Looking up at a Historic Route 66 Sign in Needles California with palm trees in the background

Following Route 66 through California

Historic Route 66 through California takes travelers through every type of Southern California landscape there is. Following this classic road trip passes through the demanding Mojave Desert, over mountains and through lush inland valleys, to the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica.

Map of Route 66 through California - Road Trip USA

The old road, which survives intact almost all the way across the state, is marked for most of its 315 miles by signs declaring it Historic Route 66. Across the Mojave Desert the route is also marked as the National Old Trails Highway, its title before the national numbering system was put into effect in the late 1920s.

Route 66 markers painted on the road in front of the iconic Roy's Diner sign in Amboy, Cailfornia
Route 66 passing Roy’s Diner in Amboy, California © MichaelurmannDreamstime.com

Top Sights on Route 66 in California

Traveling the traditional road trip going heading west from Chicago, historic Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, a classic beach town that makes a good base for seeing the rest of the Los Angeles area. (Both Los Angeles and Santa Monica intersect with the other most popular Road Trip USA route: the epic Pacific Coast road trip.)

Route 66 passes through these notable stops in California:

  • Needles – The boyhood home of Charles Schulz
  • Old Route 66 Loop: Ludlow and Amboy – Easy detours include Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park
  • Mojave National Preserve – One of the driest places on the planet
  • Oro Grande – Featuring Bottle Tree Ranch, a quirky roadside attraction of mostly metal “trees”
  • San Bernardino – Featuring the First Original McDonalds Museum and for baseball fans the home of the Anaheim Angel’s farm club
  • San Gabriel Valley – Once full of orange groves and the site of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
  • Pasadena – Sights include the Rose Bowl Stadium and some of the most important architecture in Southern California
  • Route 66 Across Los Angeles – Including California’s first freeway, Hollywood, and Sunset Boulevard
  • Santa Monica – The western terminus of historic Route 66

Travel Guides for Route 66 in California