U.S. Route 66 in Santa Fe
Location of Santa Fe
Santa Fe is located in central New Mexico 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.
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.
The city was one of the larger cities on Historic Route 66 during its earlier alignments. It passed through downtown near the historic La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel.
Santa Fe remained on the original Route 66 until 1938 when the road was rerouted on a more direct alignment to Albuquerque.
Early Route 66 Alignment through Santa Fe
|The historic plaza, 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, as shown in the map below, avoiding the steep mountain ranges east of Albuquerque.
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.
Route 66 alignment in central New Mexico in 1926 and post-1937
Map of Route 66 through downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico
Route 66 Through Downtown Santa Fe
Once in Santa Fe, Route 66 traveled along the Old Santa Fe Trail, passing the San Miguel Mission and Loretto Chapel and across the Santa Fe River to the historic LaFonda on the Plaza Hotel. From there it turned west on Water Street, and then left onto Galisteo Street and Cerrillos Road southward towards Albuquerque as shown in the map above.
The old route then passed the School for the Deaf and lodging properties like the El Rey Inn. Outside of town Route 66 followed the course of the Camino Real.
Leaving Santa Fe, Route 66 was relatively flat, as it traversed the La Bajada Mesa.
About 15 miles to the south, Route 66 made the steep, 500-foot descent down the La Bajada precipice in only two miles via a series of 26 switchbacks with a 28% grade. In 1932 Route 66 was moved about three miles to the east near the current route of Interstate 25.
|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)
The original Route 66 continued through downtown Santa Fe until 1938 when the road was moved to a shorter route from Santa Rosa to Clines Corners to Albuquerque.
Panoramic view of present-day downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico
Things to Do in the Santa Fe Area
The Plaza, the epicenter of downtown Santa Fe, and the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied government building in the United States, were built in 1609 and 1610, respectively.
Native American artisans from New Mexico's 22 pueblos and tribes still sell jewelry beneath the Palace’s long portal, as they have for hundreds of years.
|Storefronts along East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico|
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is a dominant landmark in the downtown area, and a must-not-miss attraction for visitors.
Nearby things to see include Loretto Chapel, the New Mexico State Capitol building, and the New Mexico Museum of Art.
A popular stop for residents and visitors alike is the Santa Fe Opera, just north of the city. Be sure to also explore the artistic Canyon Road, the Midtown Innovation District, the vibrant Southside and the hip Railyard-Guadalupe district.
On Upper Canyon Road, the Randall Davey Audubon Center and the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve span 325 acres that rise through four eco-zones, from brushy cottonwood and willow to Ponderosa pine forest.
Museum Hill features four of the finest destinations in the area, including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
Just a short drive up the mountain, Ski Santa Fe features seven lifts, 74 trails, a snowsports school and a children’s center.
With one of the highest elevations in the country, Ski Santa Fe is also popular with snowboarders.
A popular attraction in downtown Santa Fe ... the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Lodging Options in the Santa Fe Area
|The historic La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel|
Lodging options in Santa Fe are plentiful. There are over 60 hotels, 35 bed & breakfasts, 23 units of speciality lodging, spas, and dozens of vacation rentals to meet any travel need and desire.
During our many trips to Santa Fe over the years, we have stayed at the El Rey located at 1862 Cerillos Road.
It was built in 1936 on Historic Route 66, and remains today an icon in Santa Fe. It features 86 unique rooms and suites, each individually decorated.
When we need to be downtown near the plaza, these are two favorite lodging choices:
La Fonda on the Plaza - we have stayed multiple times at LaFonda and it has become our favorite lodging choice in Santa Fe. It is adjacent to the Plaza. The suite by the Bell Tower on the top floor is highly recommended, with spacious rooms and panoramic views of the downtown area.
Every trip to Santa Fe includes at least one dining experience at the La Plazuela restaurant in the hotel. Be sure to ask for guacamole to be custom made at your table!
And after a day sightseeing, we always stop at the La Fiesta lounge for cold margaritas and snacks; it is adjacent to the lobby on the first floor.
La Fonda is located next to the Plaza and the Cathedral, at 100 East San Francisco Street. Phone 800.523.5002. Parking is available in the covered, gated La Fonda Parking Garage.
Another choice about two blocks from the Plaza is the Inn on the Alameda. It offers various rooms, suites and casitas located in easy walking distance to downtown. Located at 303 East Alameda. Free parking. Phone 888.984.2121.
If you are staying north of Santa Fe, and also visiting Taos, one option is the Abuiqui Inn.
And there are many more inns, B&Bs and vacation rentals scattered in every direction from Santa Fe!
|Inn on the Alameda||The El Rey Inn|
Dining Options in the Santa Fe Area
|The Palacio Cafe in downtown Santa Fe on East Palace Avenue|
There are nearly 400 restaurants and dining options available serving a large variety of cuisines in Santa Fe.
La Plazuela in the La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel
Palacio Cafe on East Palace Avenue near the Cathedral
Mucho Gusto - 839 Paseo de Peralta, Suite H, near Inn on the Alameda
Cafe Pasqual's - 121 Don Gaspar Avenue
Harry's Roadhouse - 96 Old Las Vegas Highway
Pantry Restaurant - 1820 Cerillos Road
Tortilla Flats - 3139 Cerillos Road
Scenes Around the Santa Fe Area
|Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
||New Mexico State Capitol building
Located at 207 Old Santa Fe Trail. Phone 505.982.0092 for opening hours and more information.
The Loretto Chapel is a former Roman Catholic church that is now used as a museum and a wedding chapel.
It is known for its unusual helix-shaped spiral staircase. The name and origin of the builder have still not been verified.
New Mexico Museum of Art in downtown Santa Fe
The New Mexico Museum of Art, is the oldest art museum in the state of New Mexico.
It is one of four state-run museums in Santa Fe that are part of the Museum of New Mexico system operated by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.
Located at 107 West Palace Avenue. Phone 505.476.5072 for opening hours, tickets and more information.
Sidewalk sculpture seen in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Located at the top of the mountain at the end of New Mexico State Highway 475 overlooking Santa Fe.
Ski Santa Fe
Ski Santa Fe has a base elevation of 10,350 feet, and is located only 16 miles from downtown Santa Fe. In addition to multiple trails, it offers other facilities such as a sports shop, rental shop, food court, gourmet coffee bar and lodge.
Phone 505.982.4429 or visit their website for hours of operation, season dates, snow reports, lift tickets and more information.
Seen on Road Trips Outside Santa Fe
|The Ghost Ranch near Santa Fe|
We love shopping and exploring the museums in downtown Santa Fe, but sometimes it can be crowded.
And the traffic on the narrow streets can get congested. So we head out of town, on one of many road trips around the area, like to Lamy where today the Amtrak trains stop.
Day trips are a great way to see more of Historic Route 66. Head south towards Albuquerque, or back east towards Glorieta Pass and explore the remnants of those old alignments.
Heading north of town, we enjoy quick trips to the Ghost Ranch, and sometimes up to Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.
And the road up to Ski Santa Fe is an easy drive, but sometimes through quickly changing weather conditions! Cloudy at the bottom, snow at the top!
A popular trip to the south is along the Turquoise Trail, and its small, quaint towns of Madras and Los Cerrillos. Shopping and dining along the trail is a popular pastime.
|Mary's Bar in Cerrillos, New Mexico
||Railroad crossing south of Santa Fe
Abandoned church in Lamy, New Mexico
To the north is the High Road to Taos, on small quiet roads through the rolling hills of the New Mexico countryside. The road passes through small villages including Chimayo, Cordova and Truchas.
More Information About Sante Fe
Interactive Map of the Santa Fe, New Mexico Area
Travel Guides for Other States Along Route 66
Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for the major segments ...