There are a lot of great road trips across America, but there’s only one that seems specifically designed for fans of space and astrotourists like us: the Extraterrestrial Highway.
Whether you believe that alien life exists (obviously), are sure that they’ve visited us on earth (questionable, but let’s talk), or just need a change of scenery and have never explored Nevada before, the Extraterrestrial Highway is a great road trip for fans of space. Even if you don’t spot any UFOs, the skies above this route are also perfect for stargazing.
Below you’ll find a complete guide to driving the Extraterrestrial Highway across Nevada, from logistical tips to essential stops to make. The road might not be long, but it’s definitely quirky, and certainly unforgettable for fans of space and those who ponder what life might be out there beyond our ability to reach (yet).
In this post, I promote traveling along a route that crosses the traditional lands of the Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) and Newe Sogobia (Western Shoshone) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
What is the Extraterrestrial Highway
If you’ve ended up on this page, you probably already know what the Extraterrestrial – or E.T. – Highway is. But in case you’re not familiar with it, the E.T. Highway runs across central Nevada; it’s formally called Nevada State Highway 375, or NV-375. The Extraterrestrial Highway is 98.41 miles long, connecting Crystal Springs in the east and the ghost town of Warm Springs in the west.
In case you’re a little lost, I’ve included a map further down in this post as well as some suggested stops to make along the way – there are definitely some cool roadside attractions along the Extraterrestrial Highway that you won’t find along other road trip routes in the U.S.!
Getting to the Extraterrestrial Highway
If you weren’t already tipped off by saying “central” Nevada, it requires a bit of extra driving to reach the Extraterrestrial Highway. I recommend flying in/out of Las Vegas if you want to drive the E.T. Highway; it is the closest major city where you can rent a car and drive to one or the other end of the highway.
Speaking of ends, I recommend starting with a long day to drive the E.T. Highway from West to East; you’ll start near the ghost town of Warm Springs and end in Crystal Springs. You can drive it in reverse, but it ends with a long drive and fewer things to see and stops worth making. I’d get that longer drive over with and then you’ll have plenty of interesting stops to make along the Extraterrestrial Highway.
Stops to Make Along the E.T. Highway
Speaking of stops… while the Extraterrestrial Highway isn’t a long route – you can easily drive it in about two hours – there are plenty of fascinating stops that make it essential for those who “want to believe” (or already do).
Area 51 Alien Center
Before you even get to the Extraterrestrial Highway cutoff, there’s a stop worth making: the Area 51 Alien Center in Amargosa Valley. It’s a 100% complete tourist trap souvenir shop, but it’s also a nice way to break up the long drive between Las Vegas and the start of the E.T. Highway. (It’s about 4 hours in total, and the Area 51 Alien Center is about 90 minutes into the drive.)
Inside, you’l find the hugest stock of alien and Area 51 t-shirts you’ve ever seen, along with every other kind of weird and wacky alien-related souvenir you could possibly want. You’ll even find “alien jerky;” grab a bag or two for the ultimate E.T. Highway-themed road trip snack. Don’t worry about eating it all – there will be another opportunity to buy more at the other end of the route.
After making the turn from U.S. 95 onto U.S. 6 in Tonopah* (which has a great stargazing park, if you’re looking to make an overnight stop and do a bit of stargazing…), you’ll arrive at the intersection of U.S. 6 and NV-375 – the Extraterrestrial Highway.
*Tonopah is the last good stop for gas before driving over half of the E.T. Highway; be sure you’re fueled up!
As you turn east onto the E.T. Highway, be sure to pull over and snap a photo of the sign which reads “Extraterrestrial Highway” in a very futuristic font along with an unidentified aircraft silhouette – if you can believe it, this stylistic choice was approved by the Nevada Department of Transportation. Many travelers stop to snap a photo; some also leave stickers stuck to the sign, which gives it a particularly unique look.
(There is apparently a corresponding sign at the other end of the Extraterrestrial Highway in Crystal Springs; I did not see it when I drove the route in late 2022.)
It’s another 80-minute drive to the next stop you absolutely have to make when doing an Extraterrestrial Highway road trip: the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada.
This small motel is famous among believers, and hands down the best (and sort of only) fitting place to stop for an overnight if you’re doing the road trip as a one-night, two-day drive. They have just 10 units for overnight guests, so it’s essential you make a reservation in advance.
If you aren’t staying at the Little A’Le’Inn, they have both a dining room for a rest and re-fuel opportunity, as well as a gift shop for even more alien souvenirs you might still need to get.
Alien Cowpoke Gas & General Store
If you need fuel for your vehicle or just to stretch your legs and grab a snack, the Alien Cowpoke Gas & General Store is another good option in Rachel. You can pay whatever the gas prices are (it’s not like you have a lot of options!) and browse the souvenir racks.
I didn’t stop to confirm, but there was also supposed to be an “Alien Cowpoke Museum” opening in 2022, housing artifacts, stories, pictures, and maps that go as far as they can to prove the existence of extraterrestrials both on the E.T. Highway and around the world.
The Black Mailbox
It was there, and then it was gone… now, the Extraterrestrial Highway’s iconic Black Mailbox is back! It’s a short 20-mile drive from Rachel to the Black Mailbox, which you can easily fly by if you’re zoned out (or something has taken over your brainwaves); set a reminder on your phone for 20 minutes so you’re looking out for it.
The Black Mailbox sits at the intersection of the E.T. Highway and Mail Box Road, the latter of which runs out into the Nevada Desert in the general direction of Area 51. It does not actually lead there, but this dirt road will certainly take you on an adventure if you have the time for a detour.
Alien Research Center
As you reach the eastern end of the Extraterrestrial Highway, you’ll want to make a short detour to the Alien Research Center. This spot is a treasure trove of information about Area 51, reported alien experiences, and experimental aircraft (or should we call them UFOs?). You can, of course, also find plenty of alien-themed souvenirs.
E.T. Fresh Jerky
For one final stop, you can’t miss E.T. Fresh Jerky: it’s literally right across the street from the intersection where NV-375 meets U.S. 93 and the Extraterrestrial Highway meets its eastern end. While this shop has other souvenirs, it is – as the name suggests – the place to stock up on “alien jerky.”
I stopped here along my E.T. Highway road trip and tried the Korean BBQ jerky; it was the best snack for the return drive back to Las Vegas!
Stargazing along the E.T. Highway
As you can tell from some of my photos, I drove the Extraterrestrial Highway at night – not on purpose, but car troubles earlier in the day delayed my start. In any case, this gave me an opportunity to not only see some of the sights and stops along the E.T. Highway, but to admire the night sky above. This is hands down one of the coolest spots for stargazing in Nevada, so give yourself the extra time, book a night at the Little A’Le’Inn, and enjoy a stargazing session along your route.
Despite the eerie green glow in my photo, there is actually very little light pollution along the Extraterrestrial Highway. This means that, if you want to go stargazing (or try to spot UFOs), you easily can. There are a few dirt pull-offs along the highway, and points where the shoulder is wide enough to safely park and step a short distance from your car into the desert to look up and admire the stars. You don’t need to pick a specific spot, just head out and find somewhere dark to let your eyes adjust. Then, if there are UFOs, you’ll see them – and countless stars too.
It’s worth noting though: the land around the E.T. Highway is open range, so cows move freely and you may see them while driving or stargazing. Just use common sense for stargazing and you’ll be fine.
There you go: a guide for driving the Extraterrestrial Highway that you can use to seek answers or just for a unique road trip experience. Have any other questions about driving the Extraterrestrial Highway? Let me know in the comments!