In the belly of Nevada, surrounded by miles of undeveloped desert, lies a mystery. Area 51, a secret military base within Nellis Test and Training Range — so secret the government did not acknowledge its existence until 2013 — is here. According to UFO lore, this is where the Pentagon has stored frozen extraterrestrials and recovered alien spacecraft, especially in an area on the base known as Groom Lake. Drive the highway just north of Area 51 — also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway or Nevada state Route 375 — and you just may see a UFO, as some have claimed.
211 miles/340 kilometers
Check out the map HERE
- Day 1: Las Vegas, National Atomic Testing Museum. Overnight in Las Vegas
- Day 2: Extraterrestrial Highway, Alien Research Center, Rachel. Overnight in Tonopah.
DAY 1: LAS VEGAS
Start your trip with a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum for a look at “Area 51 — Myth or Reality.” This exhibit examines some of the stories surrounding the Area 51 military base. Now you’re ready to drive the ET Highway and make up your own mind about aliens. As fans of the 1990s TV show “The X-Files” know, the truth is out there.
Lodging in Las Vegas is plentiful, but for a retro experience, consider one of the refurbished classic hotels in the up-and-coming downtown Las Vegas.
CATCH SOME zzz'S
- Downtown Grand Las Vegas, 206 N. Third St., Las Vegas, 702-719-5100, downtowngrand.com
- El Cortez Hotel & Casino, 600 Fremont St., Las Vegas, 702-385-5200, elcortezhotelcasino.com
- Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, 129 Fremont St., Las Vegas, 702-385-7111, goldennugget.com/lasvegas
TAKE ME THERE
National Atomic Testing Museum
DAY 2: EXTRATERRESTRIAL HIGHWAY
Head north from Las Vegas on U.S. 93: it’s about 109 miles/175 kilometers to Crystal Springs, basically a junction where U.S. 93 connects to the ET Highway. Here, you’ll want to stop at ET Fresh Jerky, 12600 South U.S. 93 in Hiko, a roadside stop that sells jerky in such flavors as Teriyaki Time Travel. Get your photo taken next to the store’s cool alien murals, and you’re on your way.
You’re on the eastern end of the ET Highway and here’s another photo op: the ET Highway sign. In 1996, Nevada state Route 375 was renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway and a public dedication was held in the community of Rachel in conjunction with the 1996 movie “Independence Day.” The movie, about an alien invasion of Earth, has humans making their final stand at none other than Area 51.
Just past the ET Highway sign, on the north side of the road, is the Alien Research Center gift shop. You’ll know it from the giant alien statue next to the building, a silver Quonset hut. Snap another photo, and you’re on your way to Rachel.
Rachel, population 54 according to 2010 U.S. Census data, is home to the Little A’Le’Inn, a roadside stop that includes a bar, restaurant and motel. Here, browse for alien souvenirs and take advantage of yet another photo op — a tow truck pulling a UFO is a permanent fixture in the Little A’Le’Inn parking lot — and hit the road.
On the journey, you may notice a couple dirt roads from the ET Highway heading south towards Nellis Test and Training Range and Area 51. Yes, these are paths to Area 51, but you cannot pass the gates into the base, and you should obey all posted signs.
The ET Highway’s western end comes at its junction with U.S. 6. Continue on U.S. 6 (westbound) for about 50 miles into Tonopah, home of the Tonopah Historic Mining Park and the Central Nevada Museum.
CATCH SOME zzz's
- The Mizpah Hotel, 100 N. Main St., Tonopah, 775-482-3030, mizpahhotel.net
Jim Butler Inn & Suites, 100 Main St., Tonopah, 775-482-3577, jimbutlerinn.com
Tonopah Station, 1137 Erie St., Tonopah, 775-485-9111
TAKE ME THERE
ET Fresh Jerky
Alien Research Center
Tonopah Historic Mining Park
Central Nevada Museum