Nevada’s open roads are beckoning travelers who have been home-bound since mid-March.
At a time when 18 states currently won’t accept Nevadans unless they quarantine for two weeks, it’s tempting to hop in the family car and explore Nevada history and nature giving you the opportunity to escape the tedium caused by the pandemic and to temper your wanderlust.
Nevada’s Loneliest Road in America – Highway 50 East – provides the sought after temporary escape. From Carson City to Baker, there is 450 miles of unparalleled scenery to photograph, mining towns to explore, ancient sites to learn about our past, a sand mountain open for adventure, and an opportunity to just breathe to reset your equilibrium.
Once outside of Fallon, the scenery becomes captivating, the cars less and less. The highway is well maintained by NDOT and if you aren’t driving a convertible or riding a motorcycle, you wish you were. As you drive through Pony Express Country, you wonder how those young fellows were able to ride their horses through this vast openness. For miles and miles, the only sign of life seems to be the occasional dust devil.
Some highlights not to be missed along the way include a stop at Sand Mountain just outside of Fallon and if you can plan your trip around a meal time, you must stop at the famous, picturesque, and funky Middlegate Station known for its hamburgers so huge you need to stand to eat it.
Just before coming into Middlegate, you’ll notice the breathtaking view of Fairview Peak in Dixie Valley. Be sure to stop a moment for a picture beside the water tank denoting “Nowhere Nevada.” Many times along the way, you will think you are truly in Nowhere Nevada.
Just two miles east of Middlegate, stop briefly to view the successor tree of the original Shoe Tree. You can’t miss this stop since it is one of the few with a copse of trees. The original legendary Shoe Tree was chopped down almost 10 years ago on Dec. 30, 2010. It’s tradition to throw your soon to be discarded laced shoes over this tree.
There’s a bit of a scenic stretch before entering the living mining ghost town of Austin, founded in 1862 and once the second largest city in Nevada with 5,000 residents. Today this is a town of 200 with some interesting sites to explore. The best known is Stoke’s Castle, well worth the .03-mile trip off the main road just for the valley views.
Leaving Austin, the road winds up to Austin Summit which at 7,484 ft is higher than Lake Tahoe. As you head toward Austin, don’t pass up the opportunity to stop at the Hickison Petroglyphs to view the 10,000 year-old rock carvings.
Next stop is Eureka, the beautifully maintained mining town settled in 1864, the year Nevada was admitted to statehood. Some of the historic buildings have been beautifully restored and maintained.
Last stop is Ely, the home of the Northern Nevada Railway Museum and the famous Hotel Nevada, a historic Nevada Landmark built in 1929 and the tallest building in the state until 1931. Be sure to book a suite named after a president or entertainer. I had the good fortune to be assigned the Wayne Newton Room (312). Don’t expect your basic cookie cutter hotel here! Lots of good restaurants in Ely, my favorite being the Jailhouse Steakhouse across the street from the hotel.
The Loneliest Road ends at the Great Basin National Park just over an hour outside of Ely. Stop at the Ward Charcoal Ovens on the way and take a detour to the Lehman Caves. So much to see!
The entire family will learn so much about Nevada that one can’t experience when reading a text book. The living history will make you proud you are now a Nevadan.
The Loneliest Road in America could be deemed lonely not only because it is devoid of vehicles, but also because it is devoid of crowds to spoil the view and if you’ve forgotten what a star-filled night sky looks like, this is the area to refamiliarize yourself.
Visitors from all over the world have journeyed along this special route finding their way to the Chamber to tell us of their exploration. We would want to hear yours.
Before you go, grab your pre-stamped survival guide at the Carson City Chamber located beside the NV State Railroad Museum, 1900 S. Carson St., along with some reading materials. Get at least five stamps and you could receive a souvenir and survival certificate from the Governor. For in depth information, visit Travelnevada.com. Travel safe!
Ronni Hannaman recently traveled this route and thoroughly enjoyed every mile. She is the executive director of the Carson City Chamber where many passports have been stamped for enthusiastic travelers.