean, comfortable rooms.
Located at 195 Main Street in Barstow
|New Kansan Motel in Cucamonga, California on Route 66
||Palm Tropics Motel & Cafe on Route 66 in Glendora, California