US Route 50, Road to Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Image credit: Joseph Sohm via Shutterstock

US Route 50: The Loneliest Road in America

Of all the fabled road trips and long-haul drives you can make in America, US Route 50 sits in a unique category of its own. Starting in Ocean City, Maryland, and ending all the way in Sacramento, California, Route 50 spans the entire width of the North American continent, connecting both coasts. Running east to west through almost every landscape America has to offer, the 3,000-mile-long ride is chock-full of breathtaking scenery and wilderness. Then why is Route 50 often referred to as the loneliest road in America?

Why So Lonely?

US Route 50, Fallon, Nevada. Image credit: Intricate Explorer via Unsplash

For a highway that is often thought of as an empty wasteland, Route 50 is actually quite busy, especially on the coasts. The reason this highway can be so "lonely" is due to the Western portion of the road through Nevada. This section of US Route 50 is one of the least traveled highways in the nation. Coined the "Loneliest Road in America" by Life Magazine in 1986, this route may be famous, but it is still a pretty desolate route to travel.

Despite the awe-inspiring sights of the American West, there is not much happening on Route 50. What makes this highway so special is how few cities and even small towns it goes through. While most large highways pass through major cities and trade hubs, Route 50 winds through a part of the country that most people will never see in person.

What To Expect

US Route 50, Utah, through the desert with mountains in the distance. Image credit: Jon Bilous via Shutterstock

The level of remoteness is what is most apparent. Anyone daring enough to take the trek can expect to see endless plateaus, grasslands, and ghost towns. It is not uncommon to not see another car for hours while driving on this road. It may feel more like a trip onto the set of a Western film rather than a leisurely drive. For some, this is a terrifying thought, for others, it is the highway's main attraction.

One of the more charming features of Route 50 is the historic mining communities that dot the highway. Do not expect to arrive at any bustling metropolis' but rather quaint towns of a few thousand or a couple of hundred people. Each town has a unique charm and character to them that you cannot find in the big cities. Most places have the essentials such as a gas station and general store if you are in need of basic supplies. If you decide to stay the night do not expect to be staying in a lavish hotel but rather in a modest roadside inn.

Needless to say, those who are willing to go where few have gone before should have food, supplies, and basic survival skills. If you run into any car trouble there is a good chance you will be on your own for hours. Cell reception is poor in most areas and even if you are able to find help, it could take a while to get there. Remember to always tell someone where you are going before you leave for the open road.

What To Bring

Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Image credit: Arlene Waller via Shutterstock

A reliable car is a must, along with snow tires depending on what time of the year you are traveling. The climate can switch on a dime while driving through the many mountains passes. The weather could look clear for a moment and the next change into an intense and dangerous snowfall. Do not let the Las Vegas postcards fool you, it snows in Nevada, especially in the northernmost area of the state.

For those who like to camp in trailers or near a road, Route 50 is perfect. Nevada is home to many parks, such as Great Basin National Park, and the majority of the land is public. This means that if you see a place that looks like a good campsite, chances are, you will be able to pull over and pack it in for the night.

Gas Up And Go Explore

US Route 50 does not have the glitz and glamour that some of the other famous attractions do in the United States but it has an allure of its own. Many of those living in the city may not appreciate the remote and barren parts of the country. If you are willing to take the extra safety steps necessary, seeing this part of America is a truly priceless adventure.


More in Places