It’s not just Americans who dream about driving out west on Route 66 in a vintage convertible with the top down and the wind in their hair, soaking up some of the United State’s most incredible scenery. Travelers from all over the world have thought about what it would be like to make the famous journey from Chicago to LA.
What was once a crucial representation of a prospering country has since been overshadowed by more modern highways, but for many people, they want to take a trip back in time and drive the old Route 66. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show up on maps anymore, and some portions are not even drivable. Some people are keeping the spirit alive, though, like bloggers, travelers, and the people who operate the attractions and hotels along the way. Let’s take a look back at what made Route 66 so famous, where it is, and how much of the original you can still drive.
How Much of Route 66 Can You Drive?
There’s good news and bad news for those of you who are determined to drive the original Route 66. The bad news is that parts of it are no longer drivable. The good news is that about 85% of the route is still accessible with a standard automobile. The journey isn’t the most direct or linear option for traversing the country, but it will come with beautiful scenery and great adventure.
Many of the portions that are still available for driving have either been renamed or don’t show up on your average maps, so it’s not super easy to follow. Luckily, a few guidebooks have been created, and there are also quite a few blogs available to help those looking to tackle the itinerary.
Route 66’s Claim to Fame
Route 66, also known as America’s Highway, changed the country in more ways than one. It was once the country’s most direct way to get from the Midwest to the West Coast. From 1926 until 1985, the highway bridged the divide between the large cities on the country’s eastern half and the rural west. It contributed to the huge socio-economic growth of the time period.
Millions of motorists would cruise along Route 66 for years until it could no longer handle the traffic. As highway planners built larger, more direct routes, it, unfortunately, became obsolete.
Since it officially lost its designation in 1985, the spirit of America’s Highway has lived on through its strong presence in pop culture. Movies, songs, TV shows, and poems have all been written about Route 66, carrying on people’s fascination with the highway to today’s generations.
Where Does Route 66 Start and End?
It is generally accepted that Route 66 starts in Downtown Chicago and ends in LA at the Santa Monica Pier, though the Santa Monica Pier was never the true end of the road.
Of course, a road goes both ways, so technically, where it starts is up to you. On top of that, if you don’t have enough time for the entire highway, you can always pick a certain stretch of Route 66 for a sample-sized bite of the trip.
How Long Is Route 66?
Route 66 spans eight states and reaches across more than half of the country, so it’s a long stretch! The original was 2,448 miles from end to end. As it’s evolved over the years, it has become a bit shorter. It’s recognized now as being 2,278 miles long.
Driving the route now can be done in about eight days if you drive all day without making stops at the local attractions. To fully enjoy your journey, you need about two weeks or more. That way, you can stop along the way at the many marvels Route 66 passes by.
What is the Longest Continuous Section of Route 66?
The longest continuous section of the original Route 66 is located in Arizona and is 158 miles in length. It stretches from the Colorado River in the west to Ash Fork in the east. This section of Route 66 inspired the Arizona portion of the novel Grapes of Wrath and is twisty, narrow, and the home to some fantastic views.
Resources For Driving The Original Route 66
One popular guide is Route 66: EZ66 Guide For Travelers [affiliate link] by Jerry McClanahan. It’s been updated as recently as 2019 and offers easy-to-follow maps whether you’re heading east or west. It also includes tips for travelers, attractions along the way, and even some games to play. If there was one Route 66 guide to get, this is it.
Another excellent resource for people intending to cruise along America’s Highway is the Driving Route 66 blog. They have a trip planner to help you find hotels, motels, and attractions along the way, plus they have Route 66 maps broken up into states.
Route 66: A Unique Trip Back In Time
Driving Route 66 is the perfect adventure for travelers of all types – history buffs, families, van lifers, you name it! The highway passes by so many fun, unique attractions and offers so much of our country’s history. Driving the original Route 66 will leave you with once-in-a-lifetime memories. The open road is calling!