On the so-called “Loneliest Road in America”

In the mid-1980s, Life magazine called the stretch of blacktop highway from the Utah/NV border to Reno along HWY 50 “The Loneliest Road in America.”  The author of the article advised readers to not take this road in their travels.

Well, if you don’t enjoy high mountains, open vistas, accessible and often free camping, and find ~70 miles (or an hour’s drive) to be a long stretch between towns and have Los Angeles or NYC as a baseline, then this stretch is indeed lonely.

But for the right person, the lonely stretches in between the one-hour gaps in towns are a scenic delight with plenty of sites along the way.

Near USFS land outside of Baker, NV.

Hiking at a free campground along the highway.

The local towns took up this seemingly insulting moniker and have embraced it and turned it into a bit of tourist path. But the road is no lonelier than places on the High Plains in the tri-state region of Wyoming, Colorado, and the Nebraska Pan Handle or many parts of Utah.

The old Pony Express route as a hiking trail.

What it is (at least from Baker to about Austin; after that, you feel the gravitational pull of California! ) is a low population base, lots of free camping, and much history.

We traveled along where people thousands of years ago left their mark, where stagecoaches dropped of freight or passengers, where the American legend of the short-lived Pony Express went, and where the telegraph delivered messages.

Compass points? Astronomical observation?

Compass points? Astronomical observation?

The USFS protected the petroglyph cave; bars prevent entrance. But a camera lens fits through.

And in more recent times, the Lincoln Highway went across the country and helped developed the “Great American Road Trip” we Americans seem to love. The allure of the Blue Highways never goes away.

This spring provided water at the stage stop seen below.

A soak in some natural hot springs did not hurt, either.


I don’t know if Hwy 50 is the “Loneliest Road in America.”’

But it sure proved to be an exciting and more preferable way to get across the state of Nevada than I80.

And when you have the gift of time, it is the joy of the journey that matters.

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5 Replies to “On the so-called “Loneliest Road in America””

  1. I went through Nevada in the spring of 1978, car camping in my 1973 Toyota Corolla, which I’d converted into the world’s smallest RV by removing the passenger and rear seats and replacing them with an L-shaped plywood platform. Saw at least part of this route. Lovely.

    Things were a lot emptier then, even moreso in the late 1950s when the guy who gave me the car-conversion idea (my boss in the early 1970s) did the same thing in his VW Beetle, in between being a soldier and becoming a history museum curator.

    There is a similar road in eastern Montana, somewhere. Between and connecting I94 and US2. I drove 80 miles without seeing another vehicle, or house, except for one rundown trailer way off to the side. No fences either. But that was back then. No telling what they’ve done to it by now, though that’s a particularly un-trendy part of the world.

    Whenever I see a “No services for X miles” sign, I get tingly. Yes!

  2. Excellent story. That last line though. That’s the one. I must have read it 5 times in a row without even thinking before nodding my head in agreeance.

    Enjoy walking in Muir’s footsteps. I’m excited to hear of you experiences there. I really enjoyed my short time there last year.

    -Brian

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