Even Lonelier than the Loneliest Road in America

U.S. Route 6 used to be the longest transcontinental highway in the U.S. from Long Beach, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Route 6 now starts in Bishop, California on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Yesterday I drove from Mammoth Lakes to Ely, Nevada on Route 120 past Mono Lake. The 13,000 and 14,000 ft peaks are a beautiful sight on a clear day.

Boundary Peak NV at 13,147 ft. is highest peak in Nevada


My camera broke yesterday morning at Mammoth Lakes so few pictures to show. Learning how to use my phone camera and after taking 60 or so photos and then emailing them to myself, I saw that only five photos successfully attached to the emails. I deleted all my phone photos so few visuals to share from the drive.

There are only three places to get gas along the 300 mile route that took us by Mono Lake on Highway 120 in California to Highway 6 past Tonapah to Ely, NV.

Several miles of pine forest are located near the southern side of Mono Lake before continuing into the desert. Highway 120 is literally a roller coaster ride for several miles where the road dips deeply causing our car to ride up to the crest of the road at such an angle that there is no road visibility, only sky, and then quickly drop down the other side so steeply that our stomachs felt like we were riding on a rollercoaster. This is some serious dipping that goes on for several miles and is rather unnerving with the lack of forward road visibility when cresting each road wave.

Mono Lake, California

Tonapah is a mining town. Tonapah looks like a mining town. This was only a gas stop for us. Seeing a sign just east of Tonapah ‘167 miles to next gas’ is rather alarming. There were only a couple of places between Tonapah and Ely where structures exist and there are no services at all.

Wild horses and shades of desert green entertained our eyes for the next 167 miles. Having spent the past decade only seeing the Las Vegas area of Nevada I was reminded during this drive that Nevada actually has remarkable natural beauty in its remoteness and wilderness. I was surprised to see such intense color with various shades of grays and greens as we passed through each desert valley between the north-south mountain range crossings. There is plenty of life in these valleys and hills.

The road of Highway 6 is well paved. We had hours of driving with rarely another car in sight. I said to Kelley at one point that we were probably farther away from another human than we ever have been in our lives.

The road was so deserted that we nicknamed this one bird species the “suicide birds” for their habit of sitting on the road pavement and flying up in front of the car as we approached. Hundreds of these birds flew up in front of our windshield as we drove through the desert around Warm Springs midway between Tonopah and Ely.

Three suicide birds of Highway 6 flying up from pavement (left side of photo)

About 60 miles from Ely a roadrunner bird swooped down on the road and then ran in front of our car. Fortunately that roadrunner was fast. I read these birds are so fast that they actually are rattlesnake predators.

Humboldt National Forest 50 miles west of Ely was an unexpected pleasure of woods and mountain streams after 200 miles of no trees since leaving the Mono Lake area of California. This is an area of great beauty filled with the small desert Utah juniper trees deep in the Nevada wilderness. In the evening sun of the Nevada Great Basin desert, the forest looked to be a National Park quality region. My biggest disappointment of the day was losing my photos of the forest with the missing email attachments.

US Highway 50 is nicknamed “The Loneliest Road in America”. Highway 6 and Highway 50 join up in Ely to become the same lonely road to Great Basin National Park at the eastern edge of Nevada and then on to Delta, Utah another 150 miles to the east of Ely.

Highway 50 Nevada poster at the Ramada Copper Queen Casino in Ely, Nevada

US Highway 6 is a more southerly road than Highway 50 and the road even less traveled than Highway 50.

Highway 6 is even lonelier than the loneliest road in America.


Brokeass Mountain Road Trip, July 2011

Monterey, California – Denver, Colorado

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I love these road trip posts. It’s so refreshing to read something from a loyalty traveler who still puts the emphasis on the journey and the place, rather than the room and the lounge. thanks.

  2. Just a few miles east of Tonapah there was traffic stoppage for road construction. We were stopped about 30 minutes. During that period three vehicles pulled in behind us heading east. Five vehicles came from the east.

    There was a rest stop a few miles past that where we stopped to use the toilet.

    The three vehicles heading east went ahead of us.

    During the 167 mile drive from Tonapah to Ely there were no more cars sighted heading east and perhaps five cars passed us heading west. And we probably spent at least 30 minutes stopped by the roadside at different places.

    Highway 375 has one terminus at Highway 6. Highway 375 is the so-called “Extraterrestrial Highway or E.T. highway” that runs along the east side of Area 51, the Nellis Air Force Base Testing Range. The road sign reads 111 miles to next gas when taking Highway 375 from Highway 6. I did not see any Highway marking stating ET highway at the intersection of 6 and 375 near Warm Springs.



    Driving west from Highway 120 to Highway 6 to Tonapah (120 miles or so) we probably saw about 10 cars driving west and 2 cars driving east in our direction but almost all of those vehicles were sighted in California.

    This webpage also comments that some people believe Highway 6 is even lonelier than Highway 50 in Nevada. The local woman at the Ramada Ely registration desk told me Highway 6 is far less traveled than Highway 50.

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