Drive Between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City: Road Trip Tips & Info
From the otherworldly landscapes of New Mexico, running along historic Route 66, and passing the striking beauty of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, the drive between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City celebrates the spirit of the open road and beauty of the southern Heartland.
Along this route, you won’t see many cities. Instead, you’ll see the seemingly endless sprawl of the grasslands and agricultural estates that define this part of the country.
Whether you’re planning to make the long drive between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City for business, pleasure, or a bit of both, below you’ll find all the info you need to safely make the journey as a road trip across the heart of the Great Plains.
Albuquerque to Oklahoma City Distance
As the crow flies, the distance between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is 517 miles. But, unfortunately, we can’t drive in a straight line – though this route is admittedly much straighter than some routes across the Great Plains!
The driving distance from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City is about 544 miles. As you can see, there’s not much difference with flying. Remember that the actual distance you’ll cover depends on your starting and ending points in each city, and the detours you make to see interesting points.
Albuquerque to Oklahoma City Drive Time
At 544 miles, the drive between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque takes around eight hours along I-40, which overlaps with or runs parallel to historic Route 66 – meaning you can take one of America’s greatest road trips while doing this drive.
While it’s doable, it’s very unlikely to make this drive in just one day – unless you’re traveling with another person and can take driving turns.
Also, always remember this number is a rough estimate and how long it actually takes you to cover the distance depends on where you start and end in each city and how many stops you make.
Stops to Make on Your Drive from Between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City
From quirky art installations to historic landmarks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on the scenic Albuquerque to Oklahoma City drive. I’ve organized them from west (Albuquerque) to east (Oklahoma City); if you’re driving from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque, just reverse this section of the post to decide which stops to make along your route.
Wildlife West Nature Park
One of the first must-visit stops is the Wildlife West Nature Park, where you can get up close and personal with native wildlife. The path through the park is 1 mile long – the perfect length to run off some energy (especially if you’re making the drive between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City with young humans full of energy!).
Along the way, you’ll pass informational signs about the species and the background of the specific animal. Take a stroll through the park’s trails and encounter animals such as wolves, bobcats, and birds of prey in their natural habitat.
Cadillac Ranch is an iconic roadside attraction to see in your Oklahoma City to Albuquerque drive. This one-of-a-kind art installation was invented and built by a group of art hippies from San Francisco. It features a row of brightly painted, half-buried Cadillacs that have become an emblem of American pop culture.
Some visitors leave their mark by spray-painting graffiti on the cars, so, in a way, the cars are always changing in color and design. Needless to say, it offers tons of photo opportunities!
VW Slug Bug Ranch
Speaking of quirky automobile installations, just a few miles east of Cadillac Ranch lies its lesser-known cousin, Slug Bug Ranch. This roadside stop features a row of vintage Volkswagen Beetles buried nose-first into the ground, creating a unique and Instagram-worthy photo opportunity. It’s a great place to take a break for fresh air – there are no tourists unlike Cadillac Ranch, which is usually packed.
As you venture further along the route, you’ll come across the iconic Groom Cross, a towering 19-story tall crucifix that’ certainly creates a contrast against the endless horizon of the Texas Panhandle – you can see it from 20 miles afar. This landmark is a popular stop among Christians and spiritual people. Surrounding the cross there are 14 life-sized sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. There is also a crucifixion scene at the top of a hill and an empty tomb on the other side of the hill.
Phillips 66 on the Route
For history buffs, the Phillips 66 on the Route is a must-visit stop. This vintage gas station, preserved in its original 1920s glory, offers a glimpse into the golden age of American roadside culture. But, what makes it really special, is the town of McLean. It’s filled with so many abandoned businesses and memorabilia for Route 66. Pull over and step back in time as you admire the classic gas pumps, neon signs, and vintage memorabilia that harken back to a bygone era.
Sandhills Curiosity Shop
Don’t miss the chance to also swing by the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, a quirky roadside store that’s filled head-to-toe with unique treasures. From vintage antiques to eccentric art pieces, you never know what you might find in this offbeat shop.
The real treat though is meeting the owner, Harley. He will delight you with stories – I mean it, he’s full of stories, so pull up a chair and listen to his tales. Oh, and he excels at playing the guitar! It’s a perfect kitschy place to stretch your legs, browse through the eccentric collection, and chat with a friendly local.
Lucille’s Historic Highway Gas Station
Last but not least, you can visit Lucille’s Historic Highway Gas Station, another charming throwback to the Route 66 era. This well-preserved gas station turned museum is a testament to the iconic highway’s rich history and offers a glimpse into the past with its vintage gas pumps, classic signage, and memorabilia. This is located right off Interstate 40 so it makes an easy stop to see a historic landmark. There isn’t much else around; it is a perfect place to get out and stretch your legs.
Other Tips for Your Drive Between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque
Now that you know the basics of the drive and are inspired to make a few stops, here are some final tips to help you finish planning your road trip:
- The drive between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque crosses three states: Oklahoma, Texas (the Panhandle), and New Mexico
- Amarillo is the biggest city along the route, and it’s the best place for an overnight stop if you need one; it’s 4.5 hours from Albuquerque and 4 hours from Oklahoma City.
- There are plenty of rest stops, gas stations, and truck stops along the route, which follows Interstate 40/Route 66 the entire way.
Should You Fly Between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City Instead?
The one million question: what’s better, driving or flying? Well, there’s no right answer here. It all boils down to two variables: time and cost.
As we saw before, the drive between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City is about 544 miles and takes up to eight hours to cover. Cost-wise, you’d spend about $100 on gas for a one-way trip.
When flying, the distance reduces to 517 miles and a flight will take a minimum of 3.5 hours and will require at least one stop. (Remember that, to the three hours on the plane, you have to add the check-in, take, off, and landing time.) Cost-wise, the average ticket between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City costs $422.
So, what should you do? If you ask me, I’d say driving is the better choice between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. It’s cheaper and the time you’ll end up spending doesn’t change much. Also, driving gives you the opportunity to check out interesting points you wouldn’t otherwise. However, if you are short on time or only traveling one way, you might want to fly since you’ll end up with a vehicle at one end of the drive.
Have any questions about the drive between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City, or what to do along the way? Let me know in the comments!