Driving a big rig doesn’t mean you have to stick to the interstates. My husband, Bob, and I have been full-time RVing in our 40-foot motorhome with a Jeep in tow for over ﬁve years now, and we are always seeking out new places that don’t include interstate driving.
There is a stretch of highway that runs the length of the U.S. called The Lincoln Highway. The section of this highway that runs through the length of Nevada, known as Highway 50, or by the nickname “The Loneliest Road in America,” is a fantastic big-rig drive.
Our journey started in Carson City, where we fueled up the rig and filled the refrigerator with supplies. As we headed northeast, we found the four-lane road to be smooth and in great condition with gentle inclines. It was like this all the way to Silver Springs—so far, not very lonely.
Past Silver Springs, the road turned into two lanes with no shoulder, but it was still smooth and had lots of level gravel turnouts.
Almost 30 miles past Silver Springs, you will find the city of Fallon. This town was large and had everything needed for a trip, so we decided to top off our fuel. The Fox Peak Station on the east side of the city is a great big-rig fuel stop, with dedicated diesel pumps in the rear and a large gravel turnaround.
Once out of town, the landscape starts to become interesting and, within 10 miles, we found the Grimes Point
Archaeological Area. The site sits right off the highway at the end of a large loop road. If it’s too busy to drive into the loop, pull off where you can and walk the short distance to the display.
Down the road about 49 miles, at mile marker 80, is an easy stop for big rigs at the Sand Spring Pony Express display. It’s a level gravel pull-off with a large loop road to park on. There is a pit toilet, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) interpretive kiosk and a one-mile trail to the remains of the actual station.
Back on the road, you will pass slightly south of a dry lake bed and, if conditions are right, you will be treated to numerous dust devils spinning about. From here you’re only about 10 miles from your first summit, and the scenery is beautiful. The summit climb to New Pass is only around 1,000 feet, and once there, the other summits are within a 1,500- foot climb and fall of each other.
Your next summit will be the highest, slightly outside the town of Austin. It will feel like you’re on top of the world as the mountains go on and on. About six miles farther, still on the mountain top, is a good big-rig pull-off, and it’s a great free stop for the night if you like dry-camping. At Bob Scott Forest Service campground across the street, you will find potable water and a pit toilet, but it is not suitable for accommodating big rigs.
If you don’t want to stop at the pass overnight, another great big-rig stop is the rest area about 31 miles farther on the left. This long, paved pull-off has two covered picnic tables, trash cans and lots of room for even the biggest of rigs. Here, you will have a beautiful 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
In between, about 18 miles past the Bob Scott Campground, you will find the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area. This is not big-rig friendly, and there is no place for a large motorhome to pull off the road at the entrance to the recreation area. If you want to see the Petroglyphs, the paved pull-off is the closest place for big rigs to park, unhook your toad and drive the 13 miles back. There are pit toilets, picnic tables, shade trees and a nice hike to the Petroglyphs, with a panoramic view of the Diamond Valley. Make sure you bring water, as there is none onsite.
At the end of this valley, you come to the town of Eureka. It is small with a few cafés and two diesel stations, both tight for big rigs. Once you are out of town, the next summit climb is easy and will put you at an altitude of 6,431 feet, driving through mountain ranges on both sides.
The view is amazing. Once out of Eureka, there is nothing for the next 75 miles except open land, mountains ranges, several easy summits and a pronghorn antelope or two hundred. Then it really starts to feel lonely, but sit back and enjoy the ride. The next town will be Ely, the last city in Nevada along the Loneliest Highway. Here you will find food, fuel and camping. Keep an eye out for signs once you get to town. Highway 50 will take a 90-degree right turn and is also called US 93 and Great Basin Boulevard. After your turn, and a little over a mile down the road, you will come to a great big-rig fuel stop, called the Silver Sage Travel Center. This is also a place to overnight for free if you are dry-camping. Pull around back to the gravel at the far end of the large parking lot. The commercial trucks will stay on the pavement closer to the travel center. If dry-camping is not your thing, there is also a nice KOA about 1.5 miles down the road.
From the Travel Center, you can drop your tow vehicle and drive it south on Hwy 50 about 15 miles to the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park.
Half the road to the park is dirt, and there is no turnaround for big rigs, so take your car. It’s worth the drive.
The elk viewing area is also about 11 miles past the Travel Center. In winter, elk can be seen from this large big-rig-friendly parking area with covered picnic tables, grills and pit toilets. From here, you’re off to Connors Pass and a view of Mount Wheeler, that stands 13,063 feet. Back in the valley, look to the north and you will see over 60 spinning wind turbines.
Once you’re up and over the next mountain range, through the Sacramento Pass, you will find the Sacramento Pass Campground. This is a dry-campers dream with covered picnic tables, fire pits, grills, pit toilet and stocked trout fishing pond (Nevada fishing license required), all for free. If you don’t want to take your big rig into Great Basin National Park, this is a good home base to drop your toad and explore the park. It’s about 18.5 miles to the Lehman Caves and 13 miles to the town of Baker, which has a small RV park. This park is not level, and with its tight turns it could be challenging for a big rig. There is a small fuel stop with a hotel, bar, café and RV hookups suitable for big rigs 15 miles down the road on the Nevada/Utah border. This will put you about seven miles from the Great Basin Visitor Center.
Once you cross the Nevada/Utah boarder, you are officially leaving the Loneliest Highway in America. Travel for another 89 miles, and it will put you at the town of Delta, Utah. You will have gone over a gentle pass to get there, and see a beautiful desert landscape that stretches for miles.
The entire drive through Nevada is about 380 miles long and is a wonderful RV trip. The scenery and history is worth the drive, and you can explore as much or as little as you want. The road is smooth, the traffic is light and the scenery and starry nights are spectacular.
So, what are you waiting for? Hitch up and head out on the wonderful, scenic drive.
Camille McCullough #110158
Camille and Bob McCullough have been full-time RVing in their 2007 Winnebago Itasca Horizon 40FD since August 2011. They are retired from Orlando, Florida, where Camille was a firefighter/engineer for the Orange County Fire Department, and Bob was a deputy sheriff with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Since retiring, they spend their time traveling the country, hiking, gold prospecting, paragliding and now skiing.
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