Nevada State Route 375 is a 98 mile stretch of highway through mostly unpopulated desert terrain in south-central Nevada. Much of the highway parallels the northern edges of Nellis Air Force Range (Area 51). Over the years, many travelers have reported seeing UFO’s and other alien activity along this stretch of road. These reports prompted the state to designate the route the Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996.

There are also many other unexpected wonders along this lonely stretch of road that have nothing to do with tales of otherworldly experiences. I will share with you a few of each.

The Little A’LE’INN

Probably one of the most iconic stops along the Extraterrestrial Highway is the Little A’LE’INN. A quaint little UFO themed bar, restaurant and motel located in the Town of Rachel, population 54. It resides at just about the half way point of State Route 375 in the absolute middle of nowhere. If aliens did come to earth this would be the place to go unnoticed for sure.

The Little A’LE’INN located in Rachel, NV. Photo by Alan Rupnick

The Little A’LE’INN is a mecca for UFO enthusiasts and those seeking the not-so-secret Area 51. It’s a casual place where a person can sit down to a cold beverage, a warm meal and discuss the important things in life like the latest UFO sightings or maybe some speculation as to what really goes on behind the gates of Area 51. The staff was very friendly and they were gracious hosts. The hospitality was plentiful. The Little A’LE’INN is also a great base camp for a different kind of adventure. Ghost towns, abandoned mines and even a nuclear test site.

A scene from the movie ID4 was filmed here. A time capsule has been placed in front of the Little A’LE’INN by 20th Century Fox, the filmmakers and cast of Independence Day and Governor Bob Miller which reads: “On this eighteenth day of April, A.D. 1996. Twentieth Century Fox hereby dedicates this time capsule and beacon, for travelers from distant stars, to the State of Nevada and the Extraterrestrial Highway. This time capsule will serve as a beacon, to be opened in the year A.D. 2050, by which time interplanetary travelers will be regular guests of our planet Earth.”

Crescent City

In 1867, the Crescent Mill was built to process ore from nearby mines. A small town began to develop around the mill and was known as Crescent City. The mill was operated by the Crescent Silver Mining Company and was in operation just ten days before it shut down due to lack of funding. The mill was then purchased by Alameda Silver Mining Company and was greatly expanded upon. It operated from 1869 until 1871 when it once again closed it doors. It briefly resumed operations in 1873 but by this time most of the miners had moved on.

The smoke stack is the only remaining structure of the Crescent Mill. Photo by Alan Rupnick
The remains of an old stone cabin in Crescent City near the old Mill. Photo by Alan Rupnick

Area 51

Famous for rumors of concealing alien craft and even aliens themselves, Area 51 is a popular stop for UFO enthusiasts or those who love a good conspiracy theory. Even if those topics don’t strike a chord with you, visiting the gates of Area 51 is a unique and somewhat intimidating experience.

What exactly is area 51? I’ve been trying for days to determine that very thing and all I’ve managed to do is confuse myself a little bit more. It appears this area is a USAF facility located within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The facility is officially called Homey Airport (KXTA) or Groom Lake. While the operations of the facility are publicly unknown the official position is that it is an open testing facility. It is said that it also supports the development of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.

The famous black mailbox that marks the entrance to Area 51. Photo by Alan Rupnick

The road to the front gate is marked by the famous black mailbox. It’s almost impossible to miss. For the adventurous at heart, the journey to Area 51 begins here on a gravel road that leads out into what seems like infinity.

The ride out to the hidden air base was a lot longer than I had expected. The farther out we got the more we begin to notice smaller roads going off in several different directions. We followed the instructions we were given but questioned if we remembered them correctly. Honestly, I think they did this purposely. if you want to hide something like Area 51 you’ll obviously want to make the route into the base as confusing as possible. They did that exceptionally well.

There came a point we considered turning back until we noticed that off in the distance, out in the open desert where there were no roads, there was an unmarked white truck pacing us. We knew we must on the right track and kept moving forward. Then we began to notice random wires running across the ground just off the road. Electronic surveillance? I started to get a bit nervous. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

The front gate of Area 51. Photo by AJ Brookly.

We finally reached the front gate of Area 51 and although I’ve always wanted to see it with my own eyes, I never for one moment felt anything but uneasy. There was just something about that place that seemed menacing. Maybe it was the high tech equipment beyond the fence or maybe the unmarked white truck sitting within 200 feet of us on top of a hill. You can see the road that leads up to where the truck was just behind the Constantine wire.

The sign states that photos are prohibited. The locals assured us they allowed it so we worked up a little bravery and had our photos taken by the gate. There were also a multitude of signs announcing that lethal force is authorized if you attempt to enter the property. For a moment I wondered if this picture was worth being taken prisoner and possibly being thrown into confinement with a very upset alien. The answer in short was “HECK YEAH!”

The back gate of Area 51. Photo by Alan Rupnick

There is also a back gate to Area 51 as pictured above. Honestly we were a bit lost when we wound up here and even though this gate seemed quieter than the front gate, it was much more intimidating. So much so, this is the closest we were willing to get to this gate and I had to zoom in quite a bit to get this picture. I don’t know why we felt the need to be extra cautious around this particular gate. It was just one of those gut feelings I guess.

If you want to make the trek to see Area 51 you can get directions to the gates from either the Little A’LE’INN which is 20 miles to the north of the main gate in Rachel, NV or a place called the Alien Research Center which is a gift shop located 20 miles to the south of the main gate near Crystal Springs, NV. Dreamland Resort is a website I found created by an Area 51 local and has a lot of great information on the topic.

Old Tempiute Mine

The Old Tempiute Mine is about 6 miles southeast of Rachel, NV on the southern slope of the Tempiute Mountains. It was a silver mining camp dating back to the late 1800’s. Silver was first discovered in the Tempiute Mountains in 1865 and a small mining camp made its appearance there. New silver discoveries in 1868 led to more miners coming into the area and by the end of the 1870’s the small mining camp reached a population of about 50. They even had their own post office from 1879 until 1883.

This is where they loaded silver ore onto wagons to be transported to the main road. Photo by Alan Rupnick

Lack of water limited the growth of the community. It needed to be transported up to the mine from the valley, which back then I’m sure was not the easiest of tasks. By 1883 many of the miners had moved on and the camp was abandoned until tungsten was found in 1916. Tungsten was mined in this area on a larger scale from 1936 until WWII.

The foundation of an old stone cabin. Photo by Alan Rupnick.
One of the old, abandoned mine shafts. Photo by Alan Rupnick

To get to this mine we drove south from Rachel, NV on State Route 375 for 4 miles. You will see a dirt road going to the left (east). It won’t look like much of a road but it is the correct one. Take that road for about 1.35 miles and you will come to a fork. Stay right on the fork. After 2.35 miles we reached the first foundations of the old cabins and we were not able to go any further. After examining the old foundations we proceeded on foot for another 0.3 miles and reached the gate to the mine. Beyond the gate you must hike another 0.6 miles and you will arrive at the mine. It is a moderately strenuous hike but nothing too drastic. I suggest a climb to the top of the ridge surrounding the mine as well. A magnificent view of Tikaboo Valley and Sand Spring Valley await those who do.

Project Faultless

What expedition would be complete without standing on ground zero above 500,000 tons of highly radioactive rubble? How radioactive you ask? Similar to the levels of radiation found in the core of a nuclear reactor.

Not much was known about nuclear explosions in the 1950’s. There were many nuclear tests conducted, both above and below ground at the Nevada Test Site, just north of Las Vegas. It became apparent that the testing posed certain safety risks for Las Vegas so the Atomic Energy Commission (now known as the Department of Energy) decided to preform the largest of tests in more remote areas.

There were 10 locations chosen and the first test would take place at the Central Nevada Test Area in Hot Creek Valley. The Atomic Energy Commission had a series of underground thermonuclear tests planned that were far larger than any they had conducted at the Nevada Test Site. Project Faultless was a calibration test with the goal of determining the geological and structural impact before even larger tests were to be performed. The nuclear device had a yield of under one megaton and was roughly 67 times larger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Warning signs such as this one could be found scattered about the test site. Photo by Alan Rupnick.

In preparation of the first test a steel pipe measuring 7 feet in diameter had been drilled 3,200 feet into the ground. The nuclear device was lowered into the pipe and the testing was ready to commence. On January 19, 1968 at 10:15 AM, Project Faultless was detonated.

The blast was absolutely devastating. The sheer force of the explosion caused the ground to collapse for several miles around the test site. As a result, deep fault lines opened up in the ground that can still be seen today. It created a massive cylindrical cavity of nuclear rubble that was approximately 820 feet in diameter and 2,460 feet in length. The pipe pictured below was completely below ground before the blast. The ground surrounding the area of the blast had dropped 9 feet.

The pipe used to lower the nuclear device 3,200 feet under ground. This pipe was completely under ground before the detonation of Project Faultless. Photo by Alan Rupnick.

The devastating geological effects were enough to completely shut down the project. The steel pipe was sealed with concrete and any sites that were being prepared for future tests were abandoned. A bronze plaque that serves as a reminder was placed on the steel pipe marking ground zero of Project Faultless.

The bronze plaque memorializing ground zero of Project Faultless. Photo by Alan Rupnick

Project Faultless is located 59 miles north of Rachel, NV. Take hwy 375 to Warm Springs and at the junction head east (right) onto US-6. After 25.4 miles you will see a small sign pointing left to Moores Station. Turn left onto the dirt road and go 12.2 miles where you will come to an intersection. Continue forward onto the less developed dirt road in a westerly direction for 1.4 miles. You will see a mound of dirt ahead of you and the road splits. Take the road to the right and then go left around the backside of the mound. There you will see the monument pictured in this article.

These are only a handful of many such places to see in the area of the Extraterrestrial Highway. Simply talk to the locals and you’ll find many memorable things to explore in this part of Nevada. I planned these adventures using the Rachel, NV website. Happy adventuring!