Driving Route 66 Across California

California Route 66 Sign

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:

  • Needles
  • Fenner
  • Chambless
  • Amboy
  • Ludlow
  • Newberry Springs
  • Barstow
  • Helendale
  • Victorville
  • Cajon Pass
  • San Bernadino
  • Pasadena
  • Santa Monica

 

Historic U.S. Route 66 in California

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.

Map showing approximate Route 66 location from Needles to Santa Monica, California
Map showing approximate Route 66 location from Needles to Santa Monica

Highlights of California Route 66

Greetings from California

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.

Needles California

The famous wagon in Needles, California on Historic Route 66
Needles, California on Historic Route 66

Earlier view of the old wagon in Needles
Earlier view of the old wagon in Needles, California

Welcome to Needles, California, and Historic Route 66
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.
Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Needles El Garces Train Station in California

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.

Historic Route 66 California Gateway Site

Amboy California

Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California, on Route 66
Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California


Time for a stop on a hot day of bike riding ... at Roy's Motel and Cafe in Amboy, California

Time for a stop on a hot day of bike riding ... 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.

Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark sign Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark

 

Ludlow, California

The Ludlow Cafe ... breakfast, lunch, dinner

Ludlow Cafe on Route 66 in California Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark


Siberia, California Texaco service station and post office between Bagdad and Ludlow

Siberia Texaco service station and post office in Ludlow, California


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.
Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs, California

The Bagdad Cafe in California
The Bagdad Cafe in California


Barstow, California

Greetings from Barstow, 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.

Barstow California on Historic Route 66

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

Website of the Barstow Route 66 Mother Road Museum

The Mother Road Museum, Barstow, California

Barstow has a number of well known murals around the city, including this one
Route 66 mural in Barstow, California

Harvey House in Barstow, California
Harvey House in Barstow, California

Vintage view of the Cactus Motel on U.S. 66 in Barstow
Vintage view of the Cactus Motel on U.S. 66 in Barstow

Vintage postcard of the El Rancho Motor Hotel, 112 E. Main Street in Barstow

Vintage postcard of the El Rancho Motor Hotel in Barstow

Sage Motel  at 220 W. Main Street in Barstow
Sage Motel  at 220 W. Main Street in Barstow

 

Helendale, California

Elmer's Bottle Ranch, Helendale, California
Elmer's Bottle Ranch, Helendale, California

Victorville, California

Old Town Route 66 in Victorville, 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
California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California

Mural at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California
Mural at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California

Route 66 Roadside Attraction: California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California
Route 66 Museum in Victorville, California



Cajon Pass

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

Earlier days of Route 66 through Cajon Pass in California


San Bernadino, California

Wigwam Motel

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.

Website of the Wigwam Motel

WigWam Motel in San Bernadino, California, since 1949

 

WigWam Motel in San Bernadino, California, since 1949


 

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.

Site of the original McDonald's in California

Site of the original McDonald's in California

 

Pasadena, California

Vintage view of the Arroyo-Seco Parkway, U.S. Highway 66, between Los Angeles and Pasadena, California
Vintage view of the Arroyo-Seco Parkway between Los Angeles and Pasadena, California


Clark Motel at 3019 E. Colorado Street, U.S. 66, Pasadena, California

Clark Motel at 3019 E. Colorado Street, U.S. 66, Pasadena, California

 

Santa Monica, California

The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California
The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California

 

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

Website of the Route 66 Motel

The Route 66 Motel in Barstow, California

 

 

New Kansan Motel in Cucamonga, California on Route 66

New Kansan Motel in Cucamonga, California on Route 66

Palm Tropics Motel & Cafe on Route 66 in Glendora, California
Palm Tropics Motel & Cafe on Route 66 in Glendora, California

More Route 66 and Travel-Related Resources