Historic Route 66
State: New Mexico
Length: 1,408.6 mi / 2,266.9 km
Time to Allow: While the entire byway can be driven in under five days, plan several days to visit each state crossed to experience the area.
Route 66 is the quintessential scenic byway. Not only does this route have the distinction of an All-American Road, which is only given to scenic byways that exemplify a unique portion of American culture, but it also has become synonymous with 1950s Americana, as well as a highway where “anything goes.” This highway spans across Oklahoma, Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona, and is considered “The Mother Road,” due to its origins and its synonymity with the quintessential American road trip experience. If you can only visit one of the byways on this list, Historic Route 66 deserves that top slot. Not only does this road travel through countless small towns and scenic destinations, but the sheer length of it means that traveling from one end to the other of Route 66 can be several week trips, and can be broken up over multiple vacations, without you running out of things to do.
For most scenic byways, listing the scenic attractions that make up the route can be challenging due to the sheer amount of options presented. When it comes to Route 66, there’s a little bit (or a lot of) everything, allowing tourists and travelers of all walks of life to “get their kicks on Route 66,” as the song goes. Not only can motorists of all vehicles enjoy the scenic drives along winding roads, classic small towns, and incredible geological features that can be experienced from the comfort of your vehicle, but this motorway was made with the traveler in mind, allowing plenty of pit stops along the way. Because of the sheer size of this trail travelers can experience forests like the wooded foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico and the incredible shrublands of the southwest all in a single day.
Those coming to the area for cultural attractions will find no shortage of activities, from the incredible nostalgia of the 1950s diners and dives that helped create this stretch of road, to the Hispanic villages and traditional southwestern towns that marry the complex history of New Mexico together into a distinct quilt of cultural and historic aesthetics that will leave you in awe. Unlike modern highways, Route 66 revels in dead-ends and side streets, allowing you the freedom to go off the beaten path and explore your next favorite picnic area, diner, motel, or souvenir store. While having a written guide for the area can help you set waypoints along the way, part of the fun of exploring this All-American Road is letting the journey be the fun, and embracing the freedom to start, stop, or backtrack, however, the spirit takes you.
No matter what brings you to Route 66, this incredible highway is sure to live in your heart for decades to come and will shower you with new experiences and views each and every time you visit it. Whether you find yourself exploring a single mile of this incredible byway, or take on the week-long trek to drive the road all the way through, Historic Route 66 allows you to experience the timelessness of the great American road trip, no matter where you come from or when you take to the road.
More New Mexico Byways
You can check out additional Byways in New Mexico by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the New Mexico Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.