- The Magazine
- Current Issue
- Events & Shows
- Web Extras
- Yellow Pages
10 can’t-miss stops through Pony Express Territory and the heart of Nevada Silver Trails.
Photo: Matthew B. Brown (Warm Springs is between Tonopah and Ely on U.S. 6)
Few know that the U.S. Highway 6 that runs through Nevada extends across the whole continental United States. In 1937, U.S. 6 became the longest (3,562 miles) transcontinental federal highway, running from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California, and remained the longest federal road until 1964 when California renumbered its routes (U.S. 6 now ends in Bishop, California and remains the country’s longest contiguous federal highway).
As a travel writer interested in taking the “road less traveled,” I drove the entire U.S. 6 and documented it for an upcoming Stay on Route 6 travel guide. I began at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts on May 20, 2011 and traveled westward, averaging about 100 miles per day, ending up in Long Beach on June 30, 2011.
From the East, U.S. 6 enters Nevada concurrent with U.S. 50 and then splits from 50 in Ely. Route 6 leaves Nevada all on its lonesome, crossing into California in the eastern Sierra Nevada range. The following are my “Top 10 Can’t Miss Stops on Route 6 in Nevada.”
Border Inn Motel and RV Park lies at the boundary of Utah and Nevada. It’s 90 miles from Delta, Utah on U.S. 6/50 to the Nevada border, and by the time you get there any sign of civilization is immensely welcome. Once you cross over from Utah into Nevada, you don’t have to wait a second to play the slots. There are also motel rooms, pool tables, a restaurant, a gift shop, and gas. This place is quite the relief to those who think they’ve fallen off the edge of the world. greatbasinpark.com/borderinn.htm, 775-234-7300
Great Basin National Park. If you want to avoid swarms of tourists, this remote national park is ideal. About 10 miles from U.S. 6/50, the park maintains a 12-mile scenic byway and offers guided expeditions into Lehman Caves. A high-desert habitat, Great Basin features groves of bristlecone pines and piñon trees, which produce a very delicious pine nut. Visit in autumn, and you can harvest up to 25 pounds of this generally costly delicacy per household, per year. That’s a lot of pesto sauce. nps.gov/grba, 775-234-7331
Majors Place shows up on my map as a little dot—a nothing town. But it’s not even a town. It’s a place—a roadside café and pub kind of place. I was just about to drive past it when something told me to go inside Majors Place. I’m so glad I did, because now I’ll tell you to do the same. Built of logs, over-decorated with antlers and animal heads (at least one with a cigarette in its mouth), and walls and ceiling embellished with more than 1,000 dollar bills from patrons who come from all over the world, Majors Place is too cool to pass up. Ely is only 28 miles away, and many people make the drive to eat and drink here. Photo: Malerie Yolen-Cohen
Cell Block Steak House at Ely’s Jailhouse Motel and Casino. Each table is set within its own low-lit diminutive cell, which is both intimate and isolating (though perfect for romantic couples). By all accounts (including mine), this is the best restaurant around. jailhousecasino.com, 800-841-5430
It’s a mind-numbing 168 miles from Ely to Tonopah, but filled with great mountain ascents, descents, and canyon cuts—all part of the basin/range/basin/range rhythm. Tonopah was once the “Queen of the Silver Camps”; from 1900-12, mines here produced roughly $2 billion worth of silver (adjusting for inflation), and there’s a very cool “ghost town” walking tour you can take of Tonopah Historic Mining Park. On 100 acres set on the side of a hill, it’s a leg-stretching, lung-expanding way to delve into this town’s past. Wind whistles through the remains of old mineshafts, head frames (the structures that held electric hoists), and miner’s shacks, and I swore I heard spirits of the dead whispering around the ruins. tonopahhistoricminingpark.com, 775-482-9274
While in Tonopah listen to the eclectic rock/jazz/show tunes/country offerings of the very tongue-in-cheek Alien Radio, which broadcasts outside of Area 51—the site of the former Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range. The Stealth Bomber and other aircraft were tested at the Tonopah Army Air Field, resulting in speculation about aliens and UFOs. alienradio.us, 888-288-4199
Get a sense of Tonopah’s military history at the Central Nevada Museum. You can pay your respects to the servicemen who lost their lives in testing accidents at a memorial made from shattered pieces of salvaged airplanes and jets. There’s also a pot-marked granite boulder used in miner’s jackhammer drilling contests in the early 1900s. Walk the boardwalk of an old miner’s town—miner’s cabins line a dirt road—lizards skittering hither and yon. Photo: Mike Polak tonopahnevada.com/centralnevadamuseum.html, 775-482-9676
Eat at the new Sidewinders Café. It doesn’t look like much from the outside (next to an abandoned auto parts store), but I consider it the best restaurant in town. Owned by Barb and Dave Kaminski (they have seven kids, six of whom have been or are in the Army), and it’s a great home-cooked lunch and dinner place with excellent sandwiches and sweet potato fries—so terrific and crispy I snapped a picture and posted it on Twitter! Décor is eclectic with one graffiti-styled wall covered with well wishes written by patrons from all over the globe. 775-482-8888
The Jim Butler Inn & Suites looks like a typical roadside motel. But inside large rooms you’ll find a sitting area, gas fireplace, flat-screen TV, and comfy bed with pretty, updated bedding. The bathroom is the basic sink outside, toilet and shower behind a door kind of thing, but it’s much nicer than I expected and is right across the street from the Sidewinder Café and just a few blocks from the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. The manager/owner is extremely friendly, Wi-Fi is free, and continental breakfast is complementary. jimbutlerinn.com, 775-482-3577
The Benton Hot Springs B&B, a few miles over the Nevada-California border and just four miles up the road from Benton on California State Route 120 is owned by uber-bicyclists Diane Henderson and Bill Branlette (they bike all over the world for months at a time). It’s one of those mirage-like places that seem too good to be true. Trees shade a gorgeously landscaped yard—flowers everywhere. This is truly an oasis in the middle of the wilderness. Nine rooms (most with shared bath) ring a Spanish terra cotta courtyard and working fountain. Guests can either eat in the one tiny bare-bones café back in town or grill dinner and dine on a shaded patio. After sundown, kick back in one of three spring-fed hot tubs and marvel at the canopy of stars in this darkest-of-skies desert settlement. historicbentonhotsprings.com, 866-466-2824
WORTH A CLICK
“Stay on Route 6” blog,
by Malerie Yolen-Cohen