Classic Roads: Route 375—The Extraterrestrial Highway

Classic Roads: Route 375—The Extraterrestrial Highway

Nevada is a barren landscape—pretty, in its desert character, but barren. However, it is that barrenness that provides a relief from the congestion of the city.

There’s plenty of quiet, wide open space to be found here. As a motorcycle destination, Nevada is more about the scenery, with little in the way of the sporting curves motorcycle enthusiasts usually seek out.

That said, the solitude of the long, narrow roads that cross this desert landscape foster contemplation. There’s something to be said about not having to worry about cross-traffic or stop lights.

Several things usually bring people to Nevada—Las Vegas, the desert, Lake Mead, and rumors of alien visitors. Long before E.T. hit movie screens, the potential extraterrestrial visitors of the ‘40s fired up the American imagination.

Weapons testing in this area bred secrecy, and thus, when UFOs became a regularly occurring item in the papers (most likely over-eager responses to secret aircraft test flights), conspiracy theories sprang up. The military’s reluctance to answer questions only poured more fuel on the fire.

The ‘50s saw increased testing and broader security, with fencing and armed military personnel patrolling the perimeter of secret bases.

One area particularly rife with UFO sightings and gossip about strange goings-on was a spot on the map in the middle of the desert designated Area 51. It sounds foreboding now, given the history, but it was merely the name on a sectional map.

Still, over the years, Area 51 has earned a completely unfounded status as a center of subversive government activity. Its biggest claim to fame is housing the supposed flying saucer that crashed in Roswell, NM, in 1947, complete with spaceship wreckage and a crew of alien aviators that—depending on which story you want to believe—died in the crash, on the operating table, or were held prisoner.

As these things go, the 100-mile section of Nevada SR 375 that cuts through the desert has become known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. In the middle of nowhere on the road, exactly halfway between Warm Springs and Crystal Springs, is the town of Rachel. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Desolate, surrounded by imposing and unforgiving desert, this is a place where the bleached bones of cattle and coyotes litter the mummifying sands. Riding out here comes with its own, unique rewards.

The constant thrum of the engine lulls you into contemplative daydream. There isn’t much to interfere with the ride, so there’s room for that.

But watch your speed, as errant animals abound, alongside Nevada’s finest (not necessarily known for their sense of humor). Road surfaces can be rough, as the summer heat buckles the pavement and understaffed road crews struggle to adequately repair cracks and potholes in a timely manner.

In Rachel, the biggest tourist attraction is Little A’Le’Inn, a funky hotel and eatery with an impressive guest list of international UFO seekers. In town and along the highway, spotting the various UFO-themed signs, paper-mache aliens, and flying saucer props becomes its own road game.        

Points of Interest

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahraganat National Wildlife Refuge is a stopover for migrating waterfowl and songbirds in the spring and fall. Fed by the Crystal and Ash Springs, the 5,382-acre refuge stands out like a sore thumb from the desert scenery.

At this veritable oasis, you’ll find wetland and marshes, lakes, and even meadows. There are plentiful opportunitites for camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting..

Mount Irish Wilderness Area

Limestone cliffs and canyons, ranging in heigh between 4,800 and 7,500 feet, form the backbone of theMount Irish Wilderness Area. Covered with pinyon pine and juniper, the region is a hiker’s paradise with caves and remote rock alcoves for you to discover.

The area is home to bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and a variety of birds.The Mount Irish Archeological Site is filled with prehistoric rock habitations and petroglyphs. You can gawk at the sights on foot, but the wilderness area also offers horseback riding.

Basin and Range National Monument

The Basin and Range National Monument coves 704,000 acres of open desert. Unmatched in its rugged beauty, the area features a host of unique natural and geological formations, such as the Natural Arch.

The national monument’s vast area covers the Garden and Coal valleys, the Worthington and Seaman Mountains, the Golden Gate and Mount Irish ranges, Hiko and White River narrows, and the Shooting Gallery rock art site. Needless to say, you won’t run out of trails and places to immerse yourself in this fantastic area any way you wish.

Facts & Information

Aliens, mystery, military conspiracies, secret test flights—they all pale in comparison to the motif of the Clown Motel. Located in Tonopah, the hotel brags about having the largest private collection of clown figurines and memorabilia imaginable.

If that doesn’t creep you out enough—which is kind of the fun of it—then perhaps the spirits hanging around the cemetery right next door will. Yikes! Count us in.

Best Time to Travel

Summer in the Nevada desert can be sweltering, with unforgiving heat and sun, and virtually no shade. Spring, fall, and winter are calmer, but there will always be the unpredictable nature of the desert.

Don’t let your guard down, as the desert is famous for flash floods and dust storms. Come prepared and you’ll have a memorable experience.