The Loneliest Road in America goes through the Nevada deserts and mountains. Read about our experiences there; what is there to see and where to stay along the road.
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Around Thanksgiving week, we did a road trip from California to Utah and back. On our way to Utah, we drove through Nevada via Interstate 80, which is the newer and more popular route. However, there is not much to see along this road, so on the way back we decided to take Highway 50 even though it takes more time.
This road is also known as the Loneliest Road in America, so driving through it sounds rather exciting. But we were ready for a little adventure and planned to take our time there. And this wasn’t our first time on Highway 50 so we already knew what we were getting into.
The Loneliest Road in America starts from the capital of Nevada, from Carson City and ends at the border of Utah in Baker. That stretch is part of interstate 50 which as a whole goes all the way from California to Maryland.
What is The Loneliest Road in America?
The Loneliest Road in America got its name from an article published by Life Magazine back in 1986. According to them the drive from Baker to Dayton was totally empty and there was absolutely nothing to see there. They actually warned people not to drive along this road, because not everyone would have the survival skills to do it.
Decades later, Nevada tourism officials decided to use it in their marketing and make driving through Nevada into an adventure. And ever since then, people have known this route as the Loneliest Road in America.
This was our second time driving through Highway 50, since 2014 when we first visited. So we kind of knew what to expect from this drive: straight road as far as you can see; long stretches with no services; old western towns and run down motels.
We packed a lot of snacks and water with us, and filled the tank whenever we had a chance. We also got a free map from the first gas station where we stopped at, but hey, who really needs a map on the Loneliest Road in America? There is nowhere to get lost there! But we thought it could be helpful, since on most of the road we didn’t have cell service.
What to do and see along the way?
Most of Highway 50 through Nevada sits on very flat desert. But we had forgotten about how many mountain passes there are too from our previous drive. This could be a problem during winter, since there might be snow storms up in the mountains. Some roads might require chains or they might just be completely closed.
We were there in November and it was snowing a little bit but nothing too bad. We were very lucky though, because we were not prepared for the winter weather. If you are planning to drive the Loneliest Road in America, it is best to check the road conditions before the trip.
During the summer months on the other hand, it can get very hot in the desert. Packing up a lot of water with you is never a bad idea!
Collect stamps for the Loneliest Road in America Survival Guide
Before heading on your trip get yourself the Loneliest Road in America Survival Guide distributed by Travel Nevada. You can get one by ordering it from them or just by stopping along the road at participating businesses. Most gas stations, Chambers of Commerce, museums, restaurants and motels have it. It will give you an idea of the towns and places you should stop along the way.
When you stop, the businesses will stamp your guide and once you have at least five stamps, you can mail it back to the Nevada Commission on Tourism. They will then send you an official certificate signed by the governor stating that you survived the Loneliest Road in America. Yee-haw! We thought it was a fun way to get people to stop along the way and support local businesses.
Visit Great Basin National Park at Baker
Baker is officially the first city along the Loneliest Road in America on the border of Utah and Nevada. The town is very small, tiny in fact. Only 68 people live there. But this was definitely the most exciting stop for us.
We spent a day at Great Basin National Park and booked a tour to see the amazing Lehmann Caves there. I highly recommend that! Just make sure to book your tour well ahead since they sell out quickly. The park also has some beautiful nature and great hiking trails.
Don’t waste your time at Osceola Ghost Town
On our first time on the Loneliest Road in America we decided to do a little detour to see a ghost town called Osceola. It was mentioned on the map we had and it sounded exciting. Osceola used to be an old mining town. When gold was found in the area in 1872, people started moving over there.
However, today’s Osceola was a whole lot of nothing! It is about seven miles of small dirt road with no cell service. There is absolutely nobody there. We saw ruins of a building and a couple of signs; also someone’s house with a big “No trespassing” sign on it. That was it! My recommendation is not to waste your time by going there and instead use it to see more interesting places along the way.
Stop at Ely to eat or stock up on snacks
The first town after Baker is called Ely. It is also the biggest of the towns along the drive and has the most services. Ely has about 4,000 residents and compared to other places on the road, it actually felt like a town.
We stopped there for lunch and found a very nice little restaurant called Racks Bar & Grill. Food was delicious there and everyone was very friendly. There was also plenty of fast food chains in Ely, and some bigger grocery stores. A great place to get some gas or stock up on snacks.
Check out the friendliest town on the loniest road; Eureka
After stopping in Ely, Eureka seems very small, but it also has more of a western town feeling to it. Eureka calls itself “the friendliest town on the loneliest road”. Like most towns along this road, Eureka too used to be a mining town. You will quickly realise that everything there to see is along Highway 50 itself.
The most notable building is their Opera House which was built in 1880, and a haunted hotel called Jackson House Hotel (both in the picture below). Eureka has a couple small motels and a few restaurants. We stopped there only to walk around a bit and take photos, so we can’t recommend any particular place.
Experience some western town feel in Austin
On our first visit to the Loneliest Road in America, we spent the night in Austin. We had not booked a place to stay, because we wanted to see how far we could make it before getting tired. We visited a couple of the motels before deciding where to stay, and our night turned out fine. And that was all they had; couple small motels.
Out of all the towns along the road, we remember Austin the best. Austin to us, represented everything you could expect from the Loneliest road in America.
Austin is an old mining town and it is said to be a so-called “living ghost town”. Only about 160 people live there. Everything to see in the town is on the Main Street. They have a couple small motels, restaurants and a gas station. We had seen a cool, rustic looking building that said; International Cafe, and we really wanted to check it out.
Our host warned us not to go there, but we ended up eating there for both dinner and breakfast. The food was ok and people there were friendly to us. But if you consider going in, you might want to check out some of the reviews, since you might be in for a true Nevada experience.
While we were there, a group of motorcyclists came in and casually set their guns on the table before ordering. It felt like we just hopped into an old wild west movie.
Follow the Pony Express tracks all the way to Fallon
On our latest road trip, we stayed a night at Fallon close to the border of California. Before getting there, we drove over a couple mountain passes and a lot of straight road. Not much to see there!
As the sun set, we really had to be careful because they had some free range cattle in this area, and occasionally there was a cow standing almost on the street. They were really hard to spot in the darkness, so keep your eyes on the road all the time!
Right before Fallon you are likely to see some ATV’s riding up and down some sand dunes. The place is called Sand Mountain Recreation Area and you will also see salt flats around this same area.
We also stopped at a couple of Pony Express sites that are along this stretch. The legendary Pony Express ran twice a week from Missouri to California in 1860 and 1861 delivering the news and mail. The best riders were able to ride the trail in ten days and this is exactly where their route went.
Along it were different kinds of stations where they stopped and rested. One of them is Buckland Station which is an interesting little stop at Fort Churchill State Historic Park.
Find some wild horses at Dayton
One of the last towns along the the Loneliest Road in America is a small, historic town called Dayton. When we arrived, we saw a pretty palomino horse walking right by the highway, next to the buildings.
I knew that we were in an area of wild horses, but I couldn’t believe that they would be so close to the human settlements. This horse also looked very nice, well nourished and shiny. Horses usually stay in a herd, not walking alone.
We stopped in Dayton history museum to get a stamp for our Survival passport and we were told that the horse is indeed a wild horse, and they sometimes cause accidents on the roads. The herd usually pastures along the road from Dayton to Virginia City on up to Reno.
Dayton History Museum was small but interesting: a great place to do a little stop.
Jump back in time at Carson City
The other end of the Loneliest Road in America is in Carson City. It is very close to one of our favourite vacationing places; Lake Tahoe.
Carson City is the capital of Nevada and has a little less than 60,000 residents. It has a small, nice historic district where you can see some Victorian-style homes, museums and churches. You can do either an auto-tour or a walking tour. Both are great.
Where to stay on the Loneliest Road in America
If someone would ask where to stay on the Loneliest Road in America, we would probably say that it depends. It depends on how much time you want to spend along it, what you want to see and what type of accommodation you are looking for.
If you want to stay in a nicer hotel, then Ely is your place. In Ely we recommend this Holiday Inn. The town also has plenty of restaurants to choose from and make sure to stock up your snacks and gas for the rest of the drive.
However, if you are ready for a little adventure and don’t mind staying in a modest motel, then head over to Eureka or Austin. They have an old western town feel. Eureka has only two places to choose from; a Best Western or the Sundown Lodge. In Austin we stayed at Cozy Mountain Motel.
If your plan is to visit Great Basin National Park, then you need to stay at least one night in Baker. We stayed at the Border Inn Casino which was VERY basic but clean and warm. Their restaurant was a great little find, and we enjoyed both dinner and breakfast there.
Fallon is a little bigger so there was more hotels. We stayed at this Comfort Inn & Suites which also offered a nice breakfast. If you end up there, I highly recommend the small Mexican restaurant in front of it. The food was delicious!
Well, how was our experience at the Loneliest Road in America overall? We agreed both of the times, that is wasn’t as lonely as we thought. We saw another car traveling in the opposite direction about every ten minutes or so, sometimes even more often than that. We felt like we have definitely been to some lonelier roads before and even in Nevada. Some of them you literally ran into no one.
But driving the Loneliest Road was a fun experience and there is much more to see there than on I-80. And hey, we survived!
Would you consider driving through the Loneliest Road in America?