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”.
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 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.
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.
More: US-95: Nevada’s Highway of Oddities.
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March 14, 2016Jacqueline Ridge
I totally agree, I am originally from England & have driven across country 4 times from Florida to Nevada, taken several different routes. Every state has it’s own signature & should not missed off your bucket list!
I drove this road from Fallon to Sigurd Utah at least 7 times back in 2007. The first time I did it just to “see what was out there”. I expected to see a desert wasteland and got the exact opposite. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever seen, so I kept doing it. There are huge stretches of smooth straight road (wound up doing 120 mph and didn’t realize it ) followed by twisty mountain roads. I think you cross about seven mountain ranges while crossing Nevada . My favorite part was the last gas station just before the Utah border. I’ve never heard anything so quiet. This was followed about 55 miles later by a site that made me skid off the side of the road and stare: notch peak! Second highest vertical drop in the continental US, and out in the middle of nowhere. I will make this drive again before I die!
Thanks for posting those stunning pictures. I have been Googling on the drive for more than two years now. I have never been to America, but still haven’t given up my dream to visit this wonderful place on earth. I hope my lifetime drive will come true, and sooner. Best wishes from Bhutan!
June 20, 2017Paula Marie
I hope you make it one day. I live in central Missouri – I drive Hwy 50 every day. My husband and I take driving trips every few years to different parts of the US – avoiding the Interstate highways as much as possible and enjoying the lesser highways. It is so diverse in beauty!
July 14, 2018Pema
Many thanks, Paula. I’m now in Perth, WA doing my post-grad. Will be here for a year or so after which I hope to do the Hwy 50. Cheers to you and your husband!
November 2, 2018Dan
Pema, congrats on making it most of the way to Highway 50. My wife and I drove it from Sacramento almost to Utah in early October. If your schedule and budget allow, I strongly suggest the following:
– Find a friend to travel with
– Take the Coast Starlight Amtrak train from Washington state to Sacramento, California
– Rent a car
– Get on Highway 50 and head East
– Go at least to Baker, Nevada (about 5 miles/8km off of Highway 50)
– Take lots of pictures and enjoy!
Best of luck!
December 30, 2018Peter Ferenbach
Lovely to see your post. I’ll share two things.
First, my family and I had a truly wonderful visit to Bhutan in 2001. My children were 3 and 6 at the the time and we were traveling for four months. Without exception, people were kind, welcoming and helpful and it made our visit exceptional. I’d love to return, but we’ll have to see what fate holds on that score.
And second, should you come to the US and embark on an exploration of the Western States, we’d be happy to return the favor and help. We’ve traveled hundreds of back roads all over the Western US and our entire family loves to get out and explore. Though I’ve driven 50 through Nevada several times, I was on this site because my wife and I and the kids, now 20 and 23 years old, wanted to take the more scenic and interesting way home from visiting their grandparents in Colorado.
We are located in the San Francisco Bay Area and would be happy to host you and provide suggestions.
Coincidentally, my wife and I also did graduate studies in Australia, though over in Melbourne.
Good luck in your studies and travels.
November 9, 2019Linda Hilyard
Have you ever run across an ICE CAVE out there? My husband and kids ran across one many years ago and cant remember what State it was in now the Hwy we would have been on. We live in Florida and pray we can make one more trip out there before our trip leaving this world.
My email is Hilyard.1Christian@gmail.com. Please feel free to contact me there. I sure hope you get this as you seem to be my best hope out of all the other comments.
July 3, 2020'lag
You are probably thinking of ice mountain in West Virginia west of Winchester VA just off of route 50. It is owned by the nature conservancy these days so not sure how how to get a tour etc.
I have been back and forth across the USA coast to coast numerous times..We live in Carson City NV and are doing this trip tomorrow From Carson City to Baker West to East and back to Carson City and looking very forward to it….
I am planning on riding US 50 from Maryland to California in 2016 going on my Harley
November 18, 2015Don
When are you leaving? My wife and I would like to make the same trip next year. We are in Louisville KY.
February 19, 2016Dawn Giardina
I am flying out to California to ride a HD rental on HWY 50 for my 50th birthday. I will be on the road July 23rd. Would love to meet some east-west riders if you are on the road then. Dawn
March 8, 2017Kevin
You’ve got to share your experiences. I’m making the trip on my bike (not a fancy HD, but a Honda VTX1300) in July 2017. I will leave San Diego, ride up the beautiful 395 to Tahoe then turn right at HWY 50. I’ll take it all the way to OC, MD. I can’t wait. I’ve been thinking about this trip for years.
March 13, 2016Pam Stephens
We live in Floyds Knobs, IN . My husband and I have this drive on our bucket list. Unfortunately this trip has to wait until 2023.
September 16, 2016David
Then you will never do it . . . take it from a very old man.
March 25, 2018Charles
Don Have you driven US 50 coast to coast ? We live in Cincinnati and are planning a road trip in 2019. We have done US 66 and enjoyed it immensely.
April 9, 2016CoralMustang
I will be out there in July- anyone know how the weather would be? I know it will be hot in the troughs potentially….
April 9, 2016CoralMustang
Oh- I will also be on a Harley!
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
We were in Kansas & Colorado in June. The weather was pleasant but we did hit some storms! I say be prepared for all seasons just to be safe!
March 25, 2018Charles
John did you make the trip ? I am looking into driving US 50 Coast to Coast starting in Maryland mid 2019. Let me know what happened
August 19, 2019ergst flumonpert
you are fucking stupid.
October 10, 2019Eric Krauter
Wow, your a douche-bag Ergst. Nothing nice to say I see. Well I’m riding my bicycle and trailer across 50 from Chillicothe ,Oh to Green River, Ut which starts 10/11/2019 from Monroe, NC. I have to ride up to Chillicothe from Monroe via 601 to 52. It’s going to be a long boring but hopefully adventuresome trip with lots of people along the way. I’m sure more than a few Ergst Flumonpert as well. ugh!!!!
I’ve lived in the Bay Area and near Sacramento in the 90s, then near Lake Tahoe, then in Fallon, NV, traveling back and froth to Austin on “The Loneliest Highway,” then near the San Rafael Swell in Utah and now in Salida, CO since 2006. US 50 has been part of my life for years! I’m thinking it’s high time I continued following it to its Eastern terminus. I haven’t spent much time in the East since the family left for California in 1957. Now a friend is moving to North Carolina soon and wants me to visit — perhaps this is just the “excuse” I need to head East. When I get a newer car that can make it there – AND BACK – I’ll probably be on my way, staying and eating in as many “Mom and Pop” places as I can find. When I was a kid, we drove from PA to CA and back three times, some of it on US 50. I’ll bet a new trip will bring back old memories.
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
We recently stayed at Salida & loved that town! It’s one of the few towns that makes me want to move from my home!
March 11, 2016Ted
If you want to see America as it really is….Use it. The small towns, the people, the awesome geography and beauty is all there.
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
I was on it from Kansas into Colorado & recommend using it instead of the interstates.
October 19, 2018rich jones
YES YES YES
October 19, 2018George
This is the only way to go. I would hope you take in Mesa Verde and then spend a few days in Moab, UT to visit all the National Parks and then drive through Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon.
As a history major I love to travel on roads filled with history, route 50 is one of those roads. I have driven it from my home in Ohio to Ocean City, Md and on other occasions ventured west as far as Utah. People who stick to the interstates are missing an experience that is full of beauty and a wonderful education of America.
Traveling through Indiana on US 50 takes you through just one section Hoosier Hysteria. March is the best time around the second Saturday to get a feel for high school boys basketball hysteria . Seymour in South Central Indiana is the sight of the First, Second and Third rounds during the tournament. Its an experience you will enjoy
I’m from Scotland and my boyfriend is French. We are both very keen on driving West-East across America and as this route seems to encompass most of our most desired places to visit, it seems like the ideal choice.
We would like to take 1 month to really make the most of it. For any road-trippers out there who have been there and done it – how much money should I budget for this trip? (including car hire, but not including flights from Scotland). Just looking for an idea of how much to budget daily for food and fuel as well as the average nightly price for hotels/hostels/motels (doesn’t need to be fancy!)
Any info that you could give would be a great help and would just be great to hear from people who have done it really!
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
I recommend easily budgeting no less than $100 daily.
Most hotels are $100 & up nightly. I recommend camping along the way. There are numerous books & websites which list campgounds. You can camp in your vehicle or pitch a tent. Public lands don’t usually charge. Just make sure you know where you are!
I highly recommend a National Parks annual pass if you plan on visiting any while here. $80 covers everyone in your vehicle. We recently visited 5 parks at $25-$30 per vehicle. Having the pass saved us $$!
Pack a cooler with what you want to eat/drink in order to save money. Gas stations/convenience stores/fast food restaurants charge about $2 per nonalcoholic beverage. Most local grocery stores have delis so you can stop in for cheap eats.
Walmart gas stations (Murphy oil) usually have the least expensive gas especially if you get the gas card which discounts it 3 cents per gallon more.
Using your smart phone & apps can be great but remember that you might not always have cell service. I had a phone which used AT&T towers & had few problems. But nothing beats having directions written down on paper if you can’t get the phone to work! I also like to stop at each state’s visitor center to get free maps & helpful tips. Using the rest rooms there or at “Rest Stops” is usually quicker too.
I think there’s a Road Trip book which covers this interstate & has good suggestions.
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
Also, my mom uses Triple AAA auto club which provides detailed travel guides plus can get discounts for you at hotels. Online reservations for hotels are usually the best rates but ask for discounts such as AAA, or whatever other affiliation you may have.
July 7, 2016Sarah Ashley
I was on I50 from Kansas into Colorado in June 2016.
I hope I can do this once in my life. Absolutely mesmerizing.
Cheers from Pakistan.
I bicycled this highway last year and it was absolutely amazing. I will say that it is correctly labeled, there were times that it was over 2 hours between cars. The longest was 2 hours 45 minutes. Many days of bicycling of 70 or more miles between towns.
September 18, 2016Tony
I’m thinking of a trans American charity ride for breast cancer research when I retire in 18 months time (my wife suffered it but has since recovered) Do you think highway 50 is a viable route? I currently don’t cycle but do run around 20 miles a week so am reasonably running fit, but as yet not cycling fit. Any tips ?
Hello I drove Route 66 in 2011 on my motor by myself and this was really great . Now I like to ride Route 50 Westbound in 2018 . I have to start in Ocean city and have to hire a Harley. Do you know an affordable company . Thanks.
Thinking of driving route 50 from Utah to Carson city end of March. Wondering about the road conditions, we are from England and love driving in the USA. We did a route from Boston to San Francisco a few years back.
Any info will be appreciated.
A solidão aberta das estradas é um lugar que invoca e provoca. Neste momento estou numa rodovia em algum lugar do mundo. A dinâmica da vida no tempo parece recrudescer exponencial. De onde não se espera é que sai. Estou numa região considerada pobre, nordeste de Gana, África, e próxima de Burkina Fasso. Veja uma pick-up que eu nunca tinha ouvido falar: zx auto grandtiger, coisas que até ontem só apareciam no mundo considerado civilizado e rico…:)
Road trip tips from a professional driver…
1- Budget is king for professionals. The more I spend on the road the less I bring home! The less I bring home the more my wife send me back out to make more money!!!
2- A good cooler that plugs into your car lighter will save hundreds in food cost. You can always find microwave heaters in quick stops and hotels. I eat out only once every other day or so. And when I do I spend a little extra because I have saved so much more with the cooler.
3- Map/GPS Maps are a must, GPS is a luxury. A good quality map will get you out of trouble when the GPS goes on the fritz, and they all go on the fritz eventually and some regularly. GPS’ LIE too. They all have some fouled up programming hidden within their brilliant minds that seems to rear its head at the most in-opportune time. They are good but maps are a must. You can use a map tp plan in to the future as well. Rand McNally makes a sheet protected US map that you can use again and again with white board markers for your rout planning. Don’t get me wrong I love my GPS, but I would never leave the house without my map!
4- Fuel APP. I use Gas Buddy. I can save about 20 to 70 cents a gallon with some planning. First I am not afraid to top off even if the tank is 2/3 full and I will put a 10 in just to get to a better price. But you have to realize that fuel is my number one cost. Saving 10% is huge in business. I also spend 100 to 300 dollars a day on fuel.
5- Hotels. I am a Hot Shot driver. That means that my pickup does not have a sleeper. Like most travelers I stay in hotels along the way (24 night a month on average). I budget 70 a night for hotels across America and I spent an average last year of 64.3 dollars a night. I stay in 3+ rated hotels but they are nothing to write home about. National chains like Motel 6, Super 8, etc. are in this range. So I don’t do dives and I don’t do Hiltons, but I do require a safe clean room. I am also willing to stay 40 miles away from my destination to find a better deal on the room, knowing that I will have the extra drive the next day means that I just need to plan a little better. I use a hotel finder app like Hotels.Com regularly but not always, there are plenty out there and you might even be able to gain a free night now and then. I never limit myself to chain apps as that cuts down on the pool in any given area, and some of my best deal have been the Mom and Pop type stays.
6- MOST IMPORTANTLY – BE PREPARED! Be prepared for anything! Have a sleeping bag or blankets, some food and plenty of water with you at all times. I cant tell you how many times I have pulled over to help someone to find that they don’t have anything in the car for an emergency. A small tool kit, blankets, maps, water and rations are a must for all travelers. I have begun a 200 mile round trip and been forced to shut down on the side of the road for three days once. Luckily I was prepared and knew the forecast, road conditions and emergency procedures. I also had a couple of good books to read. NEVER PUSH THE LIMITS OF YOUR DRIVING SKILLS! Get a room and wait it out.
7- If you can, travel buddy’s are great. A second car can go get fuel, parts, or emergency cell service. Cell service you say… there is always cell service. Not so my inexperienced friend. There are, what I like to call, 100 mile black holes all over the nation. Believe me, I know, I travel a lot of them. And there are many places like TEXAS where the local service may not provide your carrier a piece of their bandwidth. BE PREPARED! A buddy can get to the next town or get you to the next auto parts store if he is there and has another mode of transportation.
March 17, 2019Mark Spangenberg
right on, glad to hear from another road professional, good advice, i spent well over 30 years long haul trucking , all 48, and well over three million miles under me, as a youngen, back in the seventies, i started camping out of the back of a beater 69, chevy 4×4 pick up, growing up in northern california, the jeep trails of the sierra nevada mountains, western nevada, all manner of remote, rugged back country. like us old school “wheelers, used to say, “lock em in, and 4 low, and, oh yeh, dont forget to air down that “aftermarket , off road rubber! point is, be prepaired, and most important, be self suffecient, self relient. i dont care if that subu, outback of yours never leaves the pavement, if you are going to venture into some of the most remote places on the north american continant,, my rule of thumb, better to have and not need than to need and not have. but to a point, be reasonable, this comes with experience. like most things in life. as with all multi day road trips, you have to eat, sleep, ect. any of us who have made the jaunt across 50, know, its a long way period, fuel, food, lodging, you are pretty much at the mercy of whats availible’ , im a firm believer in self containment, what ever that means, to you, be prepaired to fend for yourself. case in point, i later owned a 1979, ford f-250, 4×4 pick up, set up and prepped for serious off road adventures, i hade a nice sportsman s type of camper shell, i built a bed platform, with a nice single maters an ice chest and a grub box full of food and drinks and goodies. oh yea, gas, the trucks factory capacity between 2 tanks, 45 gal, plus 3, 5 gal jerry cans in the back, i could roam off road for days. im well aware most all of you will never do this type of extreme adventuring, case in point, with multiple trucks over the years, we have been in and out of some of the most desolete, unforgiving backcountry you can imagine, and yes, ive wheeled around moab, in a full size pick up. i have never walked out due to running out of gas, never slept slumped over the steering wheel, never went hungery. i have owned three full sized , self contained slide on truck campers, my big lance had the onan 2.5 generator, out in the middle of nowhere, or a wallmart parking lot, push the switch, think microwave, hot shower, think hair dryer. like a lot of us road trippers out there, i like my own bed, wherever that may be, over the years, in my liesure time i have roamed all over the u.s, but mainly i love the off the beaten path americn west. yes a 3,000 lbs camper on a one ton 4×4 can seriously limit your off road mobility, you just cant be stupid as to where you think you can go with, this brute. but you still have a lot of backcountry mobility. meanwhile, back on the pavement, ugh, hwy 50, across nevada, is without a doubt one of my top faveret jaunts, and i have done a lot of remote nevada back country, ghost towns, you name it, with the camper, pull off any decent spot along the way, you are set for the night. probibly more than any state, nevada is “wide open, as in roam at will, free wheelen, dont fence me in , mean anyting ? by all means, do u.s. 50, its been discovered, in the modern era, its not as foreboding as in the past, but just know and understand what you are dealing with, its not a race track, like wally byum, ( founder of airstream travel trailers) once said, its about the journey. my wife and i have been full time r.v.ing the 4 years we have been together, we are domiciled out of the columbia river gorge region of washington . our set up for the road, year 2000, ford f-350, diesel 4×4, pulling a new custom ordered grand design, reflection 37 foot triple slide trailer, ( i wouldent have another 5th wheel as a gift, ) for all you motorheads and tuck guys out there, here goes, she is a 2000,( custom factory order, fall of 99, ) full 4 door crew cab, long bed, ( the longer wheelbase lends to better hauling /towing stability. ) 7.3 powerstroke diesel, built, chipped, bullydog, big intake / exaust, k.n. air filter, pulling tourque is unreal, increased fuel economy. just keep your foot out of it speed racer. ! a 6 spd manual , dond like automatics , heavy duty, aftermarket towing clutch, 2 inch lift kit, rancho 5000,off road shocks, b.f. goodrich all terrian k,o,s mounted on nice aftermarket aluminum rims, a pet peve of mine, yoy see people off road with contemporary day “s.u.v.s with street rubber, really, ? carry two spares, we had two flats, we got stuck, i,l bet you did, the right tool for the job, enjoy hwy 50,
I drive regular from Fallon NV to Pueblo CO and love the drive. the continued portion through Utah and Colorado are just as if not more impressive, but not as lonely. The drive over Monarch Pass at well over 11000 feet is very impressive.
I left the notes above just to jelp road trip planners with a few of my professional tips. hope they help!
I live just off US 50 in Maysville CO, about 10 miles west of Salida. I have driven the road many times from my former home in Sacramento to Maysville. I love the drive, even the Nevada portion. Starting Tuesday, I am going to drive from Maysville to Indiana on HWY 50. Picking up my new Palomino cab over camper in Indiana. The unit was $3,000 cheaper there and no sales tax to pay. Can’t wait. Was hoping to make it all the way to Ocean City MD but not this time. Don’t want to fight the east coast traffic over Memorial Day weekend.
I just drove the Nevada and part of Utah part. Awesome.
Myself and a friend are contemplating a road trip from Illinois, near St Louis, to California and back on touring bicycles. After reviewing this website I will most definitely present Highway 50 as an option. Anyone with a thought about this, whether optimistic or pessimistic, would be appreciated.
My wife & I are planning to follow Hwy 50 from Sacramento to Ocean City. Where is the beginning of the highway in Est Sacramento? Is there a sign marking the western end?
Thanks for the help.
Planning a US 50 trip from Cincinnati to Utah for this fall!
June 14, 2019Brad
I am also riding US 50 west to CA , in Sept. I will be riding my Kawasaki Concourse . Can’t wait….
I drove US 50 between Fallon NV and Delta UT about 20 times between 1995 & 2005 on trips from Ashland, OR to Santa Fe, NM, and back. I always looked forward to the vast openness of this part of the trip. Through NV one climbs many ranges and finds each valley just as breathtaking as the last. I preferred driving in winter when the road was largely empty and the ranges were covered in snow. In summer the highway is not quite as lonely. I am committed to creating an excuse to do the drive again soon. Happy trails!
Last september i drove US 50 from Ocean city to San Fransisco in 19 days , just me and my HD
With a side step to on US 550 from Montrose to silverton and back.
Ride of a live time !
Highway 395 is another wonderful road trip. It runs north and south along the east side of the mountains from Washington south to California. It is very scenic.
My buddyHoward and I will be driving from ocean to ocean on Rt. 50 this coming July. Anybody have any don’t miss things to detour to see along the way? We are looking to be on the road for about 30 days just looking and loving America..
Shortly after you cross into Nevada (westbound) or just before you leave NV (eastbound), you will see signs for Baker, NV and Great Basin National Park. I recommend stopping for a half day or day or so and visiting the Park, including Lehman Caves and the Bristlecone Pine Grove.
About an hour to the west of Baker is the town of Ely. I highly recommend stopping there and going to the Nevada Northern Railway (nnry.com). If you have the money and time, you can drive a diesel or steam locomotive. I have done both, loved it each time, and would do it again. Even if you don’t drive a locomotive, you can go on a train ride and wander around an extraordinarily well preserved heritage railroad.
Good luck, have fun, drive safe and don’t go too fast on 50 (the Nevada Highway Patrol enforces… don’t ask how I know).
It took me over a year, but I found my excuse and will be doing Fallon to Delta on Wednesday 12/16. Yahoo!
My wife and I drove U.s. 50 from Carson City, Nv. to Utah in 1992, the year I retired from the Federal Government (Pentagon). A very interesting and beautiful drive. We enjoyed it so much and always wanted to drive it again. We are up in years now and chances are slim we will ever do that again. I tell everyone that you need to drive across this beautiful land at least once before you move on. We were very fortunate to drive it 4 times from Myrtle Beach South Carolina to California. This is a drive everyone should take in their lifetime. Thank you very much for posting such beautiful pictures of US 50. God Bless America.