California Historic Route 66 Needles to Barstow National Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- LocationCA, AZ, IL, MO, NM, OK
- Length144 of 2040 total miles
A road trip on the California Historic Route 66 - Needles to Barstow National Scenic Byway allows you to experience a part of history as you travel this segment of the Mother Road. Entering California Route 66 at the Colorado River, you will visit the town of Needles with its historic El Garces Harvey House, experience the small towns of Goffs, Amboy, Ludlow, Newberry Springs and Daggett in the beautiful Mojave Desert and end in the town of Barstow with its rich transportation history.
Story of the Byway
Historic Route 66 is significant as the nation’s first all-weather highway linking Chicago to Los Angeles. Known at the time of its establishment in November 1926 as U.S. Highway 66, the route was part of the first nationally designated highway system. Route 66 exemplifies the transition of a transportation corridor from Native American footpaths to the Interstate highway. According to the National Park Service, Route 66 “represents an outstanding example of the transition from dirt track to superhighway. Not only does Route 66 underscore the importance of the automobile as a technological achievement, but, perhaps equally important to the American psyche, it symbolized unprecedented freedom and mobility for every citizen who could afford to own and operate a car.” Route 66 has been popularized in story, song, film, and urban myth and continues to attract visitors despite being decommissioned over 35 years ago. Smithsonian Magazine named U.S. Route 66 to its list of “15 Must-See Endangered Cultural Treasures.”
Westbound travelers enter California Route 66 from Arizona 66, crossing the Colorado River with a view of the Trails Arch Bridge and the vast desert. Driving on Interstate 40 for a short distance, visitors exit at Five Mile Road, the site of a Route 66 interpretive kiosk constructed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The gateway town to California Route 66 is Needles, well equipped to address traveler needs. Among the many historical sites is the restored El Garces Harvey House, the “Queen Jewel” of the Fred Harvey chain. Brightly painted murals, old gas stations, motels, and a regional history museum greet the traveler.
Route 66 then heads north on National Trails Highway to Camp Ibis, with vestiges of the Desert Training Center, established in 1942 to prepare U.S. troops to enter World War II in the deserts of North Africa. More than one million troops were trained in the harshest desert conditions. Route 66 through the area was an important corridor for the transport of troops and supplies. Nearby is the town of Goffs with its beautifully restored 1914 schoolhouse and outdoor museum.
Leaving Goffs, the next 150+ miles of Route 66 are virtually undeveloped deserts, very popular with motorcyclists experiencing the wide-open roadway and the scenic desert area. There are unique engineering and roadside features adapted to the difficult Mojave Desert conditions, including nearly 150 timber trestle bridges across desert washes and berms to divert the water. This section maintains much of its original integrity as Interstate 40 bypassed this area rather than building along the original Route 66 right-of-way. (Note: check road conditions as there are closures due to bridge washouts.)
Midway along the route is the town of Amboy, with much to see, including the iconic “Roy’s” café neon sign, gas station, small motel cottages, and a desert church. Across the highway is Amboy Crater, a National Natural Landmark. Route 66 continues as the National Trails Highway to the popular Ludlow Café. Newberry Springs is the next town, populated because of abundant water. It is home to the famous Bagdad Café, popularized in the movie of the same name with a cult-like following among international visitors. The Barn Dive Bar is also a step back in time. Newberry Nic, the Barn sign man holding the pool cue might remind you of Vegas Vic.
The town of Daggett once prospered because of its proximity to the Calico Mines. Several buildings which predate Route 66’s period of significance remain.
The western gateway town for the byway is Barstow. Named after the president of the Santa Fe Railroad, William Strong Barstow, the town has always been an important transportation hub Railroad, William Strong Barstow, the town has always been an important transportation hub dating back to Native American trade routes and the Santa Fe Trail. Barstow highlights its history through a series of murals along Main Street/Route 66. The restored Fred Harvey Casa del Desierto houses the popular Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western American Railroad Museum. The Mojave River Valley Museum is nearby. Several historic hotels remain.
Enter California Route 66 on Interstate 40 at the Colorado River to Exit 148/Five Mile Road; Right onto US-95;
continue on Broadway; follow painted Route 66 roadway shields through the town of Needles to US 95 N to Goffs Road. Follow Goffs Road to road closure at Fenner so take I-40 to Exit 78 and go south to Amboy. Follow Route 66 roadway shields along National Trails Hwy through the desert. Join I-40 to bypass military base, follow signs to Route 66/Main Street in Barstow. (For turn-by-turn directions, we recommend EZ66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan.)
Points of Interest
Beautiful Trails Arch Bridge Near Route 66 at Colorado River
Beautiful bridge at the Colorado River.
WWII Desert Training Center
Camp Ibis remains and information plaque
1914 restored Goffs Schoolhouse
Outdoor museum and desert research center
Town of Amboy
Visit Roy’s Cafe with restored neon sign. Amboy Crater nearby.
An old mining and railroad town with abandoned buildings and the popular Ludlow Cafe
The Bagdad Café
Has almost a cult-following due to movie of the same name.
Mother Road Route 66 Museum
Highlights the history of the area and includes an impressive gift shop
Casa del Desierto Harvey House
Beautifully restored and is open for self-guided tours
El Garces Harvey House
The "Queen Jewel" of the Fred Harvey Chain.
Desert Beauty and History
Starting from Needles, just over the Arizona border and on
the edge of Historic U.S. 66, head west and keep an eye out for interesting art
along this stretch of highway. Before driving along the Mojave Desert, make
sure to grab a bite and something to drink, as there isn’t much for at least 90
miles. Yet approximately 30 miles west
from Needles, turn onto U.S.-95 N, then onto Route 66 toward Goffs. There you’ll find a 1914 schoolhouse museum offering
an interesting look back in time.
Leaving Goffs, continue west on Route 66/National Trails
Highway to hike the Amboy Crater, a dormant volcano offering panoramic views of
the landscape. Interesting old buildings and desert scenery dot the road until
Ludlow approximately 27 miles later. There is only one motel in town.
After leaving Ludlow, hop onto I-40, which crisscrosses and
parallels Route 66 until it reaches Barstow 52 miles later. Look for painted Route
66 shields on the road. Along the way, stop at the Bagdad Café, famous from the
1987 movie of the same name.
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