U.S. Route 50 – America’s Loneliest Road

US50

U.S. Route 50 (US 50) is a major east–west highway, connecting Ocean City, Maryland and West Sacramento, California. Stretching 3,000 miles (4,800 km), the route runs through mostly rural areas in the Western part of US. It includes the section through Nevada known as “The Loneliest Road in America”.

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All the way across the country, US-50 passes through hundreds of small old towns. Blue Highways author William Least Heat-Moon writes about US-50, “for the unhurried, this little-known highway is the best national road across the middle of the United States.” The route offers such a compelling cross-section of the nation that Time magazine devoted nearly an entire issue (July 7, 1997) to telling the story of the road it called the “Backbone of America.”

The Nevada portion of the route, named “The Loneliest Road in America” by travelers, evokes the feeling of loneliness. You find miles and miles of little more than mountains, sand, and blue sky.

US Highway 50 westbound, West of Eureka, NV

US Highway 50 westbound, West of Eureka, NV

U.S. Route 50 looking toward Hickison Summit. Image by Jonathan Berman

U.S. Route 50 looking toward Hickison Summit. Image by Jonathan Berman

Image Credit: pbase.com

Image Credit: pbase.com

US Highway 50 wasn’t built overnight. The history of US Highway 50 starts almost two hundred years ago. There were no established trails other than pathways left by the Native Americans.

Driving along the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas (now called the Bighorn Sheep Canyon) in the early days of US 50. - via highway50.com

Driving along the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas (now called the Bighorn Sheep Canyon) in the early days of US 50. – via highway50.com

It’s believed that US 50 owes its existence to Captain William Bicknell. He successfully made the long exhausting trip to Santa Fe, where he made a fortune selling goods. Thus the Santa Fe Trail was established and the route that Bicknell explored became the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. Later the railroads would follow Bicknell’s Santa Fe Trail establishing routes that someday would become a part of US Highway 50.

Today as you travel through the towns and countryside along US Highway 50 be on the lookout for sights of the highway’s past. There you can still find some old gas stations, motor courts and diners hidden between newer buildings and businesses – a glimpse to another time in America’s past.

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