Route 66, also known as “The Mother Road”, is possibly the most famous road globally. The historic route spans more than 2,400 miles and starts in Chicago, Illinois and ends in Santa Monica, California at the Pacific Coast. Given the “66” designation in the year 1926, the route became one of the most well-travelled highways and brought people from all areas together. John Steinbeck referred to Route 66 as “The Mother Road, The Road of Flight” for people who would want to escape the ravages and dust bowls of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Later, it supported thousands of vacationing families from the Midwest to Disneyland or Grand Canyon. As many Americans started using the highway, roadside culture sprung up along Route 66 – tourist attractions, gas stations and motels. Even after its decommissioning in 1985, it has remained a popular route for tourists. If you are planning to travel along the route, here are the campsites to try.
1. Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln is among the USA’s presidents who have spent many days in the Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site situated in Illinois. Apart from being a popular campsite for people travelling along Route 66, the site is an educational area for adults as well as children. To reach the park, you will have to cover 18 miles from Route 66, but the effort is worth it. The available campsites are 200 and they are usually open between April and October. Walk in the old buildings to learn something new about the life of Abraham Lincoln and take pictures of the horses and bulls feeding in the pastures.
2. Onondaga Cave State Park, Missouri
If you have ever dreamt of spending your time in the United States’ “Cave State”, you can make the dream come true when travelling on Route 66. All you need to do is drive to Onondaga Cave State Park, situated around 7 miles from Bourbon, Missouri. The campsite has many spectacular sites below and above the ground, with many unique geological features. You can book for a guided tour at any time, between April and October, so that you can identify most of the impressive stalagmites that rise from the ground and the stalactites forming the cave ceilings. Do not expect to find animals in the caves.
3. Arcadia Lake, Oklahoma
Situated around 5 miles from the Route 66, Arcadia offers most of the features you would want to see when driving on the highway. You will get fishing, boating, biking, disc golf, water sports, and hiking opportunities. That means you will need to spend more than one night in the place. The campsite offers fire pits and picnic tables for travellers. Take a walk to the beautiful lake if you want to find many sites.
4. Red Rock Canyon State Park, Oklahoma
The Red Rock Canyon State Park is known for stunning sun-torched formations. If you would want to inject some adrenaline into your road trip, you should consider some rappelling activities down the walls of the canyon. Apart from being a natural playground, the Red Rock Canyon State Park tells American history in a better way. Some decades ago, it was a stop for wagons moving along the historic California Trail. Today, the Route 66 campsite offers fishing, hiking, climbing and gorgeous photo opportunities during sunset and sunrise. To reach it, you just to drive 8 miles from Bridgeport.
5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
The Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas is the other campsite to try when driving on Route 66. It boasts dramatic colours and cliffs that you might not find in any other campsite. It is situated around 24 miles from Amarillo in central Texas Panhandle and offers many campground options. If you are an equestrian enthusiast, you will enjoy roughly 1,500 acres of horseback riding at any time. The temperature here can fall to below 20 degrees during winter and rise to over 90 degrees during summer. So pack wisely. Due to the large size of the campsite, you might need to spare several days for exploration.
6. Santa Rosa Lake State Park, New Mexico
Conveniently situated 8 miles from the Santa Rosa town, Santa Rosa Lake State Park forms a good camping site when driving along route 66. It is a good place for people who would want to unwind with many camping activities such as fishing, hiking and Kayaking. You will also enjoy recreational fishing for walleye, catfish and largemouth bass in the huge reservoir. The camping ground also has trails for horseback riding along with many opportunities for bird watching. It remains open throughout the year.
7. Homolovi Ruins State Park
When driving on Route 66, you should take available opportunity to learn. Homolovi Ruins State Park is among the few campsites that offer learning opportunities for people driving on Route 66. Expect to learn something about the ancient Homolovi people, a group that left their homeland to travel north and eventually joined the Hopi Mesas – they became the ancestors of Hopi tribe. Colourful collections of traditional Hopi artefacts and prehistoric tools are some of the things you will find in the visitor centre. Tent and RV camping are available. If you are fortunate enough, you will find archaeologists studying the site too. And unlike the pieces you find in museums, you will be able to touch the main artefacts, which include petroglyphs, pottery and stonework.
8. Hualapai Mountain Park, Arizona
Hualapai Mountain Park in Arizona allows you to spend a few nights away from the desert in refreshing pine trees. Situated around 11 miles from the Route 66, the park covers around 4,000 – 8,000 feet with some of its areas covering the top of Hualapai Mountain Range. The camping option offers many forms of accommodations such as RV parks, rustic cabins and tent camping. Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians are some of the people you will find enjoying spectacular views of the desert below. The campground is usually open throughout the year.
9. Owl Canyon/Rainbow Basin Campground, California
Owl Canyon/Rainbow Basin Campground in California has existed for many years. Located around 8 miles from Barstow, the small camping ground is very close to the city but an isolated environment will welcome you. Expect to hike among the multi-coloured canyons, identify, and photograph wildlife. For people who love rough road driving, the dirt road in Fossil Canyon Loop is worth trying. Carry your water and remember that the campsite is available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Each camping spot has a fire pit, picnic table, nice flat sport for your camper, garbage and playground for your kids.
10. Malibu Creek State Park, California
End your road trip in Malibu Creek State Park in California. In this campground situated around 20 miles from Santa Monica, you will be able to soak in the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, you will enjoy volcanic rock formations and coastal vistas when camping here and partake in activities like hiking, mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding and rock climbing. Originally, the campsite was the home to Chumash Native Americans. Visit the Mott Adobe or Sepulveda Adobe ruins to learn more about the cultural history of the area. The offered campsites are spacious, with clean bathrooms and fire pits. The entering hours are between 8 am and 10 pm.