Highway 50 is known as the “Loneliest Road in America.” It’s true that large stretches of the highway are just open road, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to see and do along this famous route across the state.
In 1986, Life Magazine coined the name, "the Loneliest Road in America." The article told anyone thinking of driving down the route to avoid it "unless they are confident of their survival skills." The article also said, "There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it."
The portion of Highway 50 in Nevada runs for 287 miles. The Nevada Commission on Tourism created a "Highway 50 Survival Guide" that you can have stamped along your journey. If you get at least 5 of the 8 towns to stamp it, you can get a "Highway 50 Survivor" certificate.
Stop 1: Carson City
Let's start our trip in Carson City, the state's capital. While Carson is a "modern" city, history buffs will enjoy exploring the buildings from the early days of the state. Some favorite places to visit are the Nevada State Railroad Museum, the V&T Railroad, and the state capitol building. Carson City is also a great location for mountain bikers and the city promotes the sport with their #RideCarsonCity campaign.
Stop 2: Dayton
Dayton has a population of around 9,000 people. It's listed as a Nevada Historical Marker by the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. Some interesting attractions in the area are the Dayton State Park, the Rock Point Mill and the nearby "micronation" of the Republic of Molossia.
Stop 3: Fernley
Fernley is situated at the junction of Highway 50 and Interstate 80. This is an important stop on our road trip. (Stock up on supplies and gas before you keep going east!) There's also the Lahontan State Recreation Area to visit as a side trip.
Pyramid Lake is close to Fernley. It's part of the reservation of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. The lake is known for its Tufa rock formations and its coloring, which ranges from gray to blue depending on the weather.
Stop 4: Fallon
Fallon is an agricultural town whose main produce is alfalfa and "Heart O' Gold" cantaloupes. There is also the Naval Air Station Fallon. This base is where the TOPGUN training program resides. US Highway 50 and US 95 meet in Fallon. Like Fernley, it's a good idea to stock up here as it's another 110 miles before we reach our next destination!
Fort Churchill is located just south of Fallon and it's a great park for history enthusiasts as well as campers and hikers. The remains of the fort, built in 1860, still stand today.
Sand Mountain is about 30 miles east of Fallon and is famous for its "Singing Sands." It's also a favorite recreation area for ATV riders.
Another interesting side trip near Fallon is the Grimes Point Hidden Cave. This site has many petroglyphs from previous Native American residents, as well as a hidden cave you can take a guided tour through.
One item you'll notice along your journey are the Pony Express markers between Fallon and Austin. These signs mark where the original Pony Express relay stations were.
Stop 5: Austin
Austin is a small town with a population around 200 people. It's a very popular destination for mountain-bikers, hikers and campers because of its proximity to the Toiyabe Mountain range. It's also a great place to see more of Nevada's "living history" in the buildings throughout the town. Gridley Store is one such location. Built in 1863, it may be the oldest general store building in Nevada. Other historical buildings are St. George's Episcopal Church (1878), St. Augustine's Catholic Church (1866) and the Austin Methodist Church (1866). All three churches are Nevada Historical Markers.
Stokes Castle is located in Austin and this unique "castle" is definitely worth a trip! The castle was built in 1897 to serve as a summer home for a mining magnate. It's now empty but you can visit the grounds around it.
Stop 6: Eureka
Eureka is another small town along the way with a lot of Nevada history behind it. Currently the population is around 600 people. One of its famous buildings is the Eureka Opera House. The opera house has been restored since the days when it first went up in 1879 and is now a convention center.
Another beautiful old building in Eureka is the Eureka Courthouse (1879). This building still serves as the county courthouse to this day.
Stop 7: Ely
Ely began as a route along the Pony Express and grew in the early 1900's due to copper mining. The town's attractions include the Nevada Northern Railway, Cave Lake State Park and the annual Silver State Classic Challenge. The town also has over 20 outdoor murals created by U.S. and international artists.
An interesting side trip from Ely is the Ward Charcoal Ovens, about 20 miles from the city. The ovens are from the bygone silver mining boom days and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The state park they reside in is also a great location for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities.
Last stop! Baker
We've made it! The little town of Baker (population around 70!) is our last stop on the journey. While Baker is quite small, it's the "home base" for visitors heading to the Great Basin National Park.
Great Basin National Park is a nature lover's dream. There's so much to see and do in this park, it's hard to narrow it down. There's the Lehman Caves, 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak, and the Bristlecone Pine groves which may be the world's oldest living organism. If you love fall color, you'll be delighted with a drive or hike through the park as the Aspen trees turn a brilliant gold color.