In July of 1986, Life Magazine gave U.S. 50 across Nevada a title it would never forget. Coined “The Loneliest Road in America” for its 287 mile stretch of next to nothing with only a few major towns, motorists were even advised to have “survival skills” to make the trip.
However, Nevada’s loneliest highway is not so scary after all. Its solitary and open appeals create a loneliness you can feel even from the confines of the car.
While AAA didn’t recommend the road at the time for its lack of points of interest and empty stretches, Nevada’s U.S. 50 is one of a few spaces in this world where you can truly feel alone. Hit the top of a hill and you can see for miles, with no cars, buildings or people to give a sense of reality.
However, the loneliest road in America offers several appeals, well beyond just being deserted:
Quirky Roadside Attractions—The loneliest highway in America might seem empty at first, but upon closer inspection, you will find a wealth of hidden and quirky attractions. Under 50 miles outside of Fallon, a 2-mile long mound of sand stands strangely on this open road. Known as Sand Mountain, the dunes are popular with ATV riders. Another one of the loneliest highway’s secret attractions is the Old Shoe Tree. While recently attacked by vandals, remnants of a cottonwood that used to hold countless shoes still remains. Get outside here and the air even seems to smell like feet.
Nevada’s Weird Austin—There is not enough reason to call this town along Highway 50 in Nevada weird. Austin is like stepping back into the 19th century in America. The mining town still has a row of saloons and old cafes. Pop in one for the ultimate picture of the loneliest highway. You might see two locals in cowboy hats chatting casually on a Monday morning.
Ely’s Murals—On the eastern end of U.S. Highway 50, you will hit one of the few towns along this long and lonely stretch. Ely began with just a post office and stagecoach station, but it quickly grew once someone struck copper in 1906. Today, its history can be seen all across town on the sides of buildings as colorful murals do the talking. If you aren’t into Ely’s art, stop in Hotel Nevada, where old Hollywood used to come hang out.
Retracing history—America’s loneliest road retraces not just the route of the Pony Express, but also the Overland Stagecoach trails. There are a number of historical markers to watch out for on this quiet road, including the Ward Charcoal Ovens. Constructed in 1873, the stone ovens were used for local mines and remain pretty intact. Going even further back in the history books is Grimes Point and the Hidden Cave. The archeological site holds petroglyphs from prehistoric Native Americans.