Travel on Route 66 from Amarillo to Santa Fe

 

Greetings from Amarillo Texas ... the start of our road trip on Route 66!Greetings from Amarillo Texas ... the start of our road trip on Route 66!

We've had the opportunity to get out on the road and explore Route 66 numerous times in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Included in this road trip are some of our favorite places and scenes along the Mother Road from Amarillo, Texas, westward through Vega, Adrian, Tucumcari, Cuervo, Santa Rosa and on to Santa Fe.

We have traveled this route multiple times over the years, both eastbound and westbound. Some of the journey is on I-40, which parallels the old Route 66 in most places.

Greetings from Amarillo Texas ... the start of our road trip on Route 66!The Historic 6th Street district in Amarillo Texas ... on Route 66

We drive the segments of the Mother Road where it still remains. Exits to Route 66 are marked in most locales.

Driving time today to travel the 280 miles from Amarillo to Santa Fe is about four hours via I-40 to Cline's Corners, and then north on U.S. 285. An alternate route is to take Exit 256 off I-40 onto U.S. 84 north after Santa Rosa; U.S. 84 then connects with I-25 to Santa Fe.

The Amarillo to Santa Fe trip could easily be stretched to two days or more, depending on the length of your stops, and your stopovers at night.

Map showing towns along the U.S. Route 66 from Amarillo to Santa Rosa
Map showing towns along the U.S. Route 66 from Amarillo to Santa Rosa

Our First Stop: The Cadillac Ranch

The Cadillac RV Park just went of Amarillo, Texas on I-40The Cadillac RV Park on I-40 west of Amarillo

As one heads out from Amarillo today on I-40, the Cadillac Ranch comes into view quickly, on the south side of the road. Access is via a fence gate on the south service road.

This folk art site of ten Cadillacs is the work of financier Stanley Marsh.

It was created in 1974 and consists of what were old or junked Cadillac automobiles, many sporting those classic tail fins.

The cars are half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Access is from the service road on the south side of the interstate. Park, cross over the fence gate, and walk across the field ... free admission!

Graffiti is allowed as you will quickly learn!

If you are traveling in a recreational vehicle or trailer, the Cadillac RV Park is located nearby, at the intersection of I-40 and Hope Road. A bit further west is the Oasis RV Resort.

The Cadillac Ranch ... classic, half-buried Cadillacs!
The Cadillac Ranch ... classic, half-buried Cadillacs! West of Amarillo Texas on I-40

 

 

Still in Texas: Stops at the Towns of Vega and Adrian

Welcome to Adrian, Texas ... the midpoint of Historic Route 66Welcome to Adrian, Texas ... the midpoint of Historic Route 66

It is only about 50 miles from Amarillo to the New Mexico border, with the Old 66 Road passing through the small towns of Vega and Adrian.

The highway is flat and straight as it leaves Amarillo, but soon crosses suddenly into desert-like hill country.

Vega is the larger of the two towns, with some dining and lodging options as well as a Pilot Travel Center.

Adrian was the mid-way point on Route 66 - 1,139 miles to Chicago, 1,139 miles to Los Angeles. Today, Adrian is a quiet place, the location of the famous Texas Bar-B-Q shown below.

Texas Bar-B-Q at the mid-point of Route 66, in Adrian, Texas

The Ghost Town of Glenrio

Present day Exit 0 from I-40 to Glenrio, on the Texas - New Mexico borderPresent day Exit 0 from I-40 to Glenrio, on the Texas - New Mexico border

 

At the Texas - New Mexico state line, at Exit 0, is the ghost town of Glenrio, and a nicely designed and operated New Mexico Welcome Center.

"First Motel in Texas" and cafe in Glenrio, Texas on Historic Route 66
"First Motel in Texas" and cafe in Glenrio, Texas on Historic Route 66

Sitting directly on the border is the abandoned ghost town of Glenrio, which still has noticeable traces of Route 66 and the motels and restaurants that used to thrive there before the arrival of I-40. Just west of Glenrio, Route 66 bridges are still visible to the alert I-40 traveler.

Originally a railroad town, the village was renamed from Rock Island to Glenrio by the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1908 and began receiving motorists driving the Ozark Trail in 1917. Its original structures were adobe buildings.

Today it includes the Glenrio Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The old Route 66 then continued westward through San Jon, Tucumcari, Montoya, the ghost town of Cuervo and Santa Rosa.

Happy Motoring! Abandoned ESSO service station
at Glenrio, Texas on Historic Route 66
Happy Motoring! Abandoned ESSO service station at Glenrio, Texas on Historic Route 66

Abandoned building and car seen at Glenrio in Texas on US Route 66
Abandoned building and car seen at Glenrio in Texas on US Route 66

Glenrio, Texas sign on present-day I-40 Business Route
Glenrio, Texas sign at present-day I-40 Busines

Historic Route 66 right-of-way in Glenrio, Texas
Historic Route 66 right-of-way in Glenrio, Texas

 

 

Tucumcari Travel Highlights

Route 66 between Tucumcari, New Mexico, and Amarillo, TexasRoute 66 between Tucumcari, New Mexico, and Amarillo, Texas

Back on I-40, we drive 42 miles and arrive at Tucumcari with its variety of vintage motels and electric neon signage. One of the more famous hotels here is the Blue Swallow Motel.

For many years, Tucumcari has been a popular stop for cross-country travelers on Interstate 40 and previously Route 66. .

Old U.S. Route 66 runs through the heart of Tucumcari via Route 66 Boulevard. Numerous businesses, including gasoline service stations, restaurants and motels, were constructed to accommodate tourists as they traveled through on the Mother Road.

The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New MexicoThe Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico

A large number of the vintage motels and restaurants built in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s are still in business

Tucumcari hotels and traveler reviews at TripAdvisor

Town of Cuervo

As we leave Tucumcari, we head west again, for 41 miles. Cuervo, New Mexico is an old Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad town that today is mostly abandoned, although some residents still live there.

Most of the town is on the south side of I-40, between the interstate and the hills to the south. A variety of old buildings, houses and churches survive today.

The railroad siding was built in 1902 and named "Cuervo". The post office was opened that same year. A ghost town? Not quite, but close!

Scene from present-day Cuervo, New Mexico
Scene from present-day, mostly abandoned Cuervo, New Mexico

A Stopover in Santa Rosa

Route 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa, New MexicoRoute 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Only 18 more miles and we find ourselves in Santa Rosa.

When Route 66 passed through Santa Rosa in 1930, numerous service stations, cafés and motor courts were built to accommodate motorists traveling the Mother Road.

Today, visitors still see an assortment of buildings and signs that take one back to those glory days of Historic Route 66 in Santa Rosa. 

One of the popular local attractions is the Route 66 Auto Museum, which draws car buffs from all over the country and beyond. The museum houses a large collection of classics, low riders, muscle cars and motorcycles … plus, gas pumps and other auto memorabilia from the early days of Route 66.  

 


 

Sun 'n Sand Motel, Santa Rosa, New MexicoSun 'n Sand Motel, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Nearby Santa Rosa Lake State Park is the place to be for camping, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, swimming, hiking, biking and so much more!

The world famous Blue Hole offers all sorts of water-based sports, including diving, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Santa Rosa offers a variety of hotels, inns, RV parks and campsites for visitors to the area.      

Santa Rosa hotels, reservations and traveler reviews at TripAdvisor


Old Route 66 logo painted on pavement
Old Route 66 logo painted on pavement

Early Route 66 Alignment through Santa Fe

Approximately 507 miles long in 1926, the alignment of Route 66 in New Mexico was reduced to 399 miles by 1937. The longest sections of the initial alignment created a large "S curve" as the road stretched across the middle of the state.

Storefronts along East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New MexicoStorefronts along East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Aligning with U.S. 85, Route 66 followed the corridor of the old Santa Fe Trail and its successor, the Santa Fe Railroad, and passed through the villages of Tecolote, Bernal, San Jose, Rowe and Pecos. Skirting the tourist facilities at Pigeon’s Ranch, the highway climbed Glorieta Pass and descended the narrow defile at Cañoncito, where it diverged from the railroad alignment to veer toward Santa Fe.

Arriving in Santa Fe

Once in Santa Fe, Route 66 passed through the heart of downtown, along side the historic LaFonda on the Plaza Hotel. We have stayed multiple times at LaFonda and it has become our favorite lodging choice in Santa Fe!

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe. It served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was also near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro which carried trade from Mexico City.

Santa Fe remained on the original Route 66 until 1938 when the road was rerouted on a more direct route from Cline's Corners to Albuquerque.

Today, Santa Fe is located on Interstate Highway 25, about 65 miles northeast of Albuquerque. U.S. Highway 285 traverses with city in a north-south orientation. Santa Fe is the capitol city of New Mexico, and is positioned at 7,000 feet above sea level.

 

 

Panoramic view of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico
Panoramic view of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of the larger cities on Route 66 during its earlier alignments was Santa Fe. It passed through downtown near the historic LaFonda on the Plaza hotel, seen in the photo below.

LaFonda on the Plaza, on old Route 66, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico


Lodging Options Along Route 66 from Amarillo to Santa Fe

Hotels in Amarillo, Texas

Hotels in Tucumcari, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Click to review hotels and restaurants, read reviews and make reservations at TripAdvisor

 

Places to Stop Along I-40 Between Amarillo and Albuquerque

Need a break while driving on I-40 and Route 66? Stop at the very well done Glenrio Visitor Center operated at New Mexico DOT. The staff is friendly and knowledgable, and there is amble travel information, maps and brochures about New Mexico and Route 66 travel stops. Highly recommended!

Glenrio Visitor Center operated by New Mexico DOT

The famous Cline's Corners is located at the intersection of I-40 and U.S. 285, 68 miles east of Albuquerque. It offers gasoline, food, souvenirs, large clean restrooms and more! It's always worth a stop.

The famous Cline's Corners at the intersection of I-40 and U.S. 285 in New Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Interactive Map of Route 66 in New Mexico

Travel Reviews of the Segments of Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are the major segments ...

Route 66: The Mother Road - Introduction

Route 66: Chicago to Missouri

Route 66: Across Oklahoma to Amarillo

Route 66: Amarillo to Santa Fe

Route 66: Santa Fe to Gallup NM

Route 66: Gallup NM to Seligman AZ

Route 66: Seligman to Kingman AZ

Route 66: Kingman to Oatman AZ

Route 66: Needles to Santa Monica