Known as the Main Street of America, Will Rogers Highway and the Mother Road, Route 66 was one of the original routes in the United States’ highway system and one of the most famous roads in the country. Since it was established in 1926, it’s earned a place in popular culture with the song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” by Bobby Troup, a TV series in the 1960s and as a key symbol in the novel “Grapes of Wrath.”
At one time, it was a main east-west route across the heart of the country, a ribbon of highway uniting urban and rural communities as it stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles. Attractions along the way gave Route 66 its own roadside culture and became well-known landmarks for tourists who were exploring the American West by car.
But as the United States changed after World War II, Route 66 and other highways of the time became outdated as the auto industry grew along with Americans’ aspirations. When the U.S. interstate highway system came along, Route 66’s demise from its glory days soon followed. The road was bypassed or replaced over the decades and officially decommissioned in June 1985.
In July 2018, a campaign to preserve the historic Main Street of America hit the road. Starting in Chicago and ending Aug. 3 in Los Angeles with stops along the route, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announcement says its month-long road trip is a push for Historic Route 66 to be designated as a National Historic Trail.
Some of the original route remains, and here’s some of what you’ll see. For a list of sites and itineraries from the National Park Service, click here.
The Route 66 badge on a lonely stretch of road.
A house decays in a ghost town that once was a railway stop along historic Route 66, which runs through Mojave Trails National Monument, are seen at night on August 28, 2017 in Ludlow, California.
The ruins of Amboy School are seen in Amboy along historic Route 66 at Mojave Trails National Monument on August 27, 2017 near Essex, California.
A freight train passes the old church in Amboy along historic Route 66 at Mojave Trails National Monument on August 27, 2017 near Essex, California.
Motorcyclists ride through Amboy on historic Route 66 on August 27, 2017 near Essex, California.
The ruins of an auto repair garage on historic Route 66 are seen at night on August 26, 2017 in Ludlow, California.
The office of the Wigwam Motel along Route 66 in San Bernardino.
The Wigwam Motel, built in 1949 on old Route 66, consists of teepee-shaped individual rooms in Rialto, California.
A poolside at the Wigwam Motel along Route 66 through San Bernardino.
Pictured, the Route 66 “map” from the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.
Pictured here, Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman, Arizona.
An abandoned house on Route 66 in a vast stretch of desert.
Route 66 carries little traffic on June 16, 2007 east of Daggett, California.
The Roy’s Motel & Cafe sign in Amboy along Route 66.
Old motel cabins at Roy’s in Amboy.
An abandoned house on Route 66.
A bench with the Route 66 badge.
A Route 66 map displays the historic road’s route in a window.
The Summit Inn sign, taken a few months before it was destroyed by fire. The Inn at the summit of the Cajon Pass was destroyed by the Blue Cut fire in August 2016.
Taking it easy in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see along Route 66.
It looks like a grave marker in the grass, but this is actually a milepost in Pasadena. It’s based on the Bancroft system, which helped drivers locate homes, businesses, property boundaries and postal delivery addresses. The circled 11 tells you you’re 11 miles from the system’s locus in Pasadena at the old LA County Courthouse. The block numbers below it represent how far the driver is along Mile 11.
A view of Route 66.
A view of Route 66 near Dagett.
Pedestrians cross Jackson Boulevard at the intersection of Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
A gate blocks off a closed section outside Lexington, Illinois.
The Castle Car Wash building, constructed in 1925, sits empty and decaying along Ogden Avenue in Chicago. This stretch of Ogden on Chicago’s Westside is part of the historic U.S. Route 66.
A rusting truck is parked by an old drive-inn restaurant along historic U.S. Route 66 in Lexington.
The iconic Route 66 sign appears on the road.
A sign marks the end of U.S. Route 66 on Jackson Boulevard near the intersection of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Route 66 opened in 1926 stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles and became a western migration route for people looking for work during the great depression of the 1930’s or to escape the Dust Bowl disaster.
A symbol based on the original Route 66 road signs is seen painted on the highway in Daggett, California.
The Skyline Motel along the historic U.S. Route 66 sits across from an electrical transmission station in McCook, Illinois.
A sign offers for sale the Wishing Well Motel along historic U.S. Route 66 June 12, 2007 in Countryside, Illinois. The motel was built in 1941 as 10 separate cabins and was later converted to a single building.
A sign declares an old section of historic U.S. Route 66 closed near Dwight, Illinois.
A car passes “Gemini Giant,” a fiberglass spaceman which marks the location of the Launching Pad restaurant along historic U.S. Route 66 June 12, 2007 in Wilmington, Illinois. The restaurant has been serving travelers along the road since the 1960s.
A weed grows through a crack in a closed section of the road.
A statue of Elvis strikes a pose as a nearby McDonalds restaurant is reflected in the window outside the Polk-A-Dot diner in Braidwood, Illinois. The restaurant has been serving travelers along the road since 1956.
A traveler passes by new and old power lines near Dwight, Illinois.
Patrons wait in line for ice cream at the Rich & Creamy stand in Joliet, Illinois.
A sign marks the route through Joliet, Illinois.
An old corn crib stands above a stretch near Odell, Illinois.
New housing and shopping mall developers use new Route 66 signs as a marketing theme along old Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Although collectors of bottles and other items found in the desert have all but gone by the wayside, Elmer Long carries on the tradition with his continual creation of a forest of bottle trees near Oro Grande, California.
An old gas station, now a mechanic’s shop, in Joliet, Illinois.
A car passes a burned out building near Oro Grande, California.
New housing and shopping mall developers use new Route 66 signs as a marketing theme in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
A cat walks past a Route 66 signs at the El Rancho Motel, once a major Route 66 landmark.
The El Rey Motel is still open for business on old Route 66 in Rialto.
Aging hotels, many used by long-term residents, are seen along old Route 66 in Barstow.
The El Rancho Motel in Barstow.
Shopping carts accumulate in the parking lot of a hotel in Barstow.
A truck passes an abandoned gas station near Oro Grande.
Night comes to the El Rancho Motel.
The sign on the El Rancho restaurant.
A construction worker works near a new Route 66 sign used by the new home developer as an ironic marketing theme on old Route 66.
A cafe stands destroyed along old Route 66 on June 16, 2007 in Ludlow, California.
The old Daggett Garage is seen on June 16, 2007 in Daggett, California.
Buildings rot in a ghost town that was established in the 1880s on June 16, 2007 in Ludlow, California.
Gas pumps are stored in a damaged garage along old Route 66 on June 16, 2007 in Ludlow, California.
An old house stands on June 16, 2007 in Daggett, California.
A pile of broken rubble is all that remains of a section of the El Rancho Motel, once a major Route 66 landmark, that burned in an arson fire on June 15, 2007 in Barstow, California.
A colorful sunset takes place over the El Rancho Motel, once a major Route 66 landmark but now in a state of decline, on June 15, 2007 in Barstow, California.
Damage is seen in the old California Inspection Station mentioned in John Steinbeck’s 1930 book The Grapes of Wrath and used from 1930 to 1953, on June 16, 2007 east of Daggett, California.
Although collectors of bottles and other items found in the desert have all but gone by the wayside, Elmer Long carries on the tradition with his continual creation of a forest of bottle trees on old Route 66 on June 15, 2007 near Oro Grande, California.
On Nov. 11, 2009, Santa Monica tourism officials and Route 66 enthusiasts unveiled an “End of the Trail” marker at the Santa Monica Pier.