travel

The Loneliest Road in America

On our way home from Reno on our road trip this past July, we ended up taking a road I had never heard of before. We saw that we were going to be taking a route called Highway 50 for a few hundred miles. At first, I honestly didn’t think twice about it. I thought that this would just be another road, same as any other.

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Highway 50 actually stretches across the entire United States, from California to Maryland. It is 3,008 miles (4,841 km) long. As we were entering the highway, we saw a sign that said “Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America.” This was a little unexpected to see, but I was excited to see if it actually lived up to the name. It turned out that this “normal” road just might turn out to be another highlight of our trip.

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The stretch that we were on has nine small towns, two abandoned mining camps, and several mountain ranges.

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The first things that I noticed was that it is a two-lane road. The second thing I noticed was that there was basically no one around.

Apparently, a long time ago it was said to avoid this road; however, I am really glad that I had the experience.

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There was so much beautiful scenery around that it was hard to get bored for a long time. We would occasionally go through a very small town, where to usually 80mph speed limit would slow down to around 20mph. The towns would last for less than 5 minutes, so if you are ever on this road and think you need to stop, you might want to take the opportunity.

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After a few hours, I started to notice that the distant ground looked really white. I eventually realized that we were in Utah, and these were salt flats. Being pretty excited about this, we pulled over at a random gravel road and drove over to the flats.

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We began to walk out on the flats. The ground at first was how you would expect, really flat and hard. After a couple of minutes, the ground started to get softer. Before we knew it, we were up to our ankles in this very sticky gray clay material. It was quite hard to get out of, but we finally made our way back to the car.

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Seeing as there was no town around, we wiped off our feet the best we could and had to wait until we got to a gas station around an hour later to really get the already drying clay off.

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There were also many, many pull-offs on the road. There were no services on these pull-offs, but the views were always amazing.

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All in all, I quite enjoyed this road. Don’t expect to see many people, and if you were to break down it may take a while for assistance to arrive, but I would definitely drive on this road again one day if only for the views.

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Would you take this road given the opportunity, or do you prefer civilization?

-Haley

162 replies »

  1. I drove the loneliest highway some years ago from just outside Reno up to Elko Nevada I believe. Back then I was an archeologist and had done some work if I remember right at Fallon Naval Air Station. We had done some prehistoric archeological surveys using a helicopter to reach some fairly isolated radar or other sites. I don’t remember the exact sequence but we found ourselves driving up Highway 50 from around Reno to Elko and noticed that this was the route I believe that the Pony Express took and there were historic sites along the highway marking that use. The loneliness was tantalizing and we checked the gas gauge in the car a number of times and kept an anxious eye on the car temperature since most of the places we went through were not connected whatsoever to any other places. There were mining towns and these amazing vistas of desert and the road leading forever onward. It was a desolate yet magnificent feeling that this road with its two lanes cut inexorably across one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. I’m a desert rat at heart and wandered over the Mojave and Great Basin deserts way back when doing professional archeology. This felt like a strange and other worldly trip and we both laughed to see signs proclaiming houses of prostitution with no electrical power along the way. Mining towns, old historic remnants, long reaching vistas. They all marked our trip to Elko. I will never forget the loneliest highway in America. I may not ever drive it again but there are some drives one should do once. Highway 50 is one of those.

    • Hi Michael, your descriptions of the area is so perfect. We actually almost ran out of gas once, but luckily made it to a gas station just in time. I definitely agree that everyone should do this drive at least once. It sounds like your experience was very interesting! Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. Thank you for sharing your photos and for writing about the loneliest road…It makes me want to drive it now, well when we eventually get to America. Australia has Nullarbor Plains. I think it starts from South Australia heading towards the west and I was told that it a long and boring drive…One day hubby and I will do that.

    • I’m sure the drive along Nullarbor Plains would be worth it, if only for the story! I’ve been really thinking about when I can get to Australia one day. I’m just not sure if to visit in the summer or the winter! Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  3. Your pictures are beautiful. It is worth taking a risk driving on this one road you drove. but honestly, I would think hard before I even do it. it is really too lonely. But well I am so glad you stopped at my blog. Thank you for the follow it was great and I appreciate that so very much and I returned the favour. I hope our communications will continue. A lovely week to you. cheers!

  4. Recently my wife and I watched the movie Independence Day, and during the scene where Will Smith’s character is pulling the alien across what looks like the salt flats, we both said we’d love to visit there someday. Thanks for the pictures and your description.

  5. Enjoyed the fabulous photos in your article on the loneliest road!
    Thanks for being neighbourly and popping over to see my blog on arts and life at http://www.commaand.co Glad you liked my blog post on Julia Child and her husband’s photography. It’s like going back in time, to see Paris in the 1950s.

  6. I love the photos in your blog. We travelled through that area when my kids were much longer. What I remember most was the incredible heat when we got out (it was the middle of summer) and the scenery, which was so different from anything I had experienced.

  7. Thanks for writing this great blog. I really enjoyed reading it. In answer to your question yes I’d prefer to take this road any day! You pictures are fantastic and I was there on the journey with you. I love exploring different places and would one day very soon love to take this road so I can experience it for myself.

  8. I lived in Utah for about 10 years in my youth and my then boyfriend, now husband, and I explored so much of UT and Nevada, we probably were on this road at some point. Your post made me want to go back and take another look at how beautiful Earth can be!

  9. Great photos and story. My dream is to spend some time in the Utah area exploring Bryce and Zion, some day. The mountains and skies in your photos are very dramatic.

  10. Thanks for checking out my blog. I am sure glad I found yours. Not that it is helping my cabin fever. LOL. Now I am even more anxious to get back on the road. There are so many wonderful and beautiful locations to visit. My bucket list just keeps growing. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Looks beautiful and look like a sight to see with all the scenery however, I personally would be a bit hesitate to take this road let alone be on this road only being I’d be so scared of what may happen because I’m such a scardy cat from all those horror movies lol

  12. Thanks for liking my blog; the feeling is mutual! I am getting bolder as I get older, so would probably take the adventurous route. Loved your photos! Keep writing!

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