After some beautiful mountain scenery, take Exit 89 off I-40 to follow old Route 66 into Grants. Three things Grants is known for include the railroad, carrots, and uranium. The scenery around Grants is quite beautiful, with Mount Taylor towering to the east – it peaks out at 11,301 feet, one of the highest in the state.
In the opposite direction, lava from ancient volcanoes – like Mount Taylor – created a barren yet beautiful sea of black rock formations in the El Malpais National Monument, located south of town. To give you an idea of what it looks like, know that astronauts trained in the area in preparation for trips to the Moon.
Route 66 through Grants is known as Santa Fe Boulevard, and offers numerous sights of old motels, cafés, and small-town amenities. If you like checking out old signs, the stretch through Grants offers plenty to see.
Uranium mining is just part of the history at the New Mexico Mining Museum, which offers displays – including a huge drill bit outside you can spot from Route 66 – and exhibits of all things related to drilling into the earth and pulling out minerals and more.
On the west side of Grants, Route 66 is a pretty wide highway, reflecting its recent status as the main road before Interstate 40 was built. On the south side of the road, you'll notice El Ranchero, which not only has a cool old sign, but terrific chile and Mexican food.
Heading west of Grants, Route 66 is a wide – and fast – four-lane highway for quite some time, indicative of a busier era. As you speed along, realize that once upon time this was a major carrot-producing region and fields of carrots dotted the landscape.
Nearby is Bluewater Lake & Bluewater Lake State Park, which is a good stop for fishing – something you can't say in New Mexico all that often. Bluewater Lake serves as a water source for Grants and points around, and gave rise to a railroad and Route 66 stop.