Travel Route 66 from Tucumcari to Santa Fe

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.

Highlights of This Route 66 Segment

Greetings from Tucumcari, New Mexico

Included in this road trip are some of our favorite places and scenes along the Mother Road. This segment includes all of the best of Route 66, including drivable sections, ghost towns, classic motels and famous roadside attractions.

Heading westbound the route traveled through these places:

  • Tucumcari ... quaint motels like the Blue Swallow and murals
  • Cuervo ... another ghost town with many wooden buildings still standing
  • Santa Rosa ... Route 66 Auto Museum
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico

We have traveled this route multiple times over the years, both eastbound and westbound. Some of the journey is on I-40, which parallels the old Route 66 in most places. Where possible, we choose to drive the segments of the Mother Road where it still remains. Exits to Route 66 are marked in most locales.

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



Tucumcari Travel Highlights

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

Leaving Glenrio, on the Texas-New Mexico border, 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

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

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

Early Route 66 Alignment through Santa Fe

The historic plaza, Santa Fe, New MexicoThe 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.

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


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.

Today, Santa Fe is located on Interstate Highway 25, about 65 miles northeast of Albuquerque. U.S. Highway 285 traverses the 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


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.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is a dominant landmark in the downtown area, and a must-not-miss attraction for visitors.

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

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
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Lodging Options in the Santa Fe Area

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.

The El Rey Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico

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!

Hotels in Tucumcari, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Fe, New Mexico



LaFonda on the Plaza

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 (right).

LaFonda on the Plaza, on old Route 66, Santa Fe, 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 on the post-1937 alignment?

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.


Driving West
on the Next Route 66 Segment?

Santa Fe thru Albuquerque to Gallup

Route 66 Road Trip westbound from Santa Fe to Gallup, New Mexico

Travel Guides for Other States Along 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