Discover the 8 States Route 66 Runs Through

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: November 20, 2023
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Embark on a journey through time and experience the open road as we traverse the iconic Route 66. Spanning a distance of over 2,400 miles, this legendary highway cuts through the heart of America. It connects travelers with the rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant cultures of each state it traverses.

From the bustling cityscapes of Chicago to the sun-soaked beaches of California, Route 66 takes us on an unforgettable expedition through eight states. Each one has its own unique charm and character. So, fasten your seatbelts, roll down the windows, and join us on an adventure. We’ll discover the enchanting states that Route 66 calls home.

1. Illinois

Map of the state of Illinois

Route 66 spans around 300 miles in the state of Illinois.

©Mio Buono/

Route 66 winds its way through the state of Illinois, spanning approximately 300 miles from Chicago to the Mississippi River. Along this historic route, travelers are treated to a plethora of attractions and scenic wonders. Starting in Chicago, the birthplace of Route 66, visitors can explore iconic landmarks. These include Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Willis Tower Skydeck. As the route meanders southwest, it passes through Joliet, known for its historic Route 66 Welcome Center. It also features the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Further along, the town of Pontiac boasts the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum. This spot showcases memorabilia and exhibits that pay homage to the Mother Road’s heyday.

As travelers continue towards the Mississippi River, they can revel in the charm of small towns. Check out Atlanta, with its giant Paul Bunyan statue, and Lincoln, home to the iconic Railsplitter Covered Wagon. Illinois offers a delightful mix of urban excitement and small-town nostalgia, making it a must-visit destination for any Route 66 enthusiast.

2. Missouri

map of missouri

Route 66 spans around 317 miles in the state of Missouri.

©Alexander Lukatskiy/

Route 66 stretches across the state of Missouri, encompassing approximately 300 miles of captivating scenery and historic attractions. Beginning in St. Louis, travelers can explore the famous Gateway Arch, visit the City Museum, and indulge in delicious barbecue. As the route ventures west, it passes through the charming town of Cuba. This town is known for its vibrant murals and historic Wagon Wheel Motel. Further along, the town of Lebanon offers the Route 66 Museum and Lebanon-Laclede County Library. This spot houses an impressive collection of Route 66 memorabilia.

Continuing westward, travelers can discover the captivating Meramec Caverns, an underground wonderland filled with stunning rock formations. The town of Carthage showcases its Victorian architecture and the beautiful Carthage Courthouse Square. As Route 66 approaches Kansas, Joplin offers an array of art galleries, museums, and a historic drive-in theatre. Missouri’s stretch of Route 66 is a memorable destination for road trip enthusiasts.

3. Kansas

welcome to Kansas, ad astra per aspera (to the stars through hardships) - handwriting on a sheet of rough handmade paper floating over vintage defocused map of Kansas, hospitality and travel concept

Route 66 briefly goes through the state of Kansas.


Route 66 briefly passes through the southeastern corner of Kansas, offering travelers a glimpse of its unique charm and attractions. Although Kansas only claims a small portion of the iconic highway, it still holds some noteworthy sights. As Route 66 enters Kansas near the town of Galena, visitors can explore the Galena Mining and Historical Museum. This museum showcases the region’s mining heritage. From there, the route continues through the town of Baxter Springs. This small area is known for its historic downtown district and the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum.

Along the way, travelers can also admire the stunning countryside, with its rolling hills and picturesque farmlands. While Kansas may have a shorter stretch of Route 66 compared to other states, it still offers tourists a lot. It’s certainly a worthwhile stop.

4. Oklahoma

Oklahoma on the map of USA

Route 66 crosses around 400 miles of the state of Oklahoma.

©Alexander Lukatskiy/

Route 66 spans approximately 400 miles across the state of Oklahoma, offering travelers diverse landscapes and intriguing attractions. As the route enters Oklahoma from Kansas, it passes through the town of Miami. Visit this area’s historic Coleman Theatre and the Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum. Further along, travelers can explore the vibrant city of Tulsa, home to stunning Art Deco architecture. See this gorgeous style in the Philcade Building, the historic Blue Dome District, and the popular Cain’s Ballroom.

Continuing west, the route takes road trippers through Oklahoma City. Attractions such as the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Myriad Botanical Gardens, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum await. As Route 66 ventures southwest, it passes through Clinton, Elk City, and Sayre. Travelers can soak up the nostalgic atmosphere and visit attractions like the Route 66 Museum and the Beckham County Courthouse. Oklahoma’s stretch of Route 66 is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty.

5. Texas

Texas State on the map

Route 66 crosses the Texas Panhandle.

©Alexander Lukatskiy/

Route 66 stretches across the Texas Panhandle, running westward in parallel to I-40. The journey along this historic highway offers a serene and solitary experience. The landscape is adorned by weathered grain silos that protrude from the horizon and small towns nestled in remote locations. Be sure to visit the captivating Tower Station and U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, an architectural marvel showcasing art deco design.

In the town of Groom, capture memorable photos of the Leaning Water Tower before continuing your westward adventure toward Amarillo. Here, the famous Cadillac Ranch awaits, featuring 10 vintage Caddies artistically buried nose-deep in a field. For a delightful break, indulge in a slice of pie at the MidPoint Café in Adrian, which marks the halfway point of this remarkable road trip and is an essential experience for all travelers.

6. New Mexico

New Mexico map close up with magnifier

Route 66 passes through the heart of Mexico.


Route 66 winds its way through the heart of New Mexico, offering a diverse array of attractions and stunning scenery. As the route enters the state, it passes through the vibrant city of Albuquerque. Here, visitors can explore the historic Old Town, ride the Sandia Peak Tramway, and visit the fascinating Albuquerque Museum. Continuing west, travelers can venture through the mesmerizing landscapes of the New Mexico Desert, with its towering mesas and expansive vistas.

Along the way, attractions like the Acoma Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America, and the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, a historic landmark frequented by Hollywood stars, await exploration. The route also takes road trippers through the artistic town of Santa Fe, known for its adobe architecture, art galleries, and the iconic Palace of the Governors.

7. Arizona

Arizona on the map of USA

Arizona is one of eight states that Route 66 passes through.

©Alexander Lukatskiy/

Route 66 traverses through the stunning landscapes of Arizona, offering travelers a remarkable journey. As the route enters the state, it takes road trippers through the vibrant city of Flagstaff, where they’ll find the iconic Lowell Observatory and the stunning San Francisco Peaks. Continuing west, travelers can marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park, where ancient trees turned to stone create a surreal landscape.

The route also passes through the quirky town of Winslow, known for its “Standin’ on the Corner” Park, and the La Posada Hotel, a historic masterpiece. As Route 66 ventures further west, it leads to the vibrant city of Kingman, where the Arizona Route 66 Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the iconic highway. Finally, travelers can reach Oatman, known for its wild burros and old West charm. Arizona’s stretch of this famous route is a blend of natural wonders, cultural landmarks, and nostalgic charm.

8. California

California counties map isolated on dark background

California is one of eight states that Route 66 passes through.


Route 66 winds its way through the vibrant state of California, offering travelers an unforgettable journey filled with diverse attractions and picturesque scenery. As the route enters California, it passes through the town of Needles, known for its historic El Garces Hotel and the nearby Mojave Desert. Continuing west, travelers can explore Barstow, including attractions like the Mother Road Museum and the quirky Bottle Tree Ranch. The route then leads to the stunning landscapes of the San Bernardino Mountains, with their majestic peaks and scenic drives. As road trippers venture further west, they can embrace the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. Tourists should check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, and the Griffith Observatory.

Finally, the route concludes in Santa Monica, where travelers can dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean and bask in the vibrant beach culture. California’s stretch of this incredible route contains natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and urban excitement!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © gabriel12/

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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