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Day Trip to Area 51

Day Trip to Area 51

Area 51

"The truth is out there," the X-Files promised us long ago.
Turns out, "out there" might just be a couple of hours from Vegas.
So if you’re ready for a journey down the “Extraterrestrial Highway,” we’ve got a day trip for you.
Out in the Nevada desert sits a remote detachment, known as Area 51, of Edwards Air Force Base, encompassed within the U.S. Air Force’s huge Nevada Test and Training Range. The area is used (most likely) for testing experimental aircraft and weapons. (It’s not unusual to hear mysterious sonic booms throughout the area).
Popular imagination, however, has painted Area 51 as a secluded spot with a far more secretive – and perhaps sinister – purpose: as a research lab studying aliens. Because everything that happens at Area 51 is deemed top secret – the U.S. Government didn’t even acknowledge the base’s existence until 1995 – it features prominently among government conspiracy theories and Hollywood films.

Getting To Area 51

Area 51 is about a 2–1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas each way, making for a 6–7 hour day trip. You might also opt for a guided tour.

The Extraterrestrial Highway

Once you turn from US–93 to State Highway 375, you’ll see the first “Extraterrestrial Highway” Sign. Yep, that’s been the official name of this stretch of the highway since 1996, when the state tourism commission hoped that the renaming would “draw travelers to the austere and remote reaches of south-central Nevada.”
The sign – on the north side of Highway 375, just west of its intersection with US–93 – is a great place to pull over (there’s plenty of room) and pose for a photo op.

The Alien Research Center

Next up: continue along State Highway 375 about a mile, toward Hiko. The Alien Research Center is a small roadside attraction that houses a museum and gift shop with various paraphernalia relating to alien visitations. If it’s not open when you visit, you can still get some pictures by the giant alien statue, and don’t worry: you’ll have more opportunities to grab Area 51 memorabilia down the road.

The Black Mailbox (Now White) and the Front Gate

Keep driving toward Rachel, and between mile markers 30 and 29 you’ll see a square mailbox. It used to be black and is most commonly known as The Black Mailbox. However, it has since been painted white. Area 51 lore has it that The Black Mailbox demarcates the road that leads to the Front Gate of Area 51.
If you take the turn, be aware: the road is bumpy, and the Front Gate isn’t really anything special. (And be sure to obey the “Keep Out” signs – this is U.S. military property, and they tend to take trespassing pretty seriously, especially on their secret bases). You might also see the famed (or infamous) “Camo Dudes.” They’re government contractors who guard and keep watch throughout the area. If you’re especially sharp-eyed (or bring binoculars) you might also spot the surveillance cameras and motion sensors hidden among the cacti.
You might find some people camping around The Black Mailbox at night as a vantage point to watch for UFOs, but there are better spots elsewhere.


Continue the rest of the way to Rachel, Nevada. Rachel is the town closest to the Nellis Air Force Range; it’s sometimes called the Alien Capital of the World.
A’Le’Inn – a restaurant, bar, gift shop and inn located in Rachel – caters specifically to UFO watchers, and it’s the perfect place for visitors to trade stories and question locals about their experiences, while browsing a selection of memorabilia and books. Be sure to try their “World-Famous Alien Burger.” They only have seven rooms, so if you think you might want to stay overnight – perhaps to get some nighttime sky watching in – be sure to make reservations in advance.

Nighttime Watching

If you do decide to stay, VisitArea51.com recommends several prime spots: • Campfire Hill
• The Hidden Campsite
• Powerlines Overlook
• Coyote Summit

The Back Gate

The road to the Back Gate of Area 51 can be a little hard to find: it’s a dirt road off of Highway 375, between mile markers 11 and 12. If you’re stopped at A’Le’Inn, you can ask for directions.
Keep your distance from any cows along the dirt road. No joke: they can be aggressive and have been known to charge cars. (No comment on any conspiracy theories about government-trained killer cows.)
The Back Gate is a bit more interesting than the Front – beyond just a “keep out” sign, there’s an actual gate to behold, with cameras and a small guard station. Don’t photograph or bother the guards. This isn’t Buckingham Palace: these guys will arrest you for bothering them.

Is it worth it?

You’ll get the most out of the trip if you’re a bit of a conspiracy theorist and/or are interested in alien lore. Honestly, our favorite parts of a trip to Area 51 are impromptu and serious conversations about aliens – not really a common conversation topic in our day-to-day lives! — with other visitors. Along the way, you’ll also encounter the Martian beauty of the Nevada desert, and you might catch glimpses of area wildlife like coyote, bobcats and even wild mustangs. If you do some nighttime skywatching, you’ll be able to appreciate a sky glimmering full of stars away from city lights – it really is amazing how many more stars you can see when earthly lights don’t get in the way.
For more information:
Vagabond3 Area 51 Trip Report
Image Credit: spekulator via sxc.hu About 2 year(s) ago