Don’t Panic: Visiting Area 51

Area 51, Las Vegas Road trip

I love the idea of aliens and government cover-ups.  I don’t spend much time really thinking about either one, but, with even a passing interest, I know plenty of myths and theories about Area 51.  I was always under the impression though that Area 51 was a base on some unknown, unmarked desert plain, and, though I might want to see it, I would never be able to actually find it.  However, some fantastic cosmic aligning occurred in Las Vegas, and over the course of a night, I had three separate unprovoked conversations about Area 51…apparently it’s not as hidden as I thought it was.  I made my way though discussions about the three daily flights from the Las Vegas Airport to Area 51, remarks about the various sights out in the desert, and finally I was able to weed out an e-mail with detailed directions out to the Black Mailbox and the Back Gate.  That was it, I was going, and I went.

For all the mystery and rumored cover-up surrounding Area 51, getting to the secret base’s doorstep is actually really easy.  At only two and a half hours from the Las Vegas Strip, Area 51 makes an easy day-trip (6-7 hours total), and one of the cooler places you can tell your friends you’ve visited – because, let’s face it, who ever thought a trip to drink and party in Vegas would end up at the back gate of Area 51.  Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to get out to Area 51 and what to see while you’re there.

Preparation:

  • Get a full tank of gas.  The drive is super easy, full of beautiful empty scenery, and has hundreds of miles without gasoline.  The entire trip took us about one and a quarter tanks of gas, the majority of which was spent on the way there because it’s mostly a gentle steady climb up.  There is a gas station where you can fill back up on the return trip in Alamo.
  • Read up on the theories and sights around Area 51.  The major Area 51 attractions are only sights and fences, so any trip out is only as exciting as what you know about the myths behind the mountains.  Of course you’re probably familiar with the Alien Theories, but there is  a lot more to the history of the place.  Having been there and read what I read before I went, I can now say that even if there aren’t aliens there, the government is definitely covering huge secrets up in this area.

What to Bring:

  • Cash or Card – The A’Le’Inn accepts credit cards but they also sell $1 items that we paid for with cash.
  • Camera – You’ll definitely want to take pictures, at the very least to prove you did find things on your trip.  Warning- There are signs on the Back Gate that say you cannot take pictures, use caution.  Also, every site I read and all the locals we spoke with were very clear that you cannot photograph the guards or the ‘Camo Dudes’.  The Camo Dudes will get fired if their picture gets out and the guards might EMP your car or arrest you.  As we drove up, the guard at the gate walked into a building – so it’s clear they don’t want to be photographed and simply get out of the way, but be careful.
  • Gas – Make sure you leave Las Vegas with a full tank, and you’ll probably have to refill on the way back.

The Route and Sights:

(For Google Map directions search: HC61 Box 45 1 Old Mill Rd Rachel, NV 89001. In my Nav it came up in Alamo, NV)

  • Leaving Las Vegas get on the I-15 North and head out of town for about 25 miles.
  • Exit exit 64 for US-93 N/Great Basin Hwy. You’ll take a Left at the end of the off-ramp and head straight out into the desert.
  • Stay on US-93N for 80 – 90 miles.  Towards the end of this leg of the trip, you’ll pass through Alamo and Ash Springs.  These small towns are the last place to get gas before you head out in the desert.  Total you’ll be traveling between 90 – 140 miles before you get back to a gas station, we did it all on the same tank of gas, but judge your vehicle.
  • Just past the Shell, Turn left at US-93 N/Great Basin Hwy.  When we were there, this is a abandoned cinder block building at the turn.
  • As you turn onto US-93N, you’ll spot a fork in the road, you’re going to be turning Left.
  • Turn left at NV-318 N/NV-375 N/State Hwy 375 (aka Extraterrestrial Highway)
  • The rest of the trip will be based around driving down NV – 375 N.  The only thing to be on the lookout for is the free range cattle, especially at night.

Sight #1 – Extraterrestrial Highway Sign

Turning from US-93 onto State Hwy 375, you see the first Extraterrestrial Highway Sign.  The Highway was given it’s name in conjunction with the release of “Independence Day”, and there is plenty of room to pull off and take pictures before you head on.

Sight #2 – Tourist Stop – Alien Research Center

About a mile from the Extraterrestrial Highway Sign, there is a small roadside attraction named the Alien Research Center.  The museum and gift shop are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  It wasn’t open when we drove by, but we did stop for pictures by the giant alien statue. This is as touristy as the entire trip gets, if you can’t get Area 51 memorabilia here, A’Le’Inn has some further down the road.

Sight #3 – The Black Mailbox & The Front Gate

Between mile marker 30 and 29 is a square white mailbox (it was formerly painted black, which gave it the name the Black Mailbox).  For a long time it was thought that this was the mailbox for Area 51 – it’s not.  However, this mailbox is a demarcation of the road that heads down to the Front Gate of Area 51.  There was too much snow on the day we went to drive down the road, but everything I read left me with a few tips.

  • The unmarked road just past the Black Mailbox is way more bumpy then the other road down to the Front Gate, which spurs off HWY 375 just after you crested the previous hill.
  • The Front Gate is only a giant sign that says keep out – the Back Gate is way cooler.
  • You are more likely to come across ‘Camo Dudes‘ heading to the front gate.  (They are private contractors not there to hurt you, just to make sure you don’t try to do anything crazy.)
  • It’s about a 20 mile drive down to the Front Gate.

Sight #4 – A’Le’Inn

This restaurant/bar/gift shop is as close as Rachel gets to a tourist stop.  It’s a bit of a must-stop for true alien enthusiasts, and many of the locals are easy to talk to about what they’ve seen in the night skies.  At the very least, they have postcards which can be mailed from Rachel (though they don’t always have stamps).  In addition, A’Le’Inn sells the most comprehensive book on Area 51 and the surrounding area.  We tried the “World Famous Alien Burger”, tasty.  Also, further conjunction with the release of “Independence Day”, there is a time capsule buried next to the restaurant that will be opened in 2050.

Sight #5 – The Back Gate

The dirt road to the Back Gate spurs off HWY 375 between mile marker 12 and 11.  It is the only road within the mile markers, and there is a stop sign for traffic coming from that road.  The best way I can think to describe where this road is, as you come off the hill before the road, you’ll be able to see the few houses that make up Rachel, Nevada, it’s almost immediately on your left.  If you’re leaving Rachel, it will be the first road on your right.  If you pass it and hit the A’Le’Inn, someone there be able to point it out to you.

The back gate is great because there is actually a gate set-up in the middle of a field with a few cameras and a guard shack.  Don’t photograph the guards.

  • It’s roughly eight miles from HWY – 375 to the Back Gate.  The first five miles are dirt, the last two or three are paved – Yes, it happens just like that; cow pasture, dirt road, new paved road, gate.  It’s totally awesome.
  • There are more likely to be free range cattle along this stretch of the road.  The locals in Rachel told us to be very wary around them.  Apparently these cows charge and have taken out a few cars.  Don’t honk, spook them, or attempt to drive by if they are in the road.
  • You’ll know when you are at the gate, and don’t try and cross.  In fact, we were told to stay at least 10-20 feet away.

Beyond the Unknown

Despite whatever may or may not be going on at Groom Lake, the Air Force openly carries out regular testing and training missions in the valley around Rachel.  Look for Red Flag and Green Flag days to see US and Allied forces racing through the area at only one-hundred feet off the ground.  Who knows, maybe you’ll see one of the prototype planes they’re building on the base.

Warnings

  • Area 51 is a military base.  Whether or not there are aliens behind the mountain, there is still strict military protocol that doesn’t like to be bent or tested.  Don’t try and cross the fence, you will be fined and arrested.  Don’t taunt the guards, you can be arrested.
  • Careful driving around the Free Range Cattle.  They can total your car, and it is a LONG way back to a repair shop

The best part of the trip out to Area 51 is that it really lives up to the idea of a top secret destination; there aren’t really any tourist sights, there aren’t any roadsigns pointing out the sights, and there is barely anybody there.  The first thing my Dad said when I told him where I visited was, “If there was ever anything there, it’s gone now.  If it’s mobile, it’s been moved.” Which is possibly true (I have since heard rumors of a secret base up in Colorado).  But, the best advice I can give anyone interested in going is to go, and don’t worry about the logistics.  There could definitely be aliens and UFO’s there.  Let your imagination run wild.  This place lived up to every expectation I had, which is rare.  It felt just like I wanted it to.  So, if you’ve ever had an interest in Area 51 – you should definitely go.

Have you ever been up to Area 51?  Seen any UFO’s in the sky?  Do you know anything about this other Colorado base?

Bob is a lifetime traveler, whose main focus is making the most out of every dollar and figuring out how to do the complicated tasks of traveling. If you see him out, he'll probably be the one with the camera in hand and a pen and notebook in his pocket. If you like what you see here, just wait till you see what I'm dishing up next.

25 Comments

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  • Reply January 26, 2011

    Nick

    Awesome man,
    Nice write up..

    I am traveling to vegas next month. And I am for sure going to visit Area 51, and the little Ale’inn.

    Ive seen tons of pictures and video of people posing by the warning signs to the front gate. I plan on taking a few pictures by it. But the sign says “photography permitted” What are the chances that the “cammo dudes” confiscate cameras?

    • Reply January 27, 2011

      Bob

      Hey Nick-

      So here’s the deal, we didn’t go to the front gate. We heard all there was to see there was signs saying ‘no photos allowed’ and ‘keep out’. From what I’ve heard, if a visitor doesn’t act like a crazy man and try to break in or get one of the camo dudes on film, then everything should be fine.

      We did go to the back gate. It seemed from the people we talked to, and our own experience, that taking photos is ok if you make sure not to get the guard in the picture. The people we talked to at A’ Le’ Inn said that the guards to have EMP guns that can kill all electronics, so exercise caution, but we didn’t have any problems.

  • Haha! I grew up in Las Vegas and did this with my parents once. Kind of a boring drive to get to Rachel and aside from the folklore, there really isn’t a whole lot to see aside from those oddball places like the Little A’Le’Inn. Trying to spot the bordellos once you leave Clark County is always amusing!

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Peter payr

    Hi, Peter Payne of J-List here. Just wanted to say thanks for this guide, my son and I had a blast visiting Area 51 today. Saw the best stuff thanks to this useful website. Will tweet about it too.

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Steve

    Nice guide. I want to go to Area 51 some day. A friend of mine claims he got a picture of the “camo dudes”, but it’s so blurry it could be anything. (He says they started looking towards him right as he took the picture and he had to hide the camera.) But really, it could be anything. It’s a blur with a greenish blob. (Googling Camo Dudes turns up a few pictures that’s supposedly of them, though.) Anyway, if I ever go, I’ll definitely keep this guide in mind.

    Also, I don’t know anything about a base in Colorado, but there is the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. It’s restricted in a manner similar to Area 51 and there’s a theory that they moved anything extraterrestrial from Area 51 to Dugway. Area 51 now serves mainly as a decoy. However, given the government refused to acknowledge the existence of Area 51 until 2003 indicates there’s _something_ there, though I have no idea what it is.

  • Reply January 30, 2012

    Dr Grey

    My wife and I visited the Groom Lake Rd entrance of Area 51 a couple years ago. We arrived just before sunset. The cammo dudes were waiting for us on a ridge in a pick up. We jumped out of our truck and took a couple pictures of each other in front of the signs. We had been told by the nice folks at the Little A Le Inn that if you cross the line you can be held without charge for up to two years. Needless to say we kept about 10 feet back. I then decided to snap pictures of the security vehicle and my with protested it immediately. The next thing I knew there was a white pickup speeding toward the gate from inside and for a moment I thought they were coming for us. Turns out it was just a couple of defense contractors heading home for the night and when they drove past they both covered their faces with their hands. They drive full speed once on the road. We got out of there but all in all a worthwhile day trip from Vegas as we saw some pretty cool planes doing some amazing maneuvers earlier in the day from a dry lake bed northwest of Rachel.

    I would suggest filling up in Vegas and then topping up in Alamo before heading up to Area 51 especially if you want to trek past Rachel and check out the dry lake beds or ghost towns like Tybo.

  • Reply February 27, 2012

    Hershel Hoeger

    Oh my goodness! An amazing article. Thank you, however I am experiencing issues with your RSS feed . Don’t know why I can’t subscribe to it? Is there anyone getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thanks.

    • Reply March 1, 2012

      Bob

      Thanks for the heads up, I’ll take a look at it and see I I can fix it.

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  • [...] Uncover the secrets of Area 51 [...]

  • Reply November 10, 2012

    Wrabbit007

    Great article! Have been to Vegas a few times now, and am going in a few days for an English teachers’ conference. We have two days of free time, though, and I was looking for something interesting and unusual to do – this might be it! Thanks for the helpful information, directions, etc!

  • Reply November 19, 2012

    andy

    hi bob .. im using this in for helping me for my essay… i think its a really nice job but can u tell me your last name so i can write the authors name ? BOB …

  • Reply April 12, 2013

    J

    Thanks man! Followed your guide today & saw everything I wanted to! What a great excursion. Some people clearly don’t understand the attraction but I loved it! Really appreciated having your write-up to help guide us. Awesome day!

  • Reply May 23, 2013

    Get More Info

    I value the data on your websites. Cheers.

  • Reply June 17, 2013

    Mike at AREA-51

    [...] case anyone wants to make the trip, these directions were helpful – but make sure to stop at the A’Le’Inn so that you get there . . . [...]

  • Reply July 4, 2013

    Andrei

    Does anybody know how long is the drive from las vegas to the area 51?

    • Reply August 18, 2013

      Antonio

      148 miles

  • Reply August 14, 2013

    jaro

    I went there yesterday, drove all the way to back gate, snapped few photos, it’s very cool, thanks for the info, it’s a very exciting trip especially after I’ve been watching on TV about Area 51 for years!!

    • Reply August 20, 2013

      Jade Broadus

      Glad you were able to go! It’s a fun drive for sure!

  • Reply October 15, 2013

    Ed K.

    I just returned from the trip with my family. The Little ALEINN Restaurant was worth the trip. The Food was good and there were some interesting photographs covering the walls.

    I got a kick out of the Space Ship in front of the Restaurant.
    The Inn is located in Rachael and it took us about 2 hours to get there from Las Vegas.

  • Reply November 16, 2013

    ciDhialeah

    Thank you for your blog post. I found it by accident and is already very useful and bookmarked. I will be in Las Vegas next month and Area 51 will be one of my day trips on the outskirts.

    • Reply November 26, 2013

      Jade Broadus

      Cool! Please let us know if you make it out there! we loved the trip.

  • Reply December 31, 2013

    John W.

    Made the trip today and it was great! Thanks to this website we hit everything and it was super easy to find!

  • Reply February 22, 2014

    Andrei

    I made the trip last august with my dad! It would have been much harder if not impossible without this guide =D unique and fabulous experience, if you are planning a trip to Las Vegas the first place you must go to is to Rachel! Thanks for this info Bob! Planning another trip this summer and ill definitely gonna use your guide again =D

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