Historic Route 66 – NM
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2000)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- LocationAZ, CA, IL, MO, NM, OK
- Length556.6 of 2040.6 total miles
The charm, the history, and the atmosphere that make up "The Mother Road" bring travelers from all over the world to experience America the way it should be experienced - down a stretch of highway where "anything goes" is literal.
Story of the Byway
For people across the U.S. and around the world, Historic Route 66 embodies the American spirit, conjuring thoughts of freedom, adventure, opportunity, and the open road. From Illinois to Arizona, travelers on the “Mother Road” can rediscover the subtle grandeur of this iconic stretch of highway, formed in 1926. In this case, the journey truly can be the destination. The route enters New Mexico from Texas near I-40, across a vast sunlit prairie. As it crosses the state, it winds back and forth—and under—today’s interstate in a curlicue ribbon of time, before exiting to Arizona just west of Gallup. If you want to follow the entire remaining road, get a Route 66 map to help you maneuver it. You can see quite a bit though just following I40 and getting off in the towns mentioned below. Through 1937, the road meandered west of Santa Rosa through small villages in the Sangre de Cristo foothills up to Santa Fe and its plaza. The route then turned south and descended what was treacherous La Bajada hill in a series of hairpin, hair-raising turns that led to Albuquerque. Later the road was re-routed and straightened, skipping Santa Fe. Instead, it headed through Moriarty and Tijeras Canyon before arriving in the state’s most populous city, and then shooting westward into the sunset.
Historic Route 66 in New Mexico begins at the NM/TX border. Get on Historic Route 66 and take it to Tucumcari, where you get back on I-40. In Montoya, get back on Route 66 and follow it past Newkirk, Cuervo, and Blue Hole. Once you reach Santa Rosa, you pick up on I-40 again. At the intersection of I-40 and State Route 84, take 84 (which is actually Route 66) northbound toward Las Vegas. When you come to Romeroville, stay on Route 66 as it curves back to the southwest and passes San Jose, Rowe, Pecos, and Glorieta, and then as it goes up to Santa Fe. Continue through Santa Fe down to Algodones, where Route 66 continues as NM 313 through Santa Ana Pueblo, Bernalillo, and Sandia Pueblo. When you reach Albuquerque, there are four different ways you can choose. 1) You can head east and go past Nob Hill, Tijeras, Edgewood, and Moriarty to Longhorn, where the original Route 66 ends and you turn around and go back the way you came; 2) You can go west and meet up again with I-40 near Rio Puerco, where you continue on I-40 to where it meets up again with Route 66 at the Cibola County line; 3) You can continue straight ahead and stay on Route 66 as it goes south through Isleta Pueblo and back up to join post-1938* Route 66 near Correo or 4) You can continue on Route 66 past Mesita, Laguna Pueblo, Budville, Cubero, San Fidel, McCartys, Grants, Milan, Bluewater, Prewitt, Thoreau, Top O' the World, Iyanbit, Ft. Wingate, and Gallup to the Arizona state line. *Prior to 1938, Route 66 took the way up to Santa Fe and down to Albuquerque. After 1938, a more direct route was taken, and Route 36 cut directly from Albuquerque to Santa Rosa. Thus parts of Historic Route 66 are pre-1938 and some are post-1938.
Points of Interest
Tucumcari Mountain is the first harbinger of the high country as it rises from the plains southwest of its namesake town. Delightful 1950s-era motels, curio shops, and diners (one in the shape of a sombrero) line the main drag through town, often beckoning with vintage neon signs.
Straddling the Pecos River, the town of Santa Rosa offers a glimpse of the Mother Road’s glory days in friendly cafes and other establishments from that bygone era. The local airport tarmac covers some of the original Route 66, but boulders emblazoned with advertising remind travelers of the road’s heyday, when marketing was as simple as buying a can of paint and a brush.
Gallup’s main street has a collection of neon signs and period cafes and motels to rival Tucumcari. Its El Rancho Hotel was a legendary movie star hang-out beginning in the 1930s. The “Gateway to Indian Country,” the city is bordered to the north by the vast Navajo Reservation, and by Zuni Pueblo to the south. If you can plan your trip for mid-August, the city hosts the remarkable Inter-Tribal Ceremonial, a combination powwow, rodeo, parade, pageant, and celebration.
Old Town, the historic heart of New Mexico’s largest city, sprang to life some 70 years before the American Revolution. The lovely San Felipe de Neri Church anchors the plaza. Old Town stretches out over the surrounding 10-block area, defined by its flat-roofed Pueblo-Spanish adobes, all punctuated by courtyards and other charming nooks perfect for exploring on foot. Most of the buildings house restaurants, galleries, and small shops today. The Royal Road passes by two major cultural centers as it weaves through the city, the National Hispanic Heritage Center and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Travel along Historic Route 66
Starting at the Texas-New Mexico border on Route 66, all you have to do is head west to begin your journey along the New Mexico portion of “The Mother Road”. Right as you get on, you will notice signs for the ghost town of Glenrio, which was rapidly abandoned after the creation of Interstate 40 in 1975. After going about 40 miles west from Glenrio, you will find the town of Tucumcari, which is known for its neon signage and wall murals on just about every building. The next stop along your journey will be the city of Santa Rosa. There are plenty of places to stop and grab some food while taking in the culture and history of this wonderful area. The Route 66 Auto Museum is found in Santa Rosa, and it is always a major attraction for tourists. Continuing from Santa Rosa, you will begin to make your way to Santa Fe. Once you arrive, you can spend the night here and rest up for the second half of your journey along Route 66.
After you leave Santa Fe, the next stop of your trip will be the great city of Albuquerque. There are plenty of opportunities to have fun in this city, including the Sandia Peak Tramway, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, National Museum of Nuclear History, San Felipe de Neri Church and Albuquerque Old Town. To end your journey after you travel west from Albuquerque and find stops along the road, you will end up in the city of Gallup. This city has so much to offer and is a wonderful way to end your journey along Historic Route 66.
Update this byway information today!