Highway 50: A Travel You Won't Soon Forget
June 27, 2013

Highway 50: A Travel You Won’t Soon Forget

If you decide to travel out west like I often do, I have a couple of suggestions for amazing drives. See, I am not a freeway or interstate driver. I know that these roads help to make a trip shorter, but part of the reason I drive out west is to enjoy the drive and experience the road trip, which means I can stop and do things on my way to my end destinations. So, I know a lot about what roads to take for leisurely travel versus those that will get you there faster. The first road that is definitely worth the extra time is Highway 50. From Oklahoma, it takes me all the way into California through some of the most beautiful terrain this country has to offer. In fact, only one other road is more beautiful, but I will write about it later.

I usually start my drive down Highway 50 in Colorado. Here the highway shows serene, mountainous vistas. At some points, I swear I am traveling through the ‘The Sound of Music’ and at any moment Julie Andrews will break into song. The great Rocky Mountains are impressively large and sublime in their beauty and fear. Plus, Highway 50 crosses the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass. As the Monarch Mountain website explains, “Monarch Mountain is located in south central Colorado only 2 hours from Colorado Springs and less than 3.5 hours from Denver. Located on Highway 50 on the Continental Divide Monarch is very accessible. The drive to Monarch Mountain is easy from anywhere in Colorado or New Mexico.”

From the Continental Divide, Highway 50 continues on through Gunnison and Black Canyon National Park — which is a great national park and deserves its own blog, but I will get to that another time — all the way to the Utah border, where the terrain changes from high mountain ranges and peaks to something that looks almost Martian in the views. The red rock mountains that line Highway 50 through most of Utah are simply breathtaking. Nowhere else in America can you find the iron oxide rocks that make up this area. Plus the canyon views from the drive demand a stop to appreciate them. I promise you will want a camera for Utah.

Roughly six hours through Utah, and Highway 50 traverses into Nevada, where the highway is also called ‘The Loneliest Road in America.’ Here, 50 journeys through the Great Basin of Nevada. Just over the border of Utah and Nevada is Great Basin National Park, which I recently wrote about. From there, the view is mostly of the basin. True, mountains line the horizon, but the Loneliest Road in America is flat, basin land. In fact, the American Byways website says, “Highway 50 is a fascinating scenic and historic corridor through a land seemingly untouched by man. The road travels through snow-mantled mountains that reach summits of more than 11,000 feet.”

But it is far from lonely. There is much to see and experience along the Loneliest Highway in America. A Highway 50 Visitor’s Guide from 2011 identifies the many towns, events, activities, and experiences one can have while enjoying the desolation of the quiet highway in Nevada. It is simply a stunning drive. Plus, as the Pony Express Territory Nevada website explains, this part of 50 parallels much of the famed Pony Express route of more than a century ago. The picture posted with this blog shows the simple beauty of Highway 50 through Nevada.

Then once in California, Highway 50 takes us through South Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and all the way into San Francisco although from Sacramento to San Francisco, Highway 50 merges I-80 now. Still, it is considered one of the last coast-to-coast highways, and from Colorado on boasts some of the most impressive and diverse vistas. This is definitely a Nature lover’s, scientist’s, and just traveler’s dream. Check it out.

Image Credit: Rayshell Clapper

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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