The Loneliest Road in America: US Highway 50 in Nevada

Posted on Posted in Roadgeek Blog

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Highways & Byways Roadgeek Blog! While I am developing the board game Highways & Byways, I will be posting a new article to the Roadgeek Blog every Monday morning. Every article will highlight a scenic drive in the United States. I don’t just want to make a board game – I want to make something that will inspire you to leave your comfort zone and explore the country!


Google Maps Screenshot of US 50 Through Nevada
Click for the Google Maps directions.


One may be the loneliest number, but fifty is a close second if you happen to be driving straight through the middle of Nevada. This 409 mile stretch of road earned the name “The Loneliest Road in America” from Life magazine in 1986. The Nevada Tourism Department could have been angry at Life for throwing shade at the desolate desert highway, but they had a better idea. They co-opted the name and turned it into a marketing gimmick. They started putting up signs like what you see below.


US 50 in Nevada - the Loneliest Road in America: Road Sign
Image from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0 Davemeistermoab.


When I say Nevada really embraced the road, I’m not exaggerating. Just have a look at this survival guide issued by the Nevada tourism industry. The road is, indeed, extremely lonely – it passes through only three small towns: Austin, Eureka, and Ely which respectively have populations of 192, 610, and 4,255. There are stretches approaching nearly 100 miles in length where there are no motels, restaurants, auto shops, or even gas stations. Whatever you do…don’t break down in the desert!

Why on earth go somewhere so isolated? Why go somewhere that’s arguably even dangerous? The biggest city along the route is Carson City, which can be reached faster via I-80 and I-580, much more built-up freeways. Quite simply, go because it’s gorgeous.

It may be a long, long stretch of road, but you pass lots of incredible mountain ranges…


Photo taken by Bruce Fingerhood and posted to Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. (Source)


You can bask in the ethereal, otherwordly light of the desert, especially if a storm is approaching…


US 50 Storm A-Coming
Photo taken by Bruce Fingerhood and posted to Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Source)


But perhaps the most compelling reason to go is the mesmerizing straightness of the road. It’s a road of immensity. It’s a long, long way to drive. The skies are huge and you can see very, very far in front of you. It tests your willpower. You are so alone that you must surrender to the desert’s wisdom. You must be hypnotized to survive.

In short: do it because it’s an experience.


Photo taken by Purple Bullet and posted to Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Source)

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