Are you ready to get your kicks at Route 66 national parks? In this article, we reveal the easiest national parks to get to from the historical highway. You can enjoy a piece of American history and its beautiful landscapes all in one road trip.
Keep reading to learn more about Route 66 and which states it runs through. We’ll also take a closer look at 15 national parks you can visit without straying too far off the route.
Buckle up and let’s go!
What Is Route 66?
Route 66 was the first highway to go from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles. It went through eight states and across three time zones.
The route was established in 1926 and changed how Americans drove. People could now seamlessly access small towns and various landscapes across the country. It became a symbol of freedom and individualism. Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985. But noticing its significance, it was designated an All-American Road in 1999.
You can now travel portions of the original route, follow its general direction, and stop at the various Route 66 attractions along the way. Some are quirky, and they’re all fun and historical.
It’s the quirkiness that drew people to Route 66 in the first place. For example, stopping off at the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, is something you won’t forget.
Is Route 66 Part of the National Park System?
While Route 66 isn’t part of the national park system, there are more than 25 buildings, bridges, and other sites along the route on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service (NPS) dedicates itself to sharing the history and significance of Route 66 through its Share Our Heritage Travel Itinerary series.
National park sites can include national battlefields, military sites, historical sites, lakeshores, seashores, memorials, monuments, preserves, and more. Since there are over 420 national park sites in the US, it’s no wonder that Route 66 goes by a few of them!
What States Does Route 66 Go Through?
Route 66 goes through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Each state offers a variety of ways to interact with Route 66. From historical diners to statues, museums, and more. You can experience a lot of the original attractions and gain souvenirs along the way.
Pro Tip: Before you start cruising down Route 66, make sure you know these 5 Old Roadtrip Rules That Still Apply Today.
15 Route 66 National Parks to Visit
There are 15 Route 66 national park sites that we recommend. Each is within an easy driving distance from the famous highway. You might want to make a special Historic Route 66 road trip by visiting as many of the national parks sites on this list as you can.
Pullman National Monument
Address: 610 E 111th St, Chicago, IL 60628
Distance from Route 66: 15 miles from the beginning of Route 66 in downtown Chicago.
About: President Barack Obama designated the Pullman National Monument in 2015. It’s a symbol of the industrial community of Pullman that influenced urban planning and design. The visitor’s center is in a beautiful clock tower building. You can learn about the history of the community here and its significance in American history.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Address: 426 S 7th St, Springfield, IL 62701
Distance from Route 66: Only a few minutes from Historic Route 66 in Springfield, Ill.
About: The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is the original home of President Abraham Lincoln. Built in 1839, it was the first and only home he owned. Today, you can get a guided tour of the historic site.
Gateway Arch National Park
Address: Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut Streets, St. Louis, MO 63102
Distance from Route 66: The national park is 5 miles from Route 66.
About: Gateway Arch National Park is the symbol of St. Louis. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson for his role in opening the west to pioneers and to Dred Scott, who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse. The arch, a 630-foot stainless steel structure, was completed in 1965. You can ride up into the arch for sweeping views of the city. You can also visit the courthouse.
Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site
Address: 7400 Grant Rd, St. Louis, MO 63123
Distance from Route 66: The historic site is 2 miles from Historic Route 66.
About: The Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site is where the Civil War general and 18th President of the United States lived from 1854 to 1859. You can tour the site and learn from displays about the Grants and the family and enslaved African-Americans who lived on the property.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Address: 6424 W Farm Rd 182, Republic, MO 65738
Distance from Route 66: The battlefield site is about 15 miles from Route 66.
About: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is where soldiers fought the first major Civil War battle. The south claimed victory of this battle in 1861. You can see an orientation video in the visitor’s center before touring the site. Additionally, there are audio-visual displays to learn more.
Oklahoma City National Memorial
Address: 301 NW 6th St, #305, Oklahoma City, OK 73102-0676
Distance from Route 66: The memorial is about 4.5 miles from Route 66.
About: The Oklahoma City National Memorial is a place of reflection to honor victims, survivors, and rescuers of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It is in the place where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was. You can visit to pay your respects and remember an event that significantly impacted the country.
Petroglyph National Monument
Address: Unser Blvd NW at Western Trail, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Distance from Route 66: The national monument is about 3 miles from Route 66.
About: The Petroglyph National Monument gives you the opportunity to see designs and symbols carved into volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers. The petroglyphs are 400 to 700 years old. You can hike throughout the area, and a visitor’s center is nearby for information.
El Malpais National Monument
Address: 1900 E Santa Fe Ave, Grants, NM 87020
Distance from Route 66: The monument is right off I-40, which is old Route 66.
About: El Malpais National Monument is an area of geological formations such as lava flows, cinder cones, lava tube caves, and sandstone bluffs. You can walk among the landscape and also participate in ranger-led programs. The national monument has been home to Native Americans for centuries.
El Morro National Monument
Address: Mile Marker 44.6 Hwy 53, Ramah, NM 87321
Distance from Route 66: El Morro is about 43 miles off I-40.
About: El Morro National Monument is home to beautiful rock formations, clear skies, and petroglyphs. People have used the sandstone cliff as a shaded camping spot for centuries. And they left symbols, names, and dates carved in the stone. You can hike on one of the two trails at the monument.
Petrified Forest National Park
Address: Exit 311 Interstate 40, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028
Distance from Route 66: The national park is right off from I-40, old Route 66.
About: Petrified Forest National Park has easy trails for walking and beautiful landscapes. The park represents more than 13,000 years of humanity and culture. You’ll find information about prehistorical groups all the way to Route 66 motorists here.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Address: 3 Walnut Canyon Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Distance from Route 66: Walnut Canyon is right off I-40 in Flagstaff.
About: Walnut Canyon National Monument is a geological wonder with 25 cliff dwellings. You can walk around them on a one-mile long trail. The national monument was established in 1915 to preserve the dwellings across 3,600 acres.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Address: 6082 Sunset Crater Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Distance from Route 66: The national monument is about 20 miles north of I-40 in Flagstaff, Arizona.
About: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is where a volcano erupted a thousand years ago. You can visit to see the lava rock. The geological formations were protected in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover.
Grand Canyon National Park
Address: 20 South Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
Distance from Route 66: The Grand Canyon is 55 miles north of I-40.
About: Grand Canyon National Park is likely the most famous national park on this list. With years of exploration for thousands of years, it became a national park in 1919. When you visit, there are numerous hiking trails, including the canyon. One of the most popular hikes is hiking the rim trail to get epic views of the other-worldly canyon.
Pro Tip: Use our guide on How to Plan an Epic RV Trip to the Grand Canyon to ensure your trip is a success.
Mojave National Preserve
Address: 90942 Kelso-Cima Rd, Kelso, CA 92309
Distance from Route 66: The preserve is just north of I-40 once you cross the border into California.
About: Mojave National Preserve is a desert with diverse ecosystems and wildlife, including tortoises. You can explore the desert landscape via a four-wheel drive, hiking, biking, or horseback riding. There are also camping opportunities and backcountry backpacking.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Address: 26876 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, CA 91302
Distance from Route 66: The recreation area is approximately 22 miles north of Santa Monica, where Route 66 ends.
About: The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is at the end of the Route 66 trail. The recreation area has more than 500 miles of trails to explore the beautiful land. Mountains, foliage, and wildlife are plentiful here. People come to the area for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, horseback riding, and camping.
Does Route 66 Go Through Any State Parks?
While Route 66 doesn’t go straight through any state parks, some get close. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is about 25 miles south of I-40 in Amarillo, Texas. It’s a beautiful park and the country’s second-largest canyon. You can hike and camp here in this beautiful red-rock valley carved into the unassuming Texas panhandle.
Another state park that isn’t too far off the route is Onondaga Cave State Park in Missouri. You can explore caves or go on a canoe ride.
Get Your Kicks at These Route 66 National Parks
We hope you plan an adventure to get your kicks at the Route 66 national parks on our list. You can check off one or more on a fun road trip with its share of history, majestic, and some quirkiness too. And, you can gather national park passport stamps along the way and souvenirs from landmark Route 66 stops.
Where will you stop first while cruising on Route 66? Tell us in the comments!
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