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The Loneliest Roadtrip in America

U.S. Route 50 makes for the perfect family vacation.

Highway 50

Matthew B. Brown

BY NOLAN BROUGH

The roadtrip: America’s quintessential summer pastime. Nothing quite beats sitting behind the wheel of your car, conquering miles and miles of road as the scenery around you gradually shifts. The freedom associated with such an excursion is unmatched. But where lies the perfect roadtrip? The answer to that is right here in Nevada.

Across the entirety of the state lies U.S. Route 50, America’s “Loneliest Road,” etched deep in the Nevada landscape and boasting many exciting landmarks along the way. This highway has been in service since the early 1860s, when it guided not the wheels of cars, but the hooves of horses bound for the coast with important postage. When that route was abandoned in favor of more modern methods, the trail stood still in time; and there it remains to this day, a relic paying its respects to the Wild West. Driving along Highway 50, you feel as if you’re driving alongside those brave riders of the Pony Express, and stopping at any one of these locations will make you seriously question why Highway 50 is the Loneliest Road in America.


Fallon: An interesting town off Highway 50 is Fallon. This town is encompassed by the cowboy lifestyle, and throughout the summer holds many events and festivals. The second annual De Golyer Bucking Horse and Bull Bash, filled with rodeos and other horseback performances, takes place June 27-28. Fallon is also home to the base used in the film Top Gun, which is a real Navy base. Take the kids to the parks in downtown, visit the Top Gun raceway, or take a drive and explore one of the many historical sites close to the town, such as Ragtown, an old stopping point for emigrants on their way to the coast, or Grimes Point, one of the largest petroglyph sites in the United States.

PLAN YOUR TRIP:
DeGloyer Bucking Horse and Bull Bash
Fallon Fairgrounds
June 27-28
visitfallonnevada.com


 

Sand Mountain, Eric Cachinero

Sand Mountain, Eric Cachinero

Sand Mountain: There’s nothing quite like the roar of an engine, especially when coupled with plumes of sand tossed around by spinning wheels as far as the eye can see. Sand Mountain is the definitive sand dune experience of Nevada. Off-road enthusiasts from all around the country journey here to stretch their legs and those of their ATVs, quads, dirt bikes, and more. Camp for the weekend or just ride for a day; either way, Sand Mountain is a blast.

PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Sand Mountain Recreation Area
blm.gov


 

Stokes Castle

Stokes Castle, Eric Cachinero

Austin: Austin is a beautiful town with much to see. With a population of slightly more than 340, the town itself might not be too big, but big things happen here. Check your calendars before you go, and hopefully you can catch one of Austin’s famed events. Austin hosts a variety of car shows, like the Lincoln Highway Car Show, bike tours, the Oat Bran bike tour across Highway 50, and more. Austin also acts as a home base for world-class landsailing, and is hosting the 14th Landsailing World Champions event in Smith Creek, just a short drive from Austin. Nearby hot springs and many unique structures built long ago, including the three story Stokes Castle, also adorn the city of Austin. The castle was built in 1886 and modeled after a similar tower that the architect Anson Phelps Stokes had seen in the Roman Campagna in Italy. If you have the time and an off-highway vehicle, a three hour southbound excursion will take you to Toquima Cave, a national park that houses some incredible ancient rock art.

PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Independence Day Celebration
July 4
austinnevada.com, 775-964-2200


 

Eureka Opera House

Eureka Opera House, Eric Cachinero

Eureka: “The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road in America” is none other than Eureka, an old mining municipality nestled in the heart of Highway 50. Many historical buildings line the streets of this town, such as the Eureka County Courthouse, which is still in service today. The Jackson House Hotel, built in 1877, still offers rooms that evoke a rich heritage, and the Eureka Opera House holds theatre performances regularly and also boasts an extensive collection of fine art and welcomes travelling displays on occasion. Visit the old mines that surround the town, take one of many self-guided tours found online and explore the mining history that helped build Eureka, or challenge the Diamond Peak hike, a rigorous trail just outside of town.

PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Trinity Seely: Cowgirl Music
Eureka Opera House
June 12
co.eureka.nv.us, 775-237-6006


 

Ely

Ely, Eric Cachinero

Ely: Ely is on the eastern end of the Loneliest Road in America. The town boasts events like the Great Bathtub Boat Races on June 27, where families build their own boats and race them at Cave Lake State Park—a 32-acre reservoir welcoming families to fish, boat, swim and more. The Silver State Classic on May 15-17 is the largest and fastest public roadway race in the world, and the highest speed ever driven on public roads was achieved at this race: over 217 miles per hour! Despite many modified race cars taking part, lots of people race their own daily drivers down the route.

When you’re done racing, check out Great Basin National Park and go spelunking in nearby Lehman Caves with a guide, and look on in awe at the marble-lined cave walls. Hit the links at White Pine Golf Course, and enjoy the many nearby hiking trails such as Hercules Gap, Stella Lake, and Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in White Pine county. Ely is also home to Nevada Northern Railway—a train station frozen in time that maintains old locomotives more than 100 years old to give rides to patrons.

PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Silver State Classic
May 15-17
elynevada.net, 800-496-9350


  • Toquima Cave
    Toquima Cave Eric Cachinero

The Highway 50 road trip is one of the most unique trips you will ever take. In addition to this list, there are many other attractions to find along this long, desolate road. So if you want a summer adventure filled with hiking, boating, biking, rodeos, race cars, exploring caves, learning about American history and much more, nothing could beat driving down Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America.

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