Drive Cross Country on US Route 6

Last Updated on September 24, 2022 by Malerie Yolen-Cohen and Sandra Foyt

Map of USA with Route 6 in Red from Massachusetts to California

What’s the longest Federal Highway in the USA?  US Route 20. What’s the SECOND longest (and longest CONTIGUOUS) highway?  US Route 6! 

US Route 6 History

The historic highway, also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, is now 3,205 miles long. Before 1964, when California renumbered its roads and Route 6 ran coast to coast from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California, Route 6 was the longest highway in the land – at 3,652 miles. Now, driving US Route 6 will bring you though 14 states, and some of  the best small towns and cities in America that, prior to the establishment of the Interstate Highway system, had their moments in the sun.

Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach CA
The RMS Queen Mary served as a luxury cruise ship with the Cunard Line from 1936 to 1967. Since retirement, the Queen Mary has been docked in Long Beach CA where she is a one of a kind historic hotel.

Route 6 Terminus

Historic Route 6 begins and ends in flamboyant, artsy, touristy, entertainment-rich Oceanside towns.  Provincetown, in Cape Cod Massachusetts on the Atlantic Ocean, draws playwrights, gay activists and tons of tourists every summer.  Long Beach,CA  on the Pacific Ocean, an outer-borough of Los Angeles, is rich in glitz of a similar sort.

What To Expect On US Route 6

What’s in between is a virtual time-line of American history. Revolutionary War sites in New England give way to pioneer homes in the plains and prairies of Iowa and Nebraska. And then eventually to the stark silver and gold mining camps in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.

Canals, backyard docks and boats on Lake Erie Town of Vermilion, OH

On its way across the United States, Route 6 travels through two towns called Brooklyn, and neither are in New York.  It touches two oceans, runs along the shore of one Great Lake (Erie), crosses most of the country’s major rivers, traverses five state capitals, and climbs, exhilaratingly, up and over the Continental Divide. It meanders through land both barren and lush.

Sun dappled clean Nebraska town Main Street - Ashland NE

US Route 6 takes you from the Technicolor gardens and forests in the East to the sepia tones of the Western desert through some of the friendliest cities and towns in our country’s midsection.  Most are not tourist destinations. You’d likely never know about them except for the fact that they are on what was once a main route.

Sign at Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide with Rocky Mountains in the background.
At the summit of Loveland Pass, be sure to take a photo of the Continental Divide plaque–the very highest point of Route 6 at 11,990 feet above sea level. It’s the best view of the Rocky Mountains.

But for road-trippers, that’s part of the joy of discovery. In many of these locales, in fact, inhabitants welcome strangers with open arms, introducing travelers to the best places where they themselves eat and shop.

Plan Six Weeks on US Route 6

To do the whole Route justice, plan to spend at least six weeks on the road.  Of course, you might be tempted to idle in resort areas and larger cities, which will extend your trip.  If you’re in a rush (which is really besides the point of a two-lane highway trip), you can do the drive in half the time by picking and choosing what is most important to you.

You can also break up the journey into the following segments (designed to begin and end in cities with accessible airports).

Ohio Route 6

Best Stops on Ohio Route 6

Getaway Mavens guide to Cleveland OH
Indiana Route 6

Best Stops on Indiana Route 6

Illinois Route 6

Best Stops on US Route 6 Illinois

Moline IL Getaway on Route 6
Iowa Route 6

US Route 6 Iowa – Most Romantic Attractions

Nebraska Route 6 Mural Shoemakers Truck Stop Lincoln NE

US Route 6 Nebraska – Most Romantic Stops

Omaha NE Getaway on Route 6
US Route 6 Utah Welcome Sign

US Route 6 Utah – Must Do Experiences

Nevada Route 6

US Route 6 Nevada Adventures

Brown US Route 6 Sign stating Bishop, CA 3,205 Miles Long Beach, CA 3652 Miles

US Route 6 Itineraries

Provincetown, MA (see our Provincetown MA travel guide here) to Cleveland, OH

775 Miles

Covers the Atlantic Ocean, National Seashore, beach towns, whaling, commercial fishing industry. And, Revolutionary War history, Hudson River, Pennsylvania lakes and forests, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Owner of only perfumery in the US with operations under one roof standing in her factory

Cleveland, OH to Omaha, NE

800 Miles

Lake Erie, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Farms, Annie Oakley Perfumery,   I&M Canal, Land of Lincoln, Hogs Soy and Corn, UNESCO “City of Literature” (Iowa City), John Deere, Mississippi River, Missouri River, Durham Museum, Old Market, Boys Town.

Way, way off the interstate in Iowa - White Pole Road formerly US Route 6

Omaha, NE to Denver, CO

550 Miles

Lincoln State Capitol Building, Nation’s Breadbasket, Grain Elevators and Silos Galore, Farmland, Oregon Trail, Sophisticated “Cowtown,” Wonderful Westernaires, Foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Young horse riders in setting sun at the foothill of the Rocky Mountains

Denver/Golden, CO to Spanish Fork/Provo, UT

500 Miles

Miller/Coors Plant Tours, Buffalo Bill Grave, Continental Divide, Gold and Silver Mining, Hot Springs, Mountain Climbing and Recreation, Colorado National Monument, Desert Outposts, Dinosaur Digs.

Stuffed and mounted elk with cigarette in mouth - Major's Place, Nevada

Spanish Fork, UT to Long Beach, CA

850 Miles

Basin/Range, Trilobites, Gambling Halls, Queen of the Silver Mines, Area 51, Eastern Sierra Mountains, Desert, Dust Storms, WWII Interment Camps, Aerospace, Film Sets, Hollywood.

Find It In The US Route 6 Book

For a more comprehensive, Mile By Mile Guide to all 3,652 Transcontinental miles Route 6, BUY THE BOOK HERE.

US Route 6 Pinterest Pin

16 thoughts on “Drive Cross Country on US Route 6”

  1. This looks like an incredible experience! It was great to meet you at TBEX today & hear about it first-hand!

  2. Hi Adam – Yes, my cross-country Route 6 trip brought me to many great “Fly-Over” states. They will be fly-over no more! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  3. Pingback: Lincoln Highway - New York to San Francisco Or Bust | Albany Kid
  4. It is a dream of mine at age of 65 to travel cross country to see all the free sights I am able to.

  5. We love to fuss over cross country travelers on Route 6. If you are truly crossing the USA on 6 let me buy you a cup of coffee at the Red Rose Diner, 526 Main Street, Towanda, Pa 18848

  6. I live in Long Beach, and as far as I know, there is only one plaque marking the western terminus of U.S. Route 6. It is located on the South side of Ocean Blvd at the intersection with Long Beach Blvd. It is sadly forgotten through most of California.

  7. I found it, covered with foliage, when I was there in 2011. It was put up in 1953 and sadly forgotten. Thanks for commenting. Malerie

  8. i will be taking rte 6 from province rhode island,to cleveland ohio,i wonder if that will put me in the thousand mile book,as i drove from erie pa to province rhode island. and come aug first,i will do the rte 6 escape to cleveland ohio

  9. Taking the Route 6 trip July 1st. From California back to Provincetown. Hope to share our experience with you all.

  10. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska and always wondered if I could go back home taking the scenic route of hwy 6 because now I live in Toledo Ohio

  11. I live in Lincoln, NE. Its always a great place to come back to! I love it after being gone for awhile.. that’s when I love where im from the most 🙂

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