Road Trip: Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles

Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles is an iconic road trip route taking you through a world that has been left behind. This trip is worth putting on your bucket list. So rent an RV and start the drive!

9 minute read

Everything You Need to Know About Route 66

  • What is Route 66? Built-in 1926, the highway was the main road across a large part of the US. This lasted until interstates took over starting in the 1970s.
  • How many miles is it from Chicago to Los Angeles driving Route 66? It is 2448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.
  • How much of Route 66 can you still drive? You can still drive about 85% of this old highway.
  • When is the best time to drive Route 66? The best time to drive this route is from May to June or September to October. The local attractions are open but they aren’t packed with tourists.
  • How long does it take to drive Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles? If you do not want to stop and see the local attractions, you can drive this route in about 5 days.
  • Can I drive an RV on Route 66? Yes, highways are paved and there are campgrounds open for you to camp at.
blue map of Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles
Photo Credit:

Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles is an iconic road trip route taking you through a world that has been left behind. This trip is worth putting on your bucket list. So rent an RV and start the drive!

The Best Time to Drive Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles

The best time to drive Route 66 is late spring or early fall. The weather shouldn’t be extremely hot or cold, and tourist attractions have opened for the season.

Driving from Chicago to Los Angeles you will travel through the Ozarks in Missouri and Kansas, the plains of Oklahoma and Texas, to the Mohave Desert in Arizona and Nevada. Even though you are traveling in the southern US many of these states get snow and below-freezing temperatures in the winter. Avoiding driving in the winter will make sure that you do not encounter icy roads or snow in your motorhome.

If you decide to drive Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in the summer there are a few things to consider. The kids are out of school so there will be more traffic and more tourists about. Allow more time for driving as you may encounter slower vehicles. Also, think about making campground or motel reservations as places may book out during this time.

Route 66 sign painted on the highway between Chicago and Los Angeles

How Long Does it Take to Drive Route 66

The best advice I can offer on this is to take your time. Traveling Route 66 is the destination, so allow time to stop at the local shops and restaurants, take pictures and talk to the locals. In order to really experience your RV drive along Route 66, you will want to plan for no more than 250 miles per day. If you are short on time you can always just do a piece of this route this year and then rent another RV to finish the trip next year. Start in Chicago and meander your way through the old towns, when you start running low on time just jump on the interstate and beeline it to Los Angeles.

Places to Stop in Your RV on Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles

There are lots of places to stay along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. From old motels that look like they are right out of 1950 to campgrounds to stay at with your RV rental. Here is a list of campgrounds to stay at. There are also some free spots that you can stay with your RV rental if you are just looking for a place to sleep for a few hours. Truck stops are always a great place to stop, there is lots of parking and usually, a great restaurant to grab a quick meal in the morning. The drawback to truckstops is that they can be a little loud as the trucks come and go. Some supermarkets and box stores allow you to camp overnight. It is always best to check-in at the customer service desk to make sure this is allowed.

Chicago Illinois

Flying into Chicago from anywhere in the world is made easy because of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Flying in a couple of days before you pick up your RV rental allows you to get over your jetlag and see some of the sites that Chicago has to offer. Between Cloud Gate, Navy Pier, and the Lake Michigan shore line the windy city has loads to offer and is a great starting point to this great road trip. Historic Route 66 awaits. Next, pick up your Chicago RV rental, and let’s get “your kicks on Route 66”.

Did you know that there is a famous song called “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” written about Route 66? The original song was performed by Nat King Cole in 1946. In the 1950s when people starting packing their families into cars and motorhome and traveling out west, this song represented the spirit of movement and excitement. If you are going to travel Route 66 you have to listen to this song first. This version of the song is performed by Nat’s daughter Natalie Cole and Diana Krall.

Pontiac Illinois

Pontiac is home to the Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum. This free museum has done a fantastic job of preserving Iife surrounding this iconic highway. Housed in a historic fire hall, this museum has thousands of pieces of memorabilia from the glory days of the Mother Road.

Shield mural on side of Hall of Fame Museum
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Springfield Illinois

Route 66 signs are well marked heading from Chicago to Springfield. The Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln Home, and Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb can all be found downtown Springfield and is a great stop.

Meramec Caverns Missouri

Missouri holds one of the greatest of the old Route 66 tourist attractions – the Meramec Caverns. Guided tours of these extensive limestone caves are well worth the stop. Tours are just over an hour long and are all underground. Meramec Caverns are the rarest and largest cave formations in the world. Plan on making a day of this stop as you can also go ziplining, pan for gold, climb the rock wall and you can boat or float down the Meramec River.

Large cave formations

Tulsa Oklahoma

If museums are your thing, Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum hosts a vast art museum in an Italian style villa with exhibits from around the world surrounded by acres of lush gardens.

Amarillo Texas

Located right off the highway, the Cadillac Ranch is an art exhibit featuring 10 Cadillacs buried nose down in the ground, showing off their tail fins in an east to west alignment. Amarillo’s Route 66 Historic District includes 1 mile of art galleries, antique and collectible stores, restaurants, and bars all housed in historic buildings.

Cadillac buried nose down painted with graffiti art
Row of 10 Cadillac's buried nose down painted with graffiti art

Santa Rosa New Mexico

Route 66 Auto Museum is a must-stop for all car enthusiasts. For a small entrance fee, you can view over 30 perfectly restores automobiles including some motorcycles. This museum gives you the full experience of what it was like traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 during its heyday.

If you need to cool off make a stop at Blue Hole Santa Rosa. This swimming hole is one of the most popular dive spots in the US due to its crystal clear water. Blue Hole is always 62 degrees and the water refreshes itself every 6 hours.

crystal clear swimming hole
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Holbrook Arizona

Located a few miles outside of Holbrook is the Petrified Forest National Park. This park is home to trees that started their life cycle 225 million years ago. Here you can explore the paleo lab or explore the backcountry with a knowledgable guide. Visit the Navaho County Museum and check out one of Holbrook’s many gift stores.

Los Angeles California

And the last stop is Los Angeles. Drop off your RV rental at the Los Angeles rental location and you can head to the airport. Do you still have a few more days to spend in Los Angeles? Well, you are in luck, there is still so much to see and do. From Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm for the kids to the Griffith Observatory and Venice Beach. With so much do to in Los Angeles it is definitely the destination for next year’s RV rental vacation. Check out this article for Los Angeles – Local Attractions.

sunset on a warm sunny weather day in los angeles

Benefits of Traveling Route 66 in an RV

There is nothing like the feeling of being on the open road, the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, the only thing that makes this better is having your home on your back. Traveling in an RV can give you some extra freedom that traveling by car cannot.

Having your own kitchen makes it easy if you have any dietary restrictions or would just like to be able to each healthy. Having your own bed takes the worry out of having to find a hotel every night. If you like the thought of just being able to go at your own pace and not having to stick to a strict schedule then an RV may be for you. Yes, it is great to stay at campgrounds and enjoy all the amenities that they offer, but in an RV you always have the option to find a quiet spot to just park for the night. And if you are like me, there is nothing like having your own bathroom. I really like not having to stand in line to use gas station facilities or worse the dreaded outhouse.

Helpful Tips to Drive Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles

blue and white sign of Route 66 Chicago to Los Angeles
“Ultimate Route 66 Guide” App

One of the problems driving Route 66 is that there is very little signage guiding you through Route 66. Since the road was decommissioned in 1985 the government is no longer maintaining this road. Highway departments have removed many of the signs, and most GPS units do not recognize this route. Some cities have put up signs in an effort to help tourists navigate the trip. So planning this trip is especially important. A good guidebook like EZ 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan can be essential for your trip. If you would rather have technology tell you where to go instead of books and maps check out the “Ultimate Route 66 Guide” app available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Looking for more information on RV travel, check out Top Camping Destinations in Arizona

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