About New Mexico’s Route 66

Richardson's Store, Montoya, New Mexico

Richardson’s Store, Montoya, New Mexico

In Santa Rosa, travelers will find that Will Rogers Drive is the city’s four-mile stretch of Route 66. Stop in at Joseph’s Restaurant, built in 1956 for a little refreshment. There is also an earlier jog (circa 1930) past the renowned Blue Hole. Several smaller locally owned hotels along the main streets in Santa Rosa were also part of Route 66.

At Santa Rosa, you will need to make a decision as to whether to travel the pre-1937 or post-1937 alignment. The earlier alignment is more picturesque, taking you through numerous small towns through the Pecos River Valley northwest to Santa Fe, before dropping south to Albuquerque. However, the later alignment will save travelers time and miles, while also providing numerous views of the past.

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Las Vegas, New Mexico

By taking the earlier alignment, travelers can visit Las Vegas, a city with a boisterous history of the Old West, having been said as being more wicked than Dodge City, Kansas. From there, the old route follows the Santa Fe Trail through a number of small towns, passing the Pecos Pueblo, and on to the beautiful city of Santa Fe. Steeped in rich history, “must see” stops in Santa Fe include the New Mexico State Capital, the La Fonda Hotel, the Palace of Governors, and the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the United States. The road then moves south to the Santa Domingo Pueblo, Algodones, and Bernalillo To Albuquerque.

If taking the later alignment directly west from Santa Rosa, the first stop will be Cline’s Corners, where travelers can see an abundance of southwest souvenirs, from rattlesnake ashtrays to beaded belts, tomahawks, and Indian lore. For those that are hungry, try a taste of the home-cooked southwestern flavors served at this Route 66 icon.

On next to Moriarty where a 58-mile chunk of highway to Rio Puerco begins. Along New Mexico Highway 333, there stand the former Buford Courts, Blackie’s Restaurant, and the one-time Yucca, Cactus, Lariat and Sands Motels.

Central Avenue, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Central Avenue, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque, Central Avenue is an 18-mile stretch of old Route 66. When the realignment of Route 66 was completed in 1938, Central Avenue was already filled with motels. By 1955, there were more than 100 motels on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue and in the summer, it was hard to find an open room. You can still see many of these vintage icons such as the De Anza Motel, the Royal Motor Inn, the Town Lodge Motel, and the old Aztec Motel sign, all built in the 1930s. Also here is Nob Hill, built in 1936-47, and the Lobo Theater and Lobo Pharmacy & Bookstore (originally Barber’s El Rancho Market), also built in the 1930s.

Downtown, there are several buildings that were highlights during the 1940’s and 50’s era, including the Sunshine Building (built in 1923-24), the First National Bank Building (1922), the Rosenwald Building (1910), and the KiMo Theater (1927). Other sites west of Old Town include Lindy’s Restaurant (1929), Maisel’s (circa 1940), and the El Vado Motel (1937) — now closed. Continuing the journey, head north on I-25, take the Algodones exit and return south via NM Highway 313. Original Route 66 is now Fourth Street, Isleta Boulevard, and New Mexico Highway 314.

In Albuquerque is another choice to take the pre-1937 alignment or the later alignment of Route 66. The earlier route heads south past Sandia and Isleta Pueblo to Los Lunas, where travelers turn west onto Main Street, passing the Luna Mansion, built in 1881. From there, New Mexico Highway 6 continues along 33 miles of the historic highway through the Rio Puerco Valley to Correo. The later route travels directly to the Rio Puerco Bridge, beyond which to the alignments merge.

At Mesita, old 66 reappears as NM 124, slithering 25 miles through Laguna, New Laguna, Paraje, Budville, Cubero, and McCartys.

Route 66 in Grants, New Mexico

Route 66 in Grants, New Mexico

In Grants, the old Mother Road is called Santa Fe Avenue. Here you will find several vintage motels and restaurants. The original highway reemerges near Iyanbito as a 13-mile introduction to Gallup. Along the city’s nine-mile segment are Earl’s Restaurant, built in 1947, and the El Rancho Hotel, built in 1936 and home to some Hollywood stars during the time when Gallup was a Western film capital (from 1929-64.) You can also visit the one-time Drake Hotel (1919), the Santa Fe Railroad Depot (1923), the former White Cafe (1928), the Richardson’s Trading Post, the old Palace, the Rex Hotels (both circa 1900), and Virgie’s Restaurant. (1950).

You are about to enter the great state of Arizona as you continue along the final 16 miles of old 66.

Enjoy the ride!


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July 2018.

Also See:

Pre-1937 Alignment

Route 66 Through New Mexico

New Mexico Route 66 Photo Gallery

Route 66 Main Page

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