One great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip is to head for the infamous Area 51, the USAF base that doesn’t exist, even though it does, but really doesn’t, but sort of does.

It’s not right around the corner from Las Vegas though, about 2.5 to 3 hours one way. Definitely a true day trip!

The sign for Nevada Route 375, E.T. Highway on the way to Rachel, Nevada
The sign for Nevada Route 375, E.T. Highway, on the way to Rachel, Nevada 2009

 

The trip takes you through some wonderful desert landscape which will have you pulling over for many a photo op! You travel through some very surprising green areas as well such as Ash Springs and Alamo, Nevada. Special note, you need to fill up in either of these two locations as there is no gas available in Rachel !

Once you turn on to E.T. Highway, there’s a turn off for the above photo op, you quickly begin to climb a mountain ridge which will empty you into the valley where both Area 51 and Rachel are. Again the road offers many spectacular views of the desert landscape.

View from Main Gate Road towards Route 375, roughly taken from 1/2 way towards the Area 51 borderline
View from Main Gate Road towards Route 375, roughly taken from 1/2 way towards the Area 51 borderline, 2009.

 

Once on the valley floor, Main Gate road is off to the left hand side of 375 as you are making a long curve to the right. As you can see it is a very well maintained road that is acceptable for autos to pass on. Can be tricky in the winter when snow is flying, or after a heavy rain, but for the most part is fine.

It’s a very long drive to get to the border of the Nellis Gunnery Range (Area 51). Once you make it to the border, your best bet is NOT to cross the border, driving or walking, DO NOT CROSS THE BORDER !

The border of Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada
The border of Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada 2010.

There is a place on the right to park and hop out for some pictures of the landscape (cough cough) and stretch your legs.

While you do stop and stretch your legs, you will be watched! 99.999999% of the time you will see the infamous “Camo Dudes” in there Jeeps watching you from a hill on the other side of the border. If you get lucky and don’t see them, there are cameras and other monitoring devices all over that will be watching you, some visible, some not!

The camo dudes, Area 51 base security, always meet you
The camo dudes, Area 51 base security, always meet you, in fact beat you, to the base border. 2009

 

Working your way back to 375, take a left off of Main Gate road and take 375 to Rachel, Nevada. Be sure not to blink or sneeze, you may miss it! Stop at the Little Ale’Inn for great Alien burgers and some cool drinks before heading back to Vegas.

UFO on a hook outside the Lil Ale' Inn Rachel, Nevada
UFO on a hook outside the Lil Ale’ Inn Rachel, Nevada 2009.

 

There are many other locations around Rachel to go exploring, ghost towns, the area where the Apollo Astronauts practiced for the lunar missions, site of a huge under ground nuclear test, rock drawings and much more. So much in fact, I have not been to many of them!

From Rachel you can either back track your way back to Vegas, which is the quickest, or continue on 375 until it dead ends. Make a left there and you’ll be going towards Tonopah, passing another USAF base, Tonopah Test Range. From Tonopah head south on 95 to get back to Vegas via Indian Springs, Mercury, Ryholite to name a few. This latter route I refer to as the Tonopah Loop! It’s an excellent drive, if you like the desert.

Back in Vegas, or by now you have decided this sort of trip is not for you, but still like the story of Area 51, be on the look out when you’re out and about in Vegas be on the lookout for the airplanes that are painted white with a red stripe, no tail art or logos. They are planes flying into and out of Vegas to many USAF bases around the area, including Area 51.

Rear shot of N273RH Janet Airlines, Boeing 73766N, returning from "TTR" really Area 51 to KLAS
Rear shot of N273RH Janet Airlines, Boeing 73766N, returning from “TTR” really Area 51 to KLAS June 22 2011