Route 66: End of the Trail – Santa Monica, California - Atlas Obscura

Route 66: End of the Trail

A sign at the end of the Santa Monica Pier marks the end of the legendary American highway, symbolizing that this road only ended when the sea stood in its way. 


Possibly the most popular roadway in the United States, Route 66 is the stuff of legend.

The famous East-to-West migration path brought people out west during the Dust Bowl era, supported economies all along its twists and turns when rough times were upon us, and still manages to survive despite the emergence of the newfangled Interstate Highway System.

Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of traveling its rambling route, you probably know the path it takes due to the popular song that lists all of its stops. But despite being able to sing a list of the cities it services, little thought is given to where it ends, as it’s so often thought to be a sunbaked desert highway.

Many simply imagine it just runs right into the Pacific Ocean. And while that may sound silly, that’s pretty much exactly right. In an effort to end the epic highway on a high note, the Route 66 Alliance and the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp. got together and on the 83rd anniversary of the highway’s inception, declared the end of the Santa Monica Pier the official stopping point of Route 66.

The landmark is identified by a mysterious sign that showed up, perhaps as a movie prop, on the corners of Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Ave., and then about 50 years ago, just as mysteriously disappeared. The sign in question said “Santa Monica” above a bold “66”, under which it plainly stated, “End of the Trail.”

When the pier was officially designated as the last stop for Route 66, it only made sense for a replica of the long-missing sign to be erected at the very end, looking out over the Pacific in a symbolic display of what was the destination of so many travelers over the last century.

Know Before You Go

Drive west onto Colorado Ave. until it dead ends at Santa Monica Pier. Then walk straight out on the pier for 200 feet. The sign is just past the Bubba Gump shrimp franchise and just before the Playland arcade.

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