Ah, California dreamin'… many Route 66 travelers have been doing that since 1926, traveling across the nation on the Mother Road in search of opportunity in the West. Route 66 enters California on the Interstate 40 bridge after crossing the Colorado River.
The Colorado River is the lifeline for Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles being the primary source of water for these three gargantuan cities. The Colorado River marks the state line here, as well as the start of the Pacific Time Zone, so set your clocks an hour back (unless it's daylight savings time, in which case Arizona was on Pacific time already…it's complicated).
Route 66 follows today's I-40 for the first few miles into California. From there, you hit the first town, Needles. There are a few former sections of Route 66 between the bridge into California and Needles, but many are gravel and some are impassable at the slightest rainfall (which, admittedly, doesn't happen here very often).
You can get into Needles via Route 66 by following I-40 to Exit 148, which is also U.S. 95 north at Parker Junction. When you reach Needles, U.S. 95 intersects I-40 – continue on U.S. 95 as it turns into Broadway Street, which is the old Route 66.
Needles was named for "the Needles," a group of pointed rocks on the Arizona side of the river. Founded in 1883 when the railroad crossed the Colorado River, Needles became an important stop for the Santa Fe railroad and served as an icing station for fruits and vegetables being shipped out of California.
Trivia: In the Peanuts cartoon strip, Snoopy's brother Spike hailed from Needles. Charles Schultz, Peanuts' creator, lived in Needles for a brief time during his youth.
Entering downtown Needles, you'll find a tasty little shop, the Burger Hut, the local drive-in hole-in-the-wall kind of place. Once downtown, take a right on F Street and you'll find the Needles Chamber of Commerce, along with a beautiful city block brimming with palm trees that holds a true Needles historic landmark.
That landmark is the historic El Garces Hotel and Santa Fe Depot. Built in 1908, the hotel also served as the train station, which was in operation until 1988. It was sitting idle until a few years ago when restoration efforts began. It's still in renovation, but eventually the El Garces will once again be an intermodal center for Amtrak and a destination for Needles area businesses and tourists once again.
While exiting Needles, stay on Broadway/River Road to remain on Old Route 66. After a short distance, fork to the left on National Old Trails Road, which takes you past a few campgrounds and firmly out of town. Make a left on Park Road to get back to I-40 and follow it to Exit 133, which is where U.S. 95 veers north towards Laughlin and Las Vegas. Follow U.S. 95 to Arrowhead Junction, at which point Historic Route 66 heads west on Goffs Road.
|Best Western Colorado River Inn
2371 W. Broadway
Needles, CA 92363-2106