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Area 51 or bust: Seeing the sights between Las Vegas and Rachel

Area 51 or bust: Seeing the sights between Las Vegas and Rachel

Updated September 17, 2019 - 5:59 pm

It may not be the loneliest road in America. That distinction belongs to U.S. Highway 50, which serves as a sort of equator for Nevada.

But the journey to Rachel along U.S. Highway 93 and state Route 375, aka the Extraterrestrial Highway, could be considered its marginally more vibrant cousin.

The long, straight stretches of two-lane highway that unfold ahead of you for miles can become hypnotic. At times, even a slight incline or bend in the road can prove exhilarating.

The few signs that break up the monotony may cause more worry than relief. Several point out that the area is an open range, meaning there could be livestock in the middle of the highway at any moment.

One cautions that there’s no gas for the next 150 miles. Yet another warns of a “major deer crossing” with no word as to whether it’s a major crossing for deer or a crossing for major deer. Either way, it doesn’t instill much peace of mind.

Whether you’re planning to make the journey next weekend to “see them aliens” or you’d rather wait for a more leisurely, peaceful weekend, these stops can help break up the 150-mile drive from Las Vegas to Rachel.

Illustrations by Wes Rand
Illustrations by Wes Rand

Love’s Travel Stop

Intersection of Interstate 15 and U.S. 93

Any sensible person would fill up the gas tank before leaving home. In case you forget, or if you’re looking to grab a drink or a snack, or maybe you’re just a fan of something resembling civilization, this is your final stop for any and all of that for the next 73 miles.

Pahranagat Lake Rest Area

Between mile markers 28 and 29 along U.S. 93 in Lincoln County

Resting is about the only thing you can do at this particular area. It offers a couple of shade trees, three picnic tables and a few trash barrels. If you’re in need of a restroom, well, there’s always the wilderness. During a recent stop, the lone portable toilet was padlocked inside a cage with a sign reading “Authorized Personnel Only.”

Sinclair station


More than just your next-to-the-last chance for gas, the small grocery store inside offers a surprising amount of fresh meats and produce along with Cracker Barrel-style decorative items, a Chester’s Chicken to Go franchise and an assortment of scented paraphernalia under the delightfully misspelled “Candles & Air Freshners” sign.

Green Valley Grocery

Ash Springs

Your official last chance for gas before the final 45-mile drive to Rachel. If you continue heading north from there, this is your final opportunity to refuel until Tonopah, another 110 miles beyond the Little A’Le’Inn. Should you have any minor car trouble, there are plenty of tools, motor oil and transmission fluid inside. There’s also a small food counter.

E.T. Fresh Jerky

Intersection of U.S. 93 and Route 375

The small store offers a variety of alien-themed souvenirs, as well as “radioactive” and “Martian poop” sodas. Plus, there’s that jerky, which, it may disappoint you to learn, is not made from fresh E.T.s. The shop is more notable, though, for what’s outside: a long, Instagram-worthy mural depicting a group of little green men as space cowboys.

Extraterrestrial Highway marker

Where state Route 318 splits off from Route 375

The road sign, which usually stands less than a mile from E.T. Fresh Jerky, has been abducted, not by aliens but by state transportation officials, ahead of the “Storm Area 51” events. Nevada Department of Transportation officials feared that the sign, a popular photo destination, might make potential traffic issues worse next weekend if swarms of stormers pulled off the highway to snap a picture. Plus, the sign was covered with so many stickers supporting various places (Canada’s Sasquatch Inn and Santa Cruz, California) and causes (Make Skateboarding Great Again and Suck It, Cancer), it was practically unreadable.

Alien Research Center

100 Extraterrestrial Highway, Hiko

The tourist attraction is hosting the Storm Area 51 Basecamp event Sept. 20 and 21, so that may not be the best time to visit. Or it could be totally fine; no one really knows. On an average day, though, the Alien Research Center is the home of souvenirs of the “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “X-Files” variety, along with tactical gear and “alien autopsy” photos.

The Black Mailbox

Between mile markers 29 and 30 along Route 375, at Mailbox Road

The mailbox that rancher Steve Medlin installed is one of the few landmarks along what is now known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. When UFO hysteria began luring visitors to the region in the 1990s, many of them came to believe the box was somehow connected to Area 51. They began rifling through Medlin’s mail or leaving their own letters to Area 51 workers or the aliens therein. Eventually, Medlin added this second mailbox that became a necessary stop for alien-hunters to deposit their tributes.

The mailbox has been stolen and replaced numerous times, so it may not be there when you are. During a recent visit, though, the graffiti-covered box contained, among many other items left for the aliens: a bottle of soda and two bottles of water, a package of peanut butter and crackers, two cigarette lighters, a hotel key, an Old Navy gift card, several rocks, including one with googly eyes attached, a toy car, a membership card to a go-kart track, numerous letters addressed to the aliens, three moist towelettes and a condom with the words “Just In Case” scrawled on the wrapper.

Area 51 back gate

10 miles down an unmarked gravel road on your left, 1.7 miles before the Little A’Le’Inn

Forget about storming Area 51. Cross over into the restricted zone, and the best outcome you could hope for is simply being detained. You can, however, drive up to the back gate — assuming your car or truck has good suspension. Follow this unmarked gravel road for approximately 10 miles, only the final two of which are paved. Eventually, you’ll come to the Area 51 back gate, where you can see two sets of barriers, multiple warning signs, a waist-high barbed-wire fence, a small cluster of buildings and … not much else. For miles.

Little A’Le’Inn

9631 Old Mill St., Rachel

You’ve arrived. If you’re here during a normal day, head inside, grab an Alien Burger and strike up a conversation. If you’re here during Alienstock, good luck, stay hydrated and may you be watched over by God, Zoltran 74 of the Canis Major Overdensity or whatever higher power you believe in.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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