Driving Nevada’s Lonely Extraterrestrial Highway


Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Grant

While US 50 is named the Loneliest Highway in America, Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway is easily far more remote. Driving across this road is an expedition into one of the most uniquely desolate parts of this country.

“There’s not a lot out here in Nevada.”

“Nope, there sure isn’t.”

Our truck towing our camper along the highway in eastern California.
On the road south of Lee Vining, headed towards Nevada.

That was our conversation driving from Lee Vining, California to Caliente, Nevada. That and will we have enough gas to make it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the drive.

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Crossing Nevada

We got up early to leave Lee Vining for one main reason: to avoid the heat. The drive wasn’t too long, a bit more than 300 miles and about six hours or so towing the camper, but we wanted to avoid driving in the late afternoon. When we drove through the Mojave Desert on the way out, the truck did fine, even in 107 degrees, but I didn’t want to push it.

Actually, the drive kinda excited me. I’ve never been to Nevada before. It is easier for me to count states I haven’t been to and this knocks one of them off the list. I am now down to five states I haven’t been to!

About two hours into the drive, we reached the first major town, Tonopah. We made a point to use the good cell service around Tonopah to make our Father’s Day phone calls and then head on to the Extraterrestrial Highway. 

If I had it to do over again, we probably would have stopped in Tonapah for a day to check out all of the cool sites there, including the infamous Clown Motel.

I was talking to my dad when we passed the sign letting us know we had 150+ miles to the next gas. I checked our fuel consumption… We started with a full 36-gallon tank and used just less than 12 gallons. Bonnie asked if we needed to head back to get gas.

“Nah, we got this.”

As we turned on the Extraterrestrial Highway (Nevada 375), we passed yet another sign warning us it was 111 miles to the nearest gas. Again, checked the tank and numbers.

“We’re good.”

A green road sign in the midst of the desert labled the Extraterrestrial Highway in unusual script, with a silhouette of an Air Force Stealth Fighter on it.
The Extraterrestrial Highway sign

Driving the Extraterrestrial Highway

The Extraterrestrial Highway is so named because it borders the US Air Force’s top-secret test facility, Area 51, and is known for “alien activity.”

I can’t say we saw a lot of anything there. There are free-range cows. Indeed, we saw several hanging out by the road.

We arrived in Rachel about halfway through our drive down the road. There is not much to Rachel, but compared to what we had seen up to this point, the town of 54 was a gleaming metropolis out in the desert.

The hub of Rachel is the Little A’Le’Inn, an extraterrestrial-themed bar right off the highway. The A’Le’Inn also has a small motel for those who want to stay to watch for nighttime Air Force flights, little gray men from outer space or drive out to see the Area 51 fence and get chased off by the Air Force.

The Little Ale'Inn is a bar and motel in the Rachel, Nevada, smack dab in the middle of the Extraterrestrial Highway.
The Little Ale’Inn is a bar and motel in the Rachel, smack dab in the middle of the Extraterrestrial Highway.

We stopped to take a few pictures and then kept on driving. Next time, we might have to stop in for a beer or two but we did not want to mix a drink with this particular drive.

Onward to Caliente

Leaving Rachel and its population, which might include aliens, behind, we headed west for Caliente. For those who don’t speak Spanish, the town’s name means “hot.” Yes, we spent two nights in “Hot” in the summer. At least it wasn’t as hot as Las Vegas was at the same time (102 vs 113 degrees).

As we got closer to Caliente, I started to worry a little bit about the fuel. In terms of the truck, it was telling me I had a good extra 30 miles past our destination, but I was doing a bit of uphill and the temperature had climbed into the high 90s, meaning the AC was working harder and consuming more fuel.

The problem with the F-150 is the fuel gauge is located on the back of the tank, so going uphill tends to give you a more optimistic fuel estimate. As I started downhill, I was quickly brought to a stark reality: We had very little fuel left.

When I bottomed out into the canyon surrounding Caliente, the miles to empty read around 12. I was concerned, to say the least.

As we made it to the one gas station in town, we had 6 miles to empty.


Pro tip: Top off your tank before leaving Tonopah if taking the Extraterrestrial Highway… even if you think you don’t need to!


There’s not too much to Caliente. The town has about 1,100 residents, a handful of restaurants, a pretty good grocery store, a Dollar General, a couple of auto parts stores, a couple of hotels and a really good RV park.

Read our full campground review on RV Life here.

A camper beneath several trees behind of a grassy area for a picnic table.
Our campsite in Caliente at Youngs RV Park was outstanding.

Located in a pretty canyon, the town is fairly green and was home to a train depot for the Union Pacific. It’s not a bad place to stop if you need supplies or rest heading to or from Great Basin National Park.

There are a few state parks in the area. We made a point to visit two: Cathedral Gorge State Park and Kershaw-Ryan State Park.

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge is a badlands area located about 15 miles north of Caliente. The park is not large but has some interesting terrain, a couple of hikes and a campground that has electric hookups.

Originally, we were planning on camping at the state park, but we never like camping at “first come, first serve” campgrounds unless we know we can be there early. Then we figured out the campground in Caliente was actually cheaper, had full hookups and WiFi. That made the choice easy.

We got out and hiked to the Miller Point Overlook. The overlook gave us a great overview of the gorge. The trail was only a mile long, but we wanted to avoid being out too much in the heat. For those who are less heat adverse (or visiting at a cooler time of year), there is a four-mile loop that looked like a good hike as well.

Be sure to check out the “caves” as well. There are some areas in the gorge sides where there are almost caves because the folds in the rock are so thin.

Kershaw-Ryan State Park

Kershaw-Ryan State Park is located just a couple of miles outside Caliente and is a small lush valley framed by tall canyon walls.

A canyon with steep walls but lush vegetation inside of it.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park is just outside of Caliente, Nevada and is home to a pretty canyon with plenty of lush greenery.

The park has a small tent campground, as well as a couple of walking trails, gardens and a playground and a wading pool for small children.

Grant and Bonnie with a canyon behind them.
Selfie in Kershaw-Ryan State Park

The canyon is certainly a stark contrast to Cathedral Gorge and is a relaxing spot with a lot of shade. We hiked most of the Canyon Overlook Trail (we took a wrong turn and ended up back at the parking lot) and enjoyed the hike.

Final Thoughts on Driving the Extraterrestrial Highway

Driving the Extraterrestrial Highway was an experience and I wouldn’t trade it. There is a certain beauty in the desert and being in a place with very few people.

Indeed, a bit more than 3 million people are living in Nevada, which is less than the 5.9 million in the greater metro Atlanta area. Furthermore, if you subtract the folks who live in Las Vegas and Reno, only about 270,000 people live in the rest of the state.

Being so far from civilization was a bit humbling. The extended gas tank on my truck almost couldn’t get us there.

Indeed, there is something truly romantic about being in a place where the tourism motto is “Don’t fence me in.”

Travel Resources
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We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
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We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
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Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices for booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
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What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
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We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viator first.
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Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
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We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
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2 thoughts on “Driving Nevada’s Lonely Extraterrestrial Highway”

  1. I am so happy I came across this post, I am planning some travels in Nevada and writing about Nevada on my site! Keep it up! -Taylor | The Things My Eyes Have Seen


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