Cruising Through History: California and Route 66

Roy's motel cafe in scottsdale, arizona: Cruising Through History on Route 66.

Route 66 is the classic American road trip, an adventure across the United States, spanning more than 2,400 miles from the bustling streets of Chicago, Illinois, to the golden sands of Santa Monica, California. The final leg of this journey, through the beautiful state of California, holds a special place in the hearts of travelers and history enthusiasts alike. 

California’s Share of the Mother Road 

Route 66 crosses into California from Arizona, across the Colorado River, and stretches for approximately 315 miles through the Golden State. This portion of the route encompasses a vast array of scenery, from the arid Mojave Desert to the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, before ending at the Santa Monica Pier. 

The Mojave Desert 

Entering California, Route 66 travelers are greeted by the vast and seemingly endless expanse of the Mojave Desert. This arid region is home to unique flora and fauna, such as the Joshua tree and the desert tortoise. The road through the Mojave is dotted with small towns and quirky roadside attractions that have become synonymous with the Route 66 experience. 

San Bernardino Mountains 

After crossing the desert, the route climbs into the San Bernardino Mountains, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The town of San Bernardino marks the gateway to the Greater Los Angeles area and is a significant landmark along Route 66: It’s home to the first McDonald’s restaurant. 

Los Angeles 

The journey through Los Angeles is a stark contrast to the solitude of the desert. The route winds through the city, passing through neighborhoods including Pasadena, Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles. Travelers can explore the rich cultural heritage of the city, from the historic theaters on Hollywood Boulevard to the art deco architecture downtown. 

Santa Monica 

The final destination on Route 66 is the Santa Monica Pier, where the road officially ends. The pier is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, offering incredible Pacific Ocean views and a variety of attractions, including an amusement park, aquarium, and numerous restaurants and shops. It is the perfect place to relax and reflect on the journey along the Mother Road. 

The Golden State: A Closer Look 

California is not just the final stop on Route 66, but a destination in itself. With a diverse landscape that includes towering mountains, dense forests, fertile valleys and a stunning coastline, it has no shortage of natural beauty to explore. The state is also home to some of the country’s most vibrant and diverse cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. 

California is a hub for innovation and creativity, home to Silicon Valley, the global center for technology and innovation; and Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world. The state’s rich history, from the Gold Rush to the Civil Rights Movement, is preserved in its numerous museums, historic sites and cultural landmarks.