In the belly of Nevada, surrounded by miles of undeveloped desert, lies a mystery. Area 51, a secret military base within Nellis Test and Training Range — so secret the government did not acknowledge its existence until 2013 — is here. According to UFO lore, this is where the Pentagon has stored frozen extraterrestrials and recovered alien spacecraft, especially in an area on the base known as Groom Lake. Drive the highway just north of Area 51 — also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway or Nevada state Route 375 — and you just may see a UFO, as some have claimed.
211 miles/340 kilometers
Check out the map HERE
Head north from Las Vegas on U.S. 93: it’s about 109 miles/175 kilometers to Crystal Springs, basically a junction where U.S. 93 connects to the ET Highway. Here, you’ll want to stop at ET Fresh Jerky, 12600 South U.S. 93 in Hiko, a roadside stop that sells jerky in such flavors as Teriyaki Time Travel. Get your photo taken next to the store’s cool alien murals, and you’re on your way.
You’re on the eastern end of the ET Highway and here’s another photo op: the ET Highway sign. In 1996, Nevada state Route 375 was renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway and a public dedication was held in the community of Rachel in conjunction with the 1996 movie “Independence Day.” The movie, about an alien invasion of Earth, has humans making their final stand at none other than Area 51.
Just past the ET Highway sign, on the north side of the road, is the Alien Research Center gift shop. You’ll know it from the giant alien statue next to the building, a silver Quonset hut. Snap another photo, and you’re on your way to Rachel.
Rachel, population 54 according to 2010 U.S. Census data, is home to the Little A’Le’Inn, a roadside stop that includes a bar, restaurant and motel. Here, browse for alien souvenirs and take advantage of yet another photo op — a tow truck pulling a UFO is a permanent fixture in the Little A’Le’Inn parking lot — and hit the road.
On the journey, you may notice a couple dirt roads from the ET Highway heading south towards Nellis Test and Training Range and Area 51. Yes, these are paths to Area 51, but you cannot pass the gates into the base, and you should obey all posted signs.
The ET Highway’s western end comes at its junction with U.S. 6. Continue on U.S. 6 (westbound) for about 50 miles into Tonopah, home of the Tonopah Historic Mining Park and the Central Nevada Museum.
CATCH SOME ZZZs
- The Mizpah Hotel, 100 N. Main St., Tonopah, 775-482-3030, themizpahhotel.com
- Jim Butler Inn & Suites, 100 Main St., Tonopah, 775-482-3577, jimbutlerinn.com
- Tonopah Station, 1137 Erie St., Tonopah, 775-485-9111, tonopahstation.com
TravelNevada PRO TIP: While adventuring our great big state remember to travel prepared to surivive, Loneliest Road in America or not. With so much room to explore, you'll likely be covering a lot of ground. Be sure to plan ahead and carry extra fuel, water, snacks and even a paper map, and pay attention to amenity opportunities along the way. Often times, it might just be your last chance to refuel, grab a bite to eat, use a restroom or catch some ZZZ's. And hey, it might be a good idea to call ahead to check on room availability or campsite reservations and plan your gas stops prior to hitting the pavement. While you're at it, also remember that a lot of these off grid gems are in fact small towns; don't expect restaurants to be open late, regardless of advertising online or even billboards you encounter as you ramble on. Nothing beats a good ol' fashioned phone call, especially if it can curb some serious heartbreak after discovering your favorite burger joint isn't open. Nevada is an incredible place to redefine your sense of freedom, but remember that a lot of our favorite haunts are most certainly remote in the most satisfying of ways. Take advantage of places to stop when you can get 'em. Our road trip rundowns should help get you off and running, but are a far cry from every place to see and do along this amazing route. Peruse this itinerary for some road trip inspiration, and customize your #NVRoadTrip by planning ahead and building out your very own itinerary in the toolbar above. Use that noggin out there, happy and safe exploring!