The end of July, I drove the 98.4-mile long Nevada State Route 375, the Extraterrestrial Highway. Why? I am curious about the Area 51 mystique. Since 1996, SR 375 is the Extraterrestrial Highway because of numerous UFO sightings.
Departing Las Vegas
After picking up provisions in Las Vegas, I hit U.S. Route 93, the Great Basin Highway. After about 2 hours of driving, in Crystal Springs I turned left and saw the green Extraterrestrial Highway sign indicating I found my way. Half the sign is covered in colorful stickers left by other road trippers. I’m not sure why they choose to sticker it up but it makes a great photo opp that probably changes daily.
What is Area 51?
Area 51 is a highly classified United States Air Force base in the Nevada desert. Officially, it is Groom Lake or Homey Airport and within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The U.S. government acquired it in 1955 and conducted Lockheed U-2 testing. For the first time, the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged its existence in 2013. However, all research, training, and whatever else conducted at Area 51, is top secret. Very few people know what happens there. Some people believe the government is storing UFOs and aliens.
Stops Along the ET Highway
Before reaching the sign, at the junction of 375 and 93 is E.T. Fresh Jerky. Find clean rest rooms, an assortment of jerky, and a photo opportunity with their colorful, green alien-themed mural.
I continued up the barren road and thought it must look the way the first pioneers saw it. The highway cut through desert terrain. Here and there I saw a building, a few cars, and several cattle because it is open range.
Alien Research Center
My next stop was the Alien Research Center and easy to spot because of the silver alien statue greeting earthlings. Inside, find a combination of sci-fi memorabilia, alien-themed souvenirs, and alien tequila. Importantly, find ice-cold beverages.
The Area 51 Black Mailbox
Further up the road on the left-hand side is the Area 51 Black Mailbox, if it has not been stolen, which is a common occurrence. It is 12 miles from Area 51, typically covered with stickers, and filled with notes for aliens left by visitors. It is one of the few markers along the ET Highway and popular meeting spot for UFO hunters and stargazers.
Area 51’s back gate was the next stop and I relied on online articles to find it. Once descending a hill and seeing the first homes of the town of Rachel, I turned left at the first dirt road, taking a chance this was it.
Driving to Area 51’s Back Gate
Driving along the dirt road toward Area 51’s back gate, I hoped my rental car did not get a flat tire. From the main road, it is about 10 miles to Area 51’s back gate with the first 7 being dirt. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw the dust my Chevrolet Cruze was kicking up and heard sounds of clunks and pings as small rocks kicked up and hit the car. Looking ahead and around, all I saw was farmland, mountains, and the dirt road. My phone read “No Service.” Nervous and gripping the steering wheel a little tighter, I wondered if AAA serviced side roads off the Extraterrestrial Highway.
Hello? Anyone Listening?
Once I hit pavement, I knew it would be a matter of time before reaching my destination. I read that listening devices and sensors are along the road. Approaching, I talked to whoever was listening, saying things like, “I come in peace” and “I’m just here for a photo.”
Once the secured area to Area 51 was in sight, I flushed with anxiety and nervousness.
“Maybe this was a bad idea,” I thought. Recollections of the that time I attempted to drive to the Manhattan Project in Tennessee floated in my head. (Spoiler, you cannot drive to the Manhattan Project.)
How Close Did I Get to Area 51’s Back Gate?
Behind chain-link fencing I saw a few small buildings with the closest being a white, one-story building about half the size of a mobile home. It looked like it was molded from white plastic and I assume it is the guard station. I wondered who was watching me from behind the two large tinted windows.
Next to the building was a pole. It looked like cameras mounted on top. A couple of stop signs, orange cones, no trespassing signs, warnings of no photography, and barrier made it apparent, visitors are not welcome.
Being a rule-follower, I did not take photos up close. If you are curious about the penalty for getting too close to the barrier without permission, the maximum penalty is up to six months in prison and/or up to a $1,000 fine. After snapping more photos, including a tribe of antelope, it was back down the dirt road to see what Rachel, population 54 (according to the 2010 U.S. Census) was about.
Grab Lunch at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel
The Little A’Le’Inn is the anchor business in Rachel. It is a restaurant, bar, motel, souvenir shop, and more photo opportunities around the property, photography is not permitted inside.
The motel has 14 units with most having shared bathrooms. The restaurant and bar, with a ceiling adorned with dollar bills from visitors, bustled at lunchtime. Burgers seemed to be the popular fare. Importantly, there is a bathroom and air conditioning. Out front is a tow truck holding a UFO which makes it a popular photo stop. Along the road, there is another Extraterrestrial Highway sign.
After recharging my body and soul at the Little A’Le’Inn, it was off to Warm Springs and the end of the journey up the ET Highway. Other than the antelope, I did not have any close encounters of the unusual kind.
A road trip along the Extraterrestrial Highway is a fun journey especially for earthlings who believe in UFOs and aliens, appreciate science-fiction flicks and books, up for a desert adventure, or looking for a digital detox. With the exception for a few hot spots, there will be no phoning home.
Additional Photos on Flickr
Nuts & Bolts About Driving Nevada’s ET Highway
Share your experience on social media using the #ETHighway hashtag.
Before hitting the road, fuel up your car and pack up essentials. This may include water, food and maps for navigating when cell service is lacking.
Alien Research Center
100 Extraterrestrial Highway
Hiko, Nev. 89017
Tel: (702) 373-2862
E.T. Fresh Jerky
12600 South US 93
Hiko, Nev. 89017
Tel: (775) 725-3677
9631 Old Mill St.
Rachel, Nev. 89001
Tel: (775) 729-2515
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