Rachel, Nevada

With its proximity to the mysterious Air Force testing facility, Area 51, and its location smack dab on the Extraterrestrial Highway (375), it’s easy to see why the tiny town of Rachel is known as the “UFO Capital of the World.” While most of the locals don’t seem to concern themselves with UFOs, the small community remains a regular stop for UFO hunters hoping to learn more about the highway, Area 51 and the odds of catching an out-of-this-world experience.

Rachel, tucked in the Sand Springs Valley, began as a housing settlement for a nearby mine in the mid-1970s. The mine shut in the late 1980s, right before the UFO activity began, and the town ranks shrank accordingly. During Rachel’s initial upswing, however, the town took its name in recognition of the first very baby born in the valley. The community’s annual Rachel Day, held each year in May, commemorates both the child and the town’s beginning with a traditional celebration featuring a parade, crafts, live music and plenty of food.

The E.T. Highway officially earned its nickname in 1996, but the hundreds of claims of unearthly sightings along the lonely stretch of road, which is close to top-secret Area 51, began in earnest in 1989 – fortunate timing given the recent mine closing. Today, visitors continue to report strange lights in the night sky. The best place for visitors keen on UFO talk has to be the Little A’Le’Inn, Rachel’s local restaurant, bar and inn. Try the Alien Burger, and make time to browse the gift shop and check out the displays of UFO photos on the wall. If your visit to Rachel includes an overnight so you can enjoy that immense night sky, the Little A’Le’Inn has modest accommodations and a few RV sites with full hookups. Most of the land along the E.T. Highway is in fact public, and there are no fences. While this means that cattle from the community’s ranch tend to wander through town, it also means you can pull off the road and camp nearly anywhere that suits you.

As the day-trippers from Las Vegas prove, Rachel may be best known for alien lore. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other points of interest to be found in the vicinity. Historic ghost towns, petroglyphs, and downright stunning desert scenery are nearby, and the town’s remote location makes for an unbelievable night sky. You may not spot any UFOs, but the glittering star show will be just as incredible.