Around 1986 to 1988, Life Magazine is said to have ran a very negative article about Nevada State Highway 50 titled "The Loneliest Road." An AAA spokesperson had described Nevada State Highway 50 route through Nevada in these words: "It's totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills."
Nevada tourism officials were quick to agree that while Highway 50 did not have traditional tourism related stopping places like amusement parks, "The Loneliest Road" has many little-known and unique items of interest. In addition, most of these places along the Loneliest Road were free for the tourist to see.
To combat the article's negativity, the White Pine County Chamber of Commerce in Ely suggested calling highway 50 "The Loneliest Road in America." Later, the Nevada Commission on Tourism developed the now popular "The Loneliest Road in America, Official Highway 50 Survival Guide."
Travelers can pick up the free Loneliest Road survival kits at Chambers of Commerce, museums, restaurants, motels, and gas stations along Highway 50. The kit contains a state road map, the Loneliest Road Survival Guidebook showing some things to see and a line map of the road. Travelers stop in the towns of Fernley, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, and Ely to get the Loneliest Road map stamped. When all five of the boxes are stamped in each town, the completed form is mailed (postage free) to the Nevada Commission on Tourism. You then receive a Loneliest Road survival certificate signed by the Governor, a Loneliest Road lapel pin, and a Loneliest Road bumper sticker announcing that you survived this "uninteresting and empty" road.
In reality, one of the best ways to truly experience Nevada is to travel the Loneliest Road. The Loneliest Road roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail, which goes from Silver Springs through Fallon and along the towns across Highway 50. Remnants of the Pony Express Route are visible for much of the way along the Loneliest Road. Stretching the width of Nevada, the Loneliest Road is a fascinating scenic and historic corridor through a land seemingly untouched by man. The Loneliest Road travels through snow-mantled mountains that reach summits of more than 11,000 feet.
There are many things to stop and do along the Loneliest Road. Travelers can easily access ghost town sites and historical cemeteries. They can visit the elk viewing areas and camping and picnicking places abound along the Loneliest Road. There are many off-road, hiking, snowmobiling and skiing trails. Historical markers point out where significant sites are located along the Loneliest Road.
The magnificent Great Basin National Park is found just a short distance off Highway 50, the Loneliest Road. The Great Basin National Park has several sites listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Loneliest Road winds through high mountain desert blanketed with sagebrush. Many species of flora can be identified along the Loneliest Road. Travelers find warm or hot days and cool nights in the summer. Bands of sheep with their herders and working sheepdogs can often be spotted along the Loneliest Road. Small bands of wild horses can be seen across the plain as deer doze in the shade of pinion pine trees. Other wildlife and birds of prey are often seen close to the Loneliest Road.
Travelers of the Loneliest Road are well rewarded by the almost surrealistic intensity of the wild western landscape. Deep blue skies and jagged stone tower above the bone white desert floor. The hypnotic rhythm of telephone poles march single file, a solemn procession beside the road.The Loneliest Road in America, Highway 50 is really one of the most beautiful and interesting drives you’ll ever take.