What weather to expect when driving Historic Route 66



The Weather on Route 66

Route 66 began in downtown Chicago, Illinois, and ended in Santa Monica in California. It is generally accepted that, from beginning to end in 1926, Route 66 traversed 2,448 miles. However, as the route evolved over its 60 years of existence with new, improved alignments, the mileage varied over time.

Route 66 traversed eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Historic U.S. Route 66 Map from Chicago to Santa Monica

 

How long does it take to drive Route 66 ... without bad weather?

This question is asked often ... but is difficult to answer. Total time to drive the route, assuming no stops, is in the 32-38 hour range. But we would never recommend doing that.

For leisurely trips on Route 66, many experienced travelers recommend planning for 200 miles a day, at least on those stretches with lots of attractions, like Illinois and Arizona. At that rate, the trip across the entire length of Route 66 would take 10-12 days.

Ideally, plan on a minimum of one week to make the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, for a more leisurely and complete trip you might want to plan for 14-21 days. It all depends on how many stops you take along the Route, side trips like to the Grand Canyon, and of course the weather.

Let's discuss more about the weather!

When is the best time to travel Route 66, weatherwise?

Route 66 travels through vastly different climates, from the mid-western plains and cornfields to dry, arid areas in the west, from near sea level in California to the 7,000 foot peaks along the Continental Divide. Thus, weather conditions are diverse, and sometimes unpredictable. So pack clothing and be prepared for changing weather!

Travelers on Route 66 will on occasion experience snow storms, dust storms, flooded roads, thunderstorms, washouts, tornados, and high winds. So watch the weather forecasts, and adjust your itinerary appropriately.

Driving Route 66 in winter, with snow and ice! Driving Route 66 in a dust storm out west

 

That said, the most ideal weather for the trip is in the spring, from March into early June. Likewise, the fall months of September, October and November are typically pleasant and offer good driving conditions.

Winter months can produce ice and snow storms all along the route, from Illinois into Arizona. Another consideration is that many Route 66 businesses are closed during the winter months.

Summer in the desert areas of the great Southwest can be hot with temperatures frequently above 100°F.

Road flooding can occur even in dry, desert areas, such as the floods of 2023 around Oatman, Arizona.

Rainy Day at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo

It isn't always a sunshine day at the Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo, Texas ... from May 1 - June 12 of 2023 parts of the area received over 10 inches of rain!

A muddy, rain soaked Cadillac Ranch on Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo


Some Days are Hot and Dry
A hot and dry day along Route 66 in the western United States
It was a hot day in Arizona, on July 15, 2023! Be prepared for heat if you travel in the summer in the U.S. west.
It was a hot day in Arizona, on July 15, 2023!

And Sometimes Severe Weather Brews Along Route 66
Severe weather brewing along Route 66 in the western United States

Snow Day Along Route 66
Snow day along Route 66 in the USA

Winter storms can happen in Arizona ... shown here ... January 7, 2024 (NWS)
Snowy weather near Flagstaff, Arizona, January 7, 2024

Current Weather Conditions Across Route 66
(Courtesy of WeatherUnderground)

Chicago, Illinois St. Louis, Missouri
Springfield, Missouri Galena, Kansas
Tulsa, Oklahoma Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Amarillo, Texas Tucumcari, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico Gallup, New Mexico
Winslow, Arizona Flagstaff, Arizona
Kingman, Arizona Needles, California
San Bernardino, California Santa Monica, California

 

Current U.S. Weather Map from the National Weather Service


Active Weather Alerts from the National Weather Service

NWS Alert Codes


National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Offices Along Route 66

National Weather Service (NWS) - Main Website
NWS - Chicago NWS - Lincoln, IL
NWS - St. Louis NWS - Springfield, MO
NWS - Tulsa NWS - Norman, OK
NWS - Amarillo NWS - Albuquerque
NWS - Flagstaff NWS - Las Vegas
NWS - San Diego Nws - Los Angeles
Map of NWS Offices


Current Road Conditions Across Route 66

Illinois Missouri
Kansas Oklahoma
Texas New Mexico
Arizona California


Road Trip Travel Guides for States Along Route 66

Planning a road trip on Route 66? Here are the travel guides and reviews by state ...

Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois Route 66 in Missouri Route 66 in Kansas Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma
Route 66 in Texas Route 66 Across New Mexico Route 66 Across Arizona Route 66 Across California