Travel Route 66 Across New Mexico

We've had the opportunity to get out on the road and explore Route 66 numerous times in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Driving time today to travel the 280 miles from Amarillo to Santa Fe is about four hours via I-40 to Cline's Corners, and then north on U.S. 285.

An alternate route is to take Exit 256 off I-40 onto U.S. 84 north after Santa Rosa; U.S. 84 then connects with I-25 to Santa Fe.

The Amarillo to Santa Fe trip could easily be stretched to two days or more, depending on the length of your stops, and your stopovers at night.

We have the trip across New Mexico Route 66 westbound divided into two major segments ... select your area of interest for more details!

Route 66 Road Trips in New Mexico

Tucumcari thru Santa Rosa to Santa Fe

Santa Fe thru Albuquerque to Gallup

Route 66 Road Trip westbound from Tucumcari through Santa Rosa to Santa Fe Route 66 Road Trip westbound from Santa Fe through Albuquerque to Gallup

 

Map showing towns along U.S. Route 66 across New Mexico, from Tucumcari to Gallup
Map showing towns along the U.S. Route 66 across New Mexico, from Tucumcari to Gallup


Just East of Tucumcari: The Ghost Town of Glenrio

Present day Exit 0 from I-40 to Glenrio, on the Texas - New Mexico border
Present day Exit 0 from I-40 to Glenrio, on the Texas - New Mexico border

 

Sitting directly on the Texas - New Mexico border at Exit 0 is the abandoned ghost town of Glenrio. The townsite still has noticeable traces of Route 66 and the motels and restaurants that used to thrive there before the arrival of I-40. Just west of Glenrio, Route 66 bridges are still visible to the alert I-40 traveler.

Originally a railroad town, the village was renamed from Rock Island to Glenrio by the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1908, and began receiving motorists driving the Ozark Trail in 1917. Its original structures were adobe buildings.

The "First Motel in Texas" located in Glenrio on US Route 66
Greetings from Amarillo Texas ... on Historic Route 6The State Line Motel and Bar ... the "First in Texas" or "Last in Texas" depending on which direction the traveler was headed!

The Rock Island Railroad depot closed in 1955, and the opening of Interstate 40 in 1975 further accelerated the demise of Glenrio.

Today it includes the Glenrio Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The district emcompasses the Route 66 roadbed and 17 abandoned structures.

Remains can still be seen of an old motel, cafe, service station, the post office, and a few other buildings, as well as the old Route 66 roadbed. Some structures are posted, so in respect for owners and residents, please observe any "No Trespassing" signs.

For those traveling westbound, be sure to stop at the nicely designed and operated New Mexico Welcome Center. It is stocked well with maps and brochures about Route 66 and all of New Mexico; friendly staff members are always available to answer questions.

The old Route 66 then continued westward from Glenrio through San Jon, Tucumcari, Montoya, the ghost town of Cuervo and Santa Rosa.

 

Tucumcari Travel Highlights

The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New MexicoThe Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Leaving Glenrio, and back on I-40, we drive 42 miles and arrive at Tucumcari with its variety of vintage motels and electric neon signage. One of the more famous hotels here is the Blue Swallow Motel.

For many years, Tucumcari has been a popular stop for cross-country travelers on Interstate 40 and previously Route 66.

Today, Old U.S. Route 66 runs through the heart of Tucumcari via Route 66 Boulevard. Numerous businesses, including gasoline service stations, restaurants and motels, were constructed to accommodate tourists as they traveled through on the Mother Road.

A large number of the vintage motels and restaurants built in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s are still in business.

And Tucumcari is known for its murals painted on area buildings; more than twenty have been painted thus far.

Tucumcari hotels and traveler reviews at TripAdvisor


The "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" mural in Tucumcari, New Mexico
The "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" mural in Tucumcari, New Mexico

The "Dodge and Cowboy" mural in Tucumcari, New Mexico
The "Dodge and Cowboy" mural in Tucumcari, New Mexico


Town of Cuervo

As we leave Tucumcari, we head west again, for 41 miles. Cuervo, New Mexico is an old Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad town that today is mostly abandoned, although some residents still live there.

The railroad siding was built in 1902 and named "Cuervo". The post office was opened that same year.

Most of the town is on the south side of I-40, between the interstate and the hills to the south. A variety of old buildings, houses and churches survive today. A ghost town? Not quite, but close!

Exit 291 from I-40 to Cuervo, New Mexico
Exit 291 from I-40 to Cuervo, New Mexico
Scene from present-day Cuervo, New Mexico
Scene from present-day, mostly abandoned Cuervo, New Mexico
Church in the town of Cuervo, New Mexico
Church in the town of Cuervo, New Mexico


A Stopover in Santa Rosa

Route 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa, New MexicoRoute 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Only 18 more miles and we find ourselves in Santa Rosa.

When Route 66 passed through Santa Rosa in 1930, numerous service stations, cafés and motor courts were built to accommodate motorists traveling the Mother Road.

Today, visitors still see an assortment of buildings and signs that take one back to those glory days of Historic Route 66 in Santa Rosa. 

One of the popular local attractions is the Route 66 Auto Museum, which draws car buffs from all over the country and beyond. The museum houses a large collection of classics, low riders, muscle cars and motorcycles … plus, gas pumps and other auto memorabilia from the early days of Route 66.  

 

 

Sun 'n Sand Motel, Santa Rosa, New MexicoSun 'n Sand Motel, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Nearby Santa Rosa Lake State Park is the place to be for camping, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, swimming, hiking, biking and so much more!

The world famous Blue Hole offers all sorts of water-based sports, including diving, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Santa Rosa offers a variety of hotels, inns, RV parks and campsites for visitors to the area.      

Santa Rosa hotels, reservations and traveler reviews at TripAdvisor

Old Route 66 logo painted on pavement
Old Route 66 logo painted on pavement


Interactive Map of Route 66 in New Mexico


Early Route 66 Alignment through Santa Fe

Storefronts along East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New MexicoStorefronts along East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Approximately 507 miles long in 1926, the alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico was reduced to 399 miles by 1937. The longest sections of the initial alignment created a large "S curve" as the road stretched across the middle of the state.

Aligning with U.S. 85, Route 66 followed the corridor of the old Santa Fe Trail and its successor, the Santa Fe Railroad, and passed through the villages of Tecolote, Bernal, San Jose, Rowe and Pecos. Skirting the tourist facilities at Pigeon’s Ranch, the highway climbed Glorieta Pass and descended the narrow defile at Cañoncito, where it diverged from the railroad alignment to veer toward Santa Fe.

Arriving in Santa Fe

Once in Santa Fe, Route 66 passed through the heart of downtown, along side the historic LaFonda on the Plaza Hotel.

We have stayed multiple times at LaFonda and it has become our favorite lodging choice in Santa Fe!

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe. It served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was also near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro which carried trade from Mexico City.

Santa Fe remained on the original Route 66 until 1938 when the road was rerouted on a more direct route thru Cline's Corners to Albuquerque ... see map below showing both the 1926 and post-1937 alignments in central New Mexico.

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

 

Today, Santa Fe is located on Interstate Highway 25, about 65 miles northeast of Albuquerque. U.S. Highway 285 traverses with city in a north-south orientation. Santa Fe is the capitol city of New Mexico, and is positioned at 7,000 feet above sea level.

Panoramic view of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico
Panoramic view of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

One of the larger cities on Route 66 during its earlier alignments was Santa Fe. It passed through downtown near the historic LaFonda on the Plaza hotel, seen in the photo below.
LaFonda on the Plaza, on old Route 66, Santa Fe, New Mexico

A popular attraction in downtown Santa Fe ... the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico


Lodging Options Along Route 66 from Amarillo to Santa Fe

Hotels in Amarillo, Texas

Hotels in Tucumcari, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Fe, New Mexico

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

 

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

Santa Fe remained on the original Route 66 until 1938 when the road was rerouted on a more direct route to Albuquerque.

Visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico

The first route alignment of 1926-1937 ran north-south through Albuquerque.

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

At Albuquerque, a final turn west took the Mother Road to Gallup and then into Arizona.

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.

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.

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

Vintage view of the 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

U.S. Highway 66 in New Mexico, circa 1950s
U.S. Highway 66 in New Mexico, circa 1950s


Visiting Gallup, New Mexico

Welcome to the City of Gallup, New Mexico ... "Most Patriotic Small Town in America"Welcome to the City of Gallup, New Mexico ... "Most Patriotic Small Town in America"

Gallup is the largest city between Albuquerque and Flagstaff, and has a population of about 22,000 residents.

The city sits at an elevation of 6,512', and is known as the "most patriotic small town in America".

It is located about 140 miles west of Albuquerque, and 185 miles east of Flagstaff, and only 23 miles from the Arizona-New Mexico border.

The city is located in the middle of the Navajo Reservation.

 

The city was founded in 1881 as a railhead for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, and named after David Gallup, a paymaster for the railroad.

The railroad today remains an important industry in the city.

Hotel El Rancho Hotel & Motel in Gallup, New MexicoEl Rancho Hotel & Motel in Gallup, New Mexico ... "Home of the Movie Stars"

Because of the nearby rugged terrain, it was a popular location in the 1940s and 1950s for Hollywood Westerns and has hosted many well-known movie stars such as John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan and Kirk Douglas.

Restaurants such as the famous El Rancho reflect the western and Indian influences on the town. Today’s visitors can partake in a meal at the El Rancho or enjoy an overnight stay and tour the memorabilia-lined grand lobby.

Gallup has over 30 hotels and over 90 restaurants and is a popular stopover point for those traveling Historic Route 66.

Area attractions include the Manuelito Visitor Center, the Navajo Code Talker Museum, the Gallup Cultural Center in the historic Santa Fe Railway depot, Red Rock Park & Museum, Bill Malone Trading Company and much more.

Shopping is also a big local attraction, with 110 trading posts, shops and galleries in Gallup, making the town the undisputed Southwestern center for authentic Native American art.

Retail stores in downtown Gallup, New Mexico
Retail stores in downtown Gallup, New Mexico



Hotel El Rancho in Gallup, New Mexico
"Charm of Yesterday, Convenience of Tomorrow"
Hotel El Rancho Hotel & Motel in Gallup, 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 of U.S. Route 66 in Gallup

We have included below a sampling of our collection of vintage travel postcards dealing with Gallup and Route 66. These portray the historic road in its prime and help us to visualize "yesterday" as we drive Route 66 today.

Downtown Gallup, New Mexico, circa 1958
Downtown Gallup, New Mexico, circa 1958

Dine and dance at Pete's Cafe, Gallup, New Mexico
Dine and dance at Pete's Cafe, Gallup, New Mexico

Hotel El Rancho, the World's Largest Ranch House, Gallup, New Mexico
Hotel El Rancho, the World's Largest Ranch House, Gallup, New Mexico


Clines Corners

Early view of Clines Corners in New MexicoEarly view of Clines Corners in New Mexico

Need a break while driving on I-40 and Route 66?

The famous Clines Corners is located at the intersection of I-40 and U.S. 285, 68 miles east of Albuquerque, at Exit 218. It offers gasoline, a restaurant, souvenirs and gift shop, large clean restrooms, RV park, and more! It's always worth a stop.

Roy Cline opened his rest stop in 1934 at the intersection of what was then New Mexico State Highways 6 and 2.

For decades since, travelers have stopped at Clines Corners for a needed break,  fuel, or just their homemade fudge. Today, Clines Corners Retail Center spans over 30,000 square feet.

The official address is 1 Yacht Club Drive, Clines Corners, NM, 87070. Phone: 575.472.5488, or visit the Cline's Corners website

The famous Clines Corners at the intersection of I-40 and U.S. 285 in New Mexico.

 

More Route 66 and Travel-Related Resources