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Vegas to Area 51 along the Extraterrestrial Road Trip

Trip details: 241 miles / 388 kilometers one-way

There is conspiracy and then there is kitch and then there is conspiratorial kitch. And nothing says kitch or conspiracy quite like Area 51.

The mysterious US Air Force Base, now formally acknowledged by the federal government, has for years attracted attention from those who believe that we are not alone in the universe and that the base holds the secrets to extra-planetary civilization. Guarded and reserved, the base itself is barred to visitors, but that hasn’t stopped folks from trying their best to enter. Nor has it stopped local merchants from cashing in on the phenomenon with wit and humorous aplomb.

While we don’t recommend attempting to storm the base itself, for fear of arrest or worse by irritated Air Force personnel, we do recommend taking advantage of the plethora of amusing attractions that pepper the entirety of State Route 375, a route often referred to as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

But first you have to get there.

The Extraterrestrial Highway itself is about an hour and a half to two hours north of Vegas via US-93. Most folks choose to rocket their way there, avoiding all stops, but you might also consider pausing in Caliente to take in the Basin & Range National Monument or breaking for Alamo to wander the Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge or the Mount Irish Wilderness.

That said, if you’ve got spacemen on the mind, your adventure begins in Crystal Springs at the Alien Research Center.

Adorned with a two-story silver ‘Visitor’ at the front entrance, this metal hut is home to a boutique of quirky gifts unavailable in much of the civilized cosmos. Embrace the alien aesthetic and outfit yourself accordingly. Hats, tees, magnets, and helmets are part of the usual fare on offer, but an assortment of engaged and (healthily-) obsessed fellow patrons are the objects you can’t buy.

After loading up on goods, pass by the infamous Black Mailbox, a meeting place for alien enthusiasts for decades. Take a photo and pity the poor local rancher whose post has become the purview of interplanetary intrigue. Then make a pitstop at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel for a quick bite to eat or a good night’s sleep, depending on your wherewithal.

Once rested, it is time to check out the real star of the route: The landscape itself. The desolate valleys between Quinn Canyon Range and Kawich Peak offer an otherworldly quality that brings visions of Mars and the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The night sky here is clear, offering a field of view and a range of colors that invite contemplation and existential reflection.

Finally, driving further along onto Highway 6, take what is likely your first and last opportunity for a moonwalk along the famed Lunar Crater. A natural occurring landscape formation caused by ancient volcanic activity, the crater rivals anything one might find on the moon’s surface and serves as the perfect endnote for a trip amongst the stars.

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