Friday, May 29, 2015

The Loneliest Road

Back in 1986 a Life Magazine article was said to have named US Highway 50 through Nevada as “The Loneliest Road”.  After this a AAA spokesperson said "It's totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills."

Of course the communities along the route, which roughly follows the old Pony Express and Overland Trails, decided to use the name “The Loneliest Road in America” as a marketing tool. We were not swayed by the marketing, but since it’s a direct route from Carson City to Great Basin National Park, here we are.

We’ve taken a couple detours off Hwy 50, our first being to check out Virginia City, the best known of the early Nevada mining towns. It’s a shame so many of these historical places are now very touristy, but I guess t-shirt, candy, and ice cream shops are what brings in the big money. We did enjoy walking down the wooden sidewalks and looking in some of the old buildings. Many of you may remember that the TV series Bonanza was set on the Ponderosa, a fictional ranch about a two hour horse ride from Virginia City.

Bucket of Blood Saloon
100 mile view from the back window of the saloon.
We spent the first night just 40 miles east of Carson City at Fort Churchill State Park, which should be called the Loneliest State Park, since we were by ourselves in the 20 site cottonwood shaded campground.

The fort has an interesting history of being built in 1860 to guard the Pony Express runs and protect the early settlers of Carson Valley from the Indians. There isn't much left of the ruins so you have to use your imagination.

We had a nice walk on the trails along the Carson River and around the ruins, with nothing but the sound of birds. We never heard a train on the nearby tracks. The cats loved it there.

Jim checking out the former hospital

Highway 50 didn’t really become lonely until we got east of Fallon, the largest town along the route, a big agricultural community and home to the Navy’s Top Gun flight school. After that we would go miles without seeing another car, and enjoyed the scenery as we climbed several summits, the last one being the 7,400’ Austin Summit in the Toiyabe Range. 

Popular with the OHV crowd, Sand Mountain dunes 25 miles east of Fallon.
A very lonely section of Route 50.

We stopped just east of Austin Summit at Bob Scott Campground, a small forest service campground not far off the road, where we found lots of dirt roads and cattle trails to take an evening walk in the woods.

Today we're on the move another 150 miles or so east, and it looks like we’ll be out of Verizon range for awhile. We saw that Google and Microsoft are working on a fix for the Windows Live Writer issue, so I’m hoping by the next time I post it will be working as usual. It takes me way too long to add photos directly to Blogger.


  1. That's one area we haven't seen yet, but it's on the bucket list.

  2. The Bob Scott campground was a nice surprise for me. I've stayed there twice in my travels. Only costing 1/2 price is nice too.
    I've enjoyed the lower campground at The Great Basin with a small creek next to some of the campsites.
    The cave tour was worth it too.
    Have fun!

  3. Great route, Great destination, Great memories. Nice to see the photos and hear your take on it.

  4. OMG.....unless they're confident of their survival skills. What a hoot. It might be lonely, but it sure is beautiful.

  5. I was going to stay at Ft Churchill SP last fall on the way to Fernley but there were swarms of wasps. I'm glad you hit it during the non-wasp season. I did stay at Bob Scott CG on my way east on the 50 two years ago, but just overnight. Have fun at Great Basin NP! I almost went there last year and still want to visit one of these days.

  6. I find myself occasionally buying a touristy t-shirt hoping that the vendors will continue to keep the old towns alive. It's a sad reality for some of these wonderful places. Love the 100 mile view - I bet you could see at least that far along that lonely road :-))) Thanks for taking the time to load the pics, they're beautiful.


  7. Mark Johnson has left a new comment on your post "The Loneliest Road":

    we thought Virginia City was a little to "Disney" for out tastes… not that I don't like ice cream cones, just can only take so many curio shops.

  8. when I first became an over the road first trip west ended up on Rt 50...the loneliest road in America....the most exciting thing was having to stop to let a large herd of Elk cross the road. I think it was Elk ..been many years ...great trip.

  9. I was researching that area last fall and saw plenty of places to stop for attractions and scenery. Then didn't do that trip but I am still intrigued.

    I sympathize with the blogger/LiveWriter problems. I'd like if they'd get rid of the recaptcha with pictures to match. Makes me feel like a second grader.

  10. This is one stretch of road we have not tackled yet. We may have to add it to our list. Just toasted the two of you last night as we drank Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout…very tasty!