How Long Does It Take To Drive Route 66 From Chicago To California?

Last Updated on May 31, 2023

Ever dreamed of hitting the open road and doing an all American road trip?  How about a trip down historic Route 66?!  Stretching 2448 miles across America, starting in Chicago, Illinois and finishing up in LA, California, taking in a total of 8 States.  But how long does it take to drive Route 66 from Chicago to California? This is my tried and tested 16 day Route 66 road trip Itinerary with side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas (so essentially stepping foot in 9 States!).  I include: the daily miles covered, travel time (with stops), must see roadside attractions, where to stay and where to eat!

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16 Day Route 66 Itinerary


🕐Duration: 14-16 Days

🗺Distance: 2864 Miles

🚙Total drive time: 85 Hours

📅Month of travel: July/Aug

🍽Where to eat: Pops, Arcadia OK

🏨Where to stay: Wigwam Motel, Holbrook AZ

🎡Don’t miss: Cadillac Ranch, TX or Sitgreaves Pass/Oatman HWY, AZ

How Long Does It Take To Drive Route 66 from Chicago to California?

Answering the question ‘How long does it take to drive Route 66 from Chicago to California?’ is like saying how long is a piece of string. There are hundreds of places you could stop and visit along the Route. You could technically take a month just to drive to Illinois stretch.

Hackberry General Store, Burma Shave Signs - Route 66

If you are looking at just driving across the country from Chicago to LA, following the rough direction of Route 66, I-40 is the closest option and a straight through drive according to Google Maps is 30 hours.  So if you just wanted to see the changing landscape then that’s just a day and a bit of driving!

However this would be doing Route 66 an injustice, you have to stick to the old route AS MUCH as possible. Our total drive time for our 16 day Route 66 road trip, including stops at roadside attractions along the way, restaurants etc was: 85 HOURS.

Devil's Elbow Bridge - Route 66

Cutting the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas off of that total, would only get rid of around 5 hours of driving, so we were still on the road for 80 Hours!

*The hourly total also doesn’t include the time we spent exploring on non driving days, such as while in Chicago, LA and the side trips.

I have split my Route 66 itinerary into the daily miles and driving time, so you can see how far we went each day.  You could potentially easily drive Route 66 within 2 weeks (14 days) if you don’t spend the extra days doing the side trips.

Sitgreaves Pass Schaffer Fish Bowl Spring Views Arizona Route 66

Most of our accommodation was booked in advance, for us we liked to know that we had somewhere to sleep without having to worry about trying to find somewhere with vacancies.  I think we would have been OK but if you want to stay at some of the more unique lodging options, it’s definitely advised to book those well in advance.

Time Zone Changes On Route 66

I recently saw someone ask exactly where on Route 66 that the time zone changes occur. The easiest guide is just to say it happens on the border as you cross from Texas into New Mexico (if you’re after a town to pinpoint, use Glenrio NM) and then again as you cross from Arizona into California (again use Needles CA as a location).

When travelling from East to West (Chicago TO LA), you’ll gain an extra hour at these time changes, yay more time to explore!  If travelling West to East then you’ll be losing an hour.  Arizona DOESN’T observe Day Light Savings, so this is something to keep in mind.

Route 66

Route 66 Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Chicago

Where we stayedComfort Suites O’Hare Airport

When it comes to Chicago, you’ve got a couple of options.  We decided to stay near the airport in a hotel with free parking, right next to the I-90, making it easy to start the drive.  We then travelled into the city for just one day of sight-seeing using the CTA train from the airport.  I wrote a whole post on Chicago tips for Route 66 travellers!

Day 2


Spend a day exploring the city where the route begins!

Highlights include:

Route 66 Chicago Start Sign

We actually picked up our rental car on day 2 which saved us a day’s rental fee.  We collected it from the O’Hare airport on our way back from our day in the city and then just drove it a little way down the road to our airport hotel.

Related reading: Where Does Route 66 Start And End? | A Guide To The Locations – USA

Day 3

Chicago, IL – St Louis, MO

🚙328 miles (12 hours)

In all honestly, this day was tough going, for the first day on the road, it was definitely a long one!  If we were to do it again, I would suggest stopping somewhere before St Louis. We got to the city so late we were only able to see the Gateway Arch from the outside and from further visits to St Louis, the City Museum is well worth a stop…if you have decent knees…

I’d have liked to have some time to explore Pontiac too.

Roadside attractions include:

  • Gemini Giant – Wilmington IL
  • 1932 Standard Station – Odell IL
  • (Pontiac IL – We ended up skipping Pontiac but I wish we had stopped there!)
  • The Bunyon Giant – Atlanta IL
  • Chain of Rocks Bridge – IL
  • Gateway Arch – St Louis, MO

Read more: Route 66 Chicago to St Louis – 9 Must See Stops in Illinois USA

Where to eat: Cozy Dog Drive In, Springfield IL (Lunch – The home of the Corn Dog!)

Where we stayedHampton Inn St Louis – At The Arch

Chain of Rocks Bridge Route 66

Day 4

St Louis, MO – Carthage, MO

🚙291 miles (8hrs 30)

Roadside attractions include:

  • ‘Mural City’ – Cuba MO
  • World’s Largest Rocking Chair – Fanning Outpost MO
  • Devil’s Elbow MO
  • Route 66 Drive In – Carthage, MO

Where we ate: Country Cafe, St Robert MO (Lunch)

Where we stayedDays Inn by Wyndham Carthage

Route 66 Drive In Theatre Carthage Missouri

Related ReadingRoute 66 Attractions: 8 States, 8 Roadside Stops

Day 5

Carthage, MO – Clinton, OK

🚙349 miles (11 hours)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Cars on the Route (formerly ‘4 Women on the Route) – Galena KS
  • Blue Whale – Catoosa, OK

Where we ate: Pops, Arcadia OK (Lunch – there are 400 different kinds of soda on offer and a giant 66ft tall soda bottle stands in the car park!)

Where we stayed: Super 8 by Wyndham Clinton

Route 66 The Blue Whale Oklahoma

Day 6

Clinton, OK – Amarillo, TX

🚙187 miles (7 hours)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Route 66 Museum – Clinton OK
  • Giant Route 66 sign at National Route 66 Museum – Elk City OK
  • Tower Conoco – Shamrock TX
  • 8 mile dirt option – McLean TX
  • Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo TX

Where we ate: Big Texan Steak House, Amarillo TX (Dinner – home of the 72oz steak challenge!)

Where we stayed: The Big Texan Motel

Cadillac Ranch Amarillo Texas Route 66

Day 7

Amarillo, TX – Albuquerque, NM

🚙297 miles (6hrs 30)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Route 66 Midpoint – Adrian TX
  • Route 66 Auto Museum – Santa Rosa NM
  • Sandia Peak Tramway – Albuquerque, NM

Where we ate: The Midpoint Cafe, Adrian TX (Breakfast – half way between Chicago and LA!)

Where we stayed: Sandia Peak Inn

Route 66 Midpoint Cafe Adrian Texas

Day 8

Albuquerque, NM – Holbrook, AZ

🚙306 miles (10 hours)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Sky City – Acoma NM
  • Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National Park –  near Holbrook AZ

Where we ate: Joe and Aggies Cafe, Holbrook AZ (Dinner)

Where we stayed: Wigwam Motel

Route 66 Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona

Day 9

Holbrook, AZ – Grand Canyon, AZ

🚙199 miles (7hrs 15)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Jack Rabbit Trading Post – Joseph City AZ
  • Meteor Crater – Meteor City AZ

Where we ate: Joe and Aggies Cafe, Holbrook AZ (Breakfast)

Where we stayed: Yavapai Lodge

We didn’t skip any of Route 66 by going to the Grand Canyon.  From Williams it’s around an hour to the Grand Canyon and after our stay, we rejoined the Route back at Williams.

Route 66 Here Is It Jack Rabbit Trading Post Joseph City Arizona

Day 10

Grand Canyon

Highlights include:

  • Bright Angel Trail Head
  • Yavapai Point

Day 11

Grand Canyon, AZ – Las Vegas, NV

🚙292 miles (7hrs 50)

Roadside attractions include:

  • Seligan AZ
  • Hackberry General Stores – Hackberry AZ (featured image)
  • STRAT Tower – Las Vegas NV
  • Fremont Street Experience – Las Vegas NV

Where we ate: Harley Davidson Cafe, Las Vegas NV (Dinner – they have the largest USA flag made out of chainlink!)

Where we stayed: The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Sky Pod

Fremont Street Las Vegas

Again, as mentioned above, from the Grand Canyon we joined Route 66 back at Williams and from Kingman we followed the I-93 to and from Las Vegas…make sure if you detour you go BACK to Kingman, don’t take the I-95 to the other side of Needles!!

Day 12

Las Vegas

Highlights include: Hotel hopping!

  • Gondola Ride at the Venetian
  • Rollercoaster at New York New York
  • The Fountains of Bellagio.

If you don’t like gambling, here are some ideas for you! Are You Brave Enough For These Top Las Vegas Thrill Rides?!

Things to do in Las Vegas
The Fountains of Bellagio, Insanity at the Stratosphere Tower, The Canal in The Venetian

Day 13

Las Vegas, NV – Barstow, CA

🚙338 miles (9hrs 15)

Roadside attractions include:

  • ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign – Las Vegas NV
  • Oatman Highway AZ
  • Burros (Donkeys) in Oatman AZ

Where we stayed: Route 66 Motel

Wild Burros in Oatman Arizona Route 66

Day 14

Barstow, CA – Los Angeles, CA

🚙166 miles (6 hours)

Highlights include:

  • Bottle Tree Ranch – Helendale CA
  • Route 66 End sign – Los Angeles CA

Where to eat: Bubba Gumps Shrimp Restaurant, Los Angeles CA

Where to stay: Gateway Hotel Santa Monica

Bottle Tree Ranch Helendale California Route 66

Day 15

Los Angeles

Highlights include:

Hollywood Sign Hike

Day 16


Because of the side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, the entire road trip was a total of 2864 miles!  If these 2 stops were cut out, as said, the route could easily be driven in 2 weeks if you’re willing to compromise on certain attractions!

Some people say that you shouldn’t rush the route and if you don’t have the time to do the whole route at a leisurely pace, then you should cut it up into chunks.  Part of the fun though is completing the WHOLE route in one go!  It’d be like running a marathon and giving up half way and doing the 2nd half at another time!  I wouldn’t change our trip for anything.  If you have any questions or want to share your favourite parts of the route, feel free to leave a message in the comments!

Route 66 End of the Trail sign Santa Monica Pier LA


✈️Search for flights with Google Flights

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🎒Pack these essentials: USB Car Charger Cigarette Lighter Socket and TSA Combination Padlocks

📚Read this: Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers is a ridiculously helpful guide book that gives turn by turn directions, must see attractions and information about the history of the route.  You can read my full review of the guide book HERE.

Find all my Route 66 posts here.

Have you taken this classic US road trip? How long did it take you to drive Route 66?

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Route 66 Itinerary

8 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Drive Route 66 From Chicago To California?

  1. OK, I live in Chicago and haven’t been to the Route 66 sign…will have to find that before I move this summer!

    1. It’s literally just up the street that’s opposite the art museum in Millennium park…not even a block up! I’ve been back since and it’s now covered in stickers, looks kinda cool!

  2. Since you diverted to Las Vegas instead of the old highway between Arizona and Barstow, CA, recommend next trip that you side trip to Lake Havasu City, I-40 Arizona Exit 9 then 19 miles south. Full amenities and you can drive over the London Bridge. (Note: We have a home in Havasu) Also, recommend the old road National Trails Highway through the desert to Barstow. Take plenty of water and avoid peak summer heat if possible. Thanks for an interesting blog.

  3. Thank you sooooo much for all of this great info. I know it must have taken a lot of time to do this and you did a wonderful job. I hope to do the same trip this year but will skip Las Vegas and Grand Canyon since I have been to both several times.

    In trying to put a trip together, I am using Google Maps, Mapquest, GPS and any other directional aid I can find (I get lost easily). Do you have a map showing the exact route you took or a list of all of the towns you went through?

    Thanks again,

  4. I just ordered the book but am going to wait for warmer weather before I start the trip. Thanks again. You have been a tremendous help.

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