The sun had no sooner set on Nevada’s remote Extraterrestrial (ET) Highway when the previously silent sky suddenly roared to life with aircraft. Or more precisely the sounds of aircraft. Lots of them.
The dark and cloudy early night sky provided no clues as to who or what was creating the din. But the noise continued uninterrupted, with a few window-rattling booms occasionally punctuating the steady drone.
An hour and a half later, the racket of nonstop unseen jets flying overhead became a little disconcerting. I began to question whether spending the night in the middle of nowhere on a road that only 200 people a day traveled was, in fact, a good idea.
And then, just as suddenly as it started, all fell silent again. As if someone had hit an off switch. Eerie!
Was it aliens? Was the noise coming from UFOs?
I suppose anything is possible. We were on the ET Highway, after all. But likely not.
Nevada State Route 375 runs through and by LOTS of military land, including the Nevada Test and Training Range and the infamous Area 51. I suspect military testing was the source of the din.
At least whoever was making the noise had the good grace to conclude their activity early. A good sleep followed until my friend excitedly knocked on the door about 1 a.m. shouting that I MUST come outside immediately.
Was it a UFO?
Sadly, no. But it was still well worth going out into the chilly Nevada desert night.
While I had napped, the clouds that marred our daylight views had cleared. In their place, an awe-inspiring canopy of planets, stars, and galaxies twinkled in the black night sky. With zero light pollution, I had not seen star watching this spectacular in ages.
Yes, this was a very good idea after all. Even though we did not see any UFOs.
Where to camp on the Extraterrestrial Highway
The entire ET Highway is only about 150 miles long. You could easily do it in a day, but for the full experience, plan on spending at least one night.
The road is smooth and well maintained, despite the fact that only about 200 people per day use it. Be sure to fuel up before leaving in order to not pay premium prices in Rachel, the one and only town on Nevada State Highway 375.
Star watching is of course the star attraction here, regardless of whether you have a close encounter with an alien. As the road is so remote, anywhere you stop will provide amazing nighttime skyscapes, provided there are no clouds obscuring the views.
Those who prefer a bit more civilization with their star watching can find full RV hookups at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, a must-stop on your tour regardless of whether you choose to spend the night.
But for the BEST nighttime views, I recommend boondocking at one of the roadside pull-offs along Hwy. 375 away from the town or any homesteads.
You can find one of these quasi rest stops about 10-15 miles north of Rachel. It will be on the right heading south, left if you are heading north. I must apologize for not having better location notes. I assumed this place would be listed, at minimum, on some of the free campsite sites, but when I went to research it later, I had no luck. Any large pull-off will do, but this one is especially spacious and scenic.
The big, level, easy to access lot with panoramic views of the desert and surrounding mountains could easily accommodate 6-10 boondocking RVs with room to spare. However, we had the place completely to ourselves.
The only beings we saw during our almost 24-hour stay were small groups of free-range cattle meandering by from time to time.
During the day, a passing car or truck would whiz by every hour or so. Sparse as it was to begin with, road traffic dwindled to nothing after sunset. Although that is when the cacophony in the sky that I described earlier began.
Since we only spent one night, I can’t say if the night sky auditory show is a regular thing or not.
ET Highway tips and practicalities
- When to go: This is the Nevada desert. Plan accordingly. Summer temperatures often reach well over 100 degrees F. We visited in early November and the weather was perfect. Not too warm during the day and just chilly enough at night to turn on the furnace a bit.
- Connectivity: Expect little to no phone or internet coverage on the ET Hwy. outside of the town of Rachel, regardless of carrier.
- Fuel up first: Fill your tanks in Tonopah or Las Vegas first. On the south end of Nevada Hwy. 375, reasonably priced gas is also available in Crystal Springs. But if you have to buy fuel in Rachel, be prepared to pay premium tourist trap prices.
- What to bring: Bring your telescopes and binoculars. We saw beautiful birds of prey circling during the day. Of course, the night sky views attract professional and amateur astronomers from all over the world. Bring food and drink too. Other than ET Jerky at the very south end of Hwy. 375 and the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, there are no restaurants or services on the ET highway at all. Plan RV meals accordingly.
- No Area 51: Do not even think about approaching Area 51. The area is heavily restricted, guarded, and surveilled. Whatever may or may not be going on there, the government takes Area 51 security extremely seriously. Obey the boundaries and warning signs and stay out!
Next week: Attractions and pit stops along the Extraterrestrial Highway. See you then!