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The Extraterrestrial Highway Road Trip Guide

The Extraterrestrial Highway Road Trip Guide

If you want to take a trip that’s truly out of this world, then head to Nevada and check out the state’s infamous Extraterrestrial Highway.

This remote stretch of road has drawn alien hunters, conspiracy theorists, and curious tourists for decades.

So let’s take a look at what you need to know before your close encounter.

What Is the Extraterrestrial Highway? 

The Extraterrestrial Highway is the name for portions of US Route 93, Nevada Route 375, US Route 6, and US Route 95 in central Nevada. It acquired the nickname due to its proximity to the infamous Area 51.

The long-unacknowledged military facility supposedly tests experimental aircraft and other top-secret technologies. Rumors of extraterrestrials and paranormal activity swirl around the facility. 

Where Is the E.T. Highway?

The Extraterrestrial Highway is located in central Nevada, north of Las Vegas. Portions of the route are located in Nye County, with the remainder in Lincoln County. 

The Route

Ready to blast off? Here’s what you need to know about each part of your journey.

Getting Started: Las Vegas to Crystal Springs

Route Details: Leave the crowds and gleaming hotel towers of Sin City behind as you go north on Las Vegas Boulevard or I-15. You’ll head this way for about 20 miles until exiting onto US Route 63 north.

From there, it’s a straight shot of just under 90 miles north to Crystal Springs. This portion of your trip should take about an hour and 45 minutes to two hours. Make sure to fill up your gas tank in Alamo or Ash Springs, as you won’t have another opportunity for quite a while. 

Things Not to Miss: If you want to guarantee you’ll see some kind of flying object on your journey, take a trip to the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge along US Route 93.

It contains more than 5,000 acres of rare lakes and marshes, as well as desert uplands. It serves as crucial habitat for migrating ducks, geese, and songbirds, and as well as coyotes, tortoises, and mule deer.

The area also features Native American and pioneer history. 

Near the town of Hiko, you’ll pass through even more incredible, unspoiled Nevada backcountry, at the Mt. Irish Wilderness Area. Only designated as protected in 2014, the big attraction here is the rocks.

The area is home to many prehistoric rock art sites and a vast number of breathtaking rock formations. 

Finally, if you’re willing to get off the beaten track a bit, head out into the Basin and Range National Monument. At more than 700,000 acres, don’t count on exploring the whole thing. You should also make sure your vehicle can handle the potentially rough dirt roads.

But, if you’re willing to make the trek, you’ll enjoy solitude and unbelievable views of this rugged landscape.

The Extraterrestrial Highway

Route Details: Your official trip on the E.T. Highway begins at Crystal Springs, where US Route 93 meets Nevada Route 375. From here, you’ll head northwest out of town toward the real star of the journey — Area 51.

This roughly 150-mile trip should take just over two hours without stops. However, you can easily spend an entire day exploring this portion of the route. 

Things Not to Miss

Of course, you won’t be able to access Area 51 or even get particularly close. Still, you can enjoy knowing you’re as close as most people will ever get to this infamous place.

Before heading out, make a stop at the Alien Research Center in Hiko. In reality, it’s less of a “research center” and more of an elaborate gift shop, but it’s worth a look.

The two-story-tall alien statue outside makes a great picture.

This stretch is also home to the Black Mailbox, another legendary meeting spot for UFO hunters. The lone mailbox located along the side of State Route 375 was rumored for decades to have a connection with Area 51.

This resulted in extensive graffiti, vandalism, and messages left for visitors from another world. In reality, it’s just a regular mailbox belonging to a local rancher. He was so exasperated by all the attention, he added a second box labeled “Alien.”

Finally, stop in the town of Rachel, the only settlement along this portion of the E.T. Highway. Home to fewer than 60 residents, this tiny desert outpost’s biggest attraction is the hotel/restaurant/gift shop known as The Little A’Le’Inn (pronounced “little alien”). This small, no-frills spot is about what you’d expect from an alien-themed budget motel in the middle of nowhere.

An on-site restaurant offers dishes like “Alien Burgers,” and a small gift shop sells everything from plush Alien dolls and coffee cups to vials of dirt from Area 51.

Tonopah to Las Vegas

Route Details: The Extraterrestrial Highway terminates at a junction with US Route 6. Take this road west, approximately 50 miles to the town of Tonopah.

From here, it’s a straight shot of roughly 210 miles and three hours south back to Las Vegas.

1940, Main street. Tonopah, Nevada

Things Not to Miss

Before heading toward Tonopah, you can check out the Lunar Crater Backcountry Byway. The highlight is a 430-foot deep naturally created crater, similar to those observed by astronauts. NASA even used nearby land as a training ground for astronauts in the 1970s. The area’s volcanic history is also on full display, with 20 extinct volcanoes set in the surrounding hills.

Tonopah is another small, unique desert town worth checking out on your trek. The town’s initial prosperity only lasted about a decade. By 1920, the population dipped. More recently, the nearby U.S. military’s Tonopah Test Range has become the area’s primary economic engine. 

The town has some truly one-of-a-kind accommodations like the century-old Mizpah Hotel, once the tallest building in the state of Nevada and rumored to host all sorts of paranormal activity. You can also check out Tonopah’s Clown Motel.

Tonopah gets a classic mention in the song Willin’ – made popular by Linda Ronstat and Little Feat.

The property contains thousands of clown figurines and other pieces of clown art. If the clowns aren’t freaky enough, it’s also reportedly haunted.

If you want to learn more about the history of Tonopah and the entire region, there’s plenty of opportunities. Check out the 100-acre Tonopah Historic Mining Park, the site of the area’s original silver claims. Or go to the Central Nevada Museum, with a replica old west town on site. 

North of town, you’ll find the Crescent Sand Dunes, home to one of only 30 “singing” dunes on the entire planet.

The largest dunes rise more than 300 feet tall. For a more mature destination, try the Area 51 Alien Travel Center & Brothel located about 125 miles south of Tonopah on US-95. Described as an “extraterrestrial-themed souvenir shop, meets truck stop, meets fireworks store, meets brothel,” you could say there’s something for everyone here. 

Does the Extraterrestrial Highway Go Through Area 51?

Unfortunately, the Extraterrestrial Highway doesn’t go through or even get particularly close to Area 51. The highly-secured military post is located far off the highway, down heavily guarded small dirt roads.

The base perimeter is marked with orange posts, and CCTV and motion sensors alert the so-called “camo dudes” guarding the base about any trespassers. Signs around the area warn that deadly force is authorized. 

Best Camping Near the Extraterrestrial Highway

Looking to spend the night and keep an eye out for some visitors from another world? Despite the remote area, you still have two great options for camping near the Extraterrestrial Highway.

The Little A’Le’Inn

Get into the extraterrestrial spirit at this tourist-friendly motel and RV campground. Accommodations include individual rooms, whole units, RV parking spaces with hookups, and primitive tent camping.

You may need to share a bathroom if you aren’t renting a complete unit. An RV site costs $25 per night. The sites include 30-amp electrical service and water, but there’s no sewer or dump station on-site.

If you’re willing to rough it, you can park your RV and enjoy a $10 per night tent site. 

BLM Alamo, NV

Various government agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, own much of Nevada’s land. The BLM offers free dispersed, primitive camping on a massive swath of Nevada land, including near Alamo, located on US Route 93.

On most BLM land, you can pull off the road pretty much anywhere and camp, although certain spots are better than others. 

This is true boondocking. You’ll have no electric or water hookups, and you’ll need to hold onto any trash or wastewater and bring it back to civilization with you. This is also the desert, which means travelers can encounter scorching daytime temperatures and chilly nights, sometimes in the same 24-hour period. Make sure you bring everything you need before heading out to a site. 

However, those who can brave the wild will enjoy incredible peace and quiet and beautiful desert views. It’s a perfect choice if you’re on a budget.

Plus, you won’t have any light pollution to deal with as you scour the sky for visitors from another world.

Is an Extraterrestrial Highway Road Trip Worth the Drive? 

For lovers of aliens, conspiracies, and remote desert landscapes, you’ll get a thrill from your trip along the Extraterrestrial Highway. Just set your expectations appropriately.

Those making the journey to catch a peek at Area 51 or have a close encounter may be disappointed. But if you’re OK with a few kitschy tourist traps, some Nevada history, and the solitude of the desert, you’ll have a great time.

Have you ever visited Area 51 or the Extraterrestrial Highway?

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  1. Gary Tomkins says:

    The Basin and Range Trail looks incredible! There is a 60 minute film on youtube and now, a 10 part series on it as well. Incredible scenery out there in Nevada!