It’s the Big Red Dot
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The name is legendary. Area 51 is a secret base run by the US government, and it’s where they keep their biggest secrets—black projects like spy planes, and possibly including alien spacecraft and maybe possibly even aliens. But where IS Area 51?
Fortunately, that aspect of the secret base is no mystery. The U.S. government denied that it even exists for the first decades of its life, only coming clean when an official CIA document happen to mention it. But to many researchers, its location was not classified: Area 51 is in the middle of nowhere.
Note: see What Is Area 51? if you’re new to all this business. Also, check out these stunning Area 51 documentaries on YouTube, and the most surprising things about Area 51 that you probably don’t know.
Where is Area 51: Location, Location
The secret base we call Area 51 is in Nevada, far out in what’s called the high desert (at 5,000 feet, or 1,500 meters, above sea level). It’s located in part of a big parcel of land the US government originally annexed for use in atomic weapons testing. In 1953, when the need for secret work was recognized, Area 51 was born.
The government didn’t even admit that Area 51 existed until even recently. Even so, pilots knew it existed—they were forbidden to fly over it; the air traffic nickname for it is “The Box”, as in “that’s the restricted box of airspace you don’t dare fly near or you’ll be forced down by fighter jets”. Area 51 was conspicuous in its absence from US Geological Survey maps, too—like a big black hole in the southern part of Nevada.
So Where Is Area 51?
Well, heck, you can find it on Google Maps. Go ahead and try—or just use our link if you’re feeling lazy. Move past Area 51 Fireworks and the Area 51 Travel Center, and you’ll see listings for the Little A’Le’Inn and The Black Mailbox. (The listing for the mailbox is odd, and not just because it’s, well, a mailbox, but because the black one was replaced with a white one, and because now it’s not even there anymore.) Zoom in and move south and you’ll see some unmarked lines—runways. That’s it. You’ve located the base.
Switch over to satellite view (the button’s on the lower left) and you’ll see Area 51 in all its glory: Groom Lake (the big white patch, a dry lake bed), the hugely long runways used for aircraft (?) testing, along with the base hangars and buildings. Try zooming way in! You can actually make out vehicles.
Once upon a time, satellites were strictly prohibited from photographing the base (although that didn’t stop astronauts in the space station Skylab from snapping a shot). Now, the government has given up; as you can plainly see, even Google has photos.
Want the GPS coordinates of the base? We’ve got ’em: 37° 14′ N, 115° 148′ W. Feel free to plug those into your GPS unit, but don’t be tempted to cross the base border.
Want a sneak peak? Take a look at this footage by a brave soul who outfitted his drone to spy on Area 51. (Yes, this is real.)
Area 51’s Runways as Shown on Google Maps
Then There’s Area S-4
Robert Lazar is a scientist who once worked at Area 51 in a sequestered area known as S-4, a few miles away from the main base (and dug into the side of a mountain). There he says his job was to “reverse engineer” some captured craft. Reverse engineering means to figure out how something works. The craft? Flying saucers. From other planets. GPS coordinates for S-4 as given by Lazar: 37° 01′ 40″ N, 115° 46′ 35″ W. (Use these in Google Maps and Google Earth—but don’t get the idea that you should use them to actually go to S-4, unless you’re hired as the next Bob Lazar.)
Don’t Fly into Dreamland
There’s another aspect to the base: the airspace above it. Pilots call it the “Box”, and the military often refers to the airspace as “Dreamland”, but its official name is Restricted Area 4808 North (R-4808N for short). No one except for the authorized Area 51 test pilots are allowed to fly in the Box (whether they’re in charge of traditional aircraft or UFO technology). What happens if you drift your craft into Dreamland? The base will scramble jets immediately and force you down. It’s happened.
Then again, maybe you’ll get shot down. We’re not sure if we really believe this happened, but in 2009, someone called talk show host Art Bell and claimed he was piloting a plane and was on his way into Area 51 airspace. It’s fun to listen to, even if you aren’t convinced it’s for real.
Audio: Man Tries to Fly His Plane to Area 51
Make a Run for the Border (But Stop When You Get There)
Want to take a tour of Area 51? They don’t give them. However, you can take a look around the area. We’ve done it, ourselves. That scary-looking warning sign is a photo I personally took. (The sign says not to take photos, but I’m a scofflaw.)
Signs at the Base Border
Taken by the Author
What’s it like out there? It’s the desert, and so you’re probably imagining lots of heat and some cactus. What’s it really like? Surprisingly cold. We were in “town” (Rachel, NV, the nearest town to Area 51) for the christening of Highway 375 as the “Extraterrestrial Highway” by the governor of Nevada. It was July, and it was cold. Like, I-needed-a-jacket cold. It’s the high desert.
You’ll want to start your trek in Las Vegas (which has always seemed oddly appropriate).
- Take Interstate 15 north, then cruise for about 26 miles
- Take Exit 64, then head north for US-93 for another 85 miles
- We recommend stopping in the town of Alamo for gas (petrol)—there isn’t another gas station for about 100 miles
- Take a left when you get to the junction for Nevada State Route 375, officially known as The Extraterrestrial Highway
- To get to Mailbox Road, continue for about 20 miles
- Between mile marker 29 and 30, on the left side of the road, you’ll see the former site of the Black Mailbox and the turnoff for Mailbox Road—don’t take the word “road” very seriously; it’s just dirt
- Black Mailbox GPS coordinates 37°27’25” N, 115°28’57” W (the mailbox is no longer there so don’t bother looking for it)
- Go about three miles to a water tank and corral
- At the three-way split in the road, take the center road
- After another mile, you’ll see another dirt road
- Turn right and go about eight miles to the border
- Stop before you get to the signs (see photo)
Do not cross the border. You will be arrested.
You might actually see the Area 51 base guards, known as the “Camo Dudes” (because they wear camouflage clothes). Look for vehicles on the hills past the border, as marked by the warning signs.
If you’re tempted to be that one person who’s going to make it across the border—if you saw that awful found-footage movie Area 51 and feel inspired—don’t. What will happen:
- the Area 51 guards already know you’re there, and when you cross from public land onto base territory, they will come and stop you
- you will be arrested
- you will be handed over to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office
- you will be fined
- you may spend the night in jail
We know this because it’s happened countless times—people don’t take the warning signs seriously, or think they’ll be the special people who’ll get away with a base invasion, and run or drive over the border. In every single case, they’re arrested. I’m not telling you this to be a good citizen; I’m warning you not to try because trespassers get detained. The US government takes the security of Area 51 very seriously, and the whole zone is strewn with hidden cameras, sensors, and security personnel (“camo dudes“).
The Nearest Town to Area 51
Done with sightseeing at the border? There’s not that much to see, although you can say that you’ve been there. The irony is that you can never truly get an answer to the question “where is Area 51” because you aren’t allowed to see the base close-up—unless you get a job there.
The joy of going to Area 51 isn’t really going to the base; it’s getting near it, and also experiencing all the weirdness that surrounds it.
Case in point: Rachel, Nevada, the town nearest to the Area 51 border. It is a must-stop on your tour. Rachel is the home of the Little A’Le’Inn (“little alien”, get it?), a diner and motel about 20 miles further down the E.T. Highway from where the Black Mailbox once stood. It’s a surreal sight, especially considering how desolate and lonely Highway 375 is—an oasis of weird in the middle of nowhere.
I can personally recommend the Alien Burger; it’s pretty good. Also, I happened to be eating one during the most surreal moment of my life, when I was watching Elvis (or possibly an impersonator) sing “Viva Las Vegas” in the Little A’Le’Inn while eating the Alien Burger. It just doesn’t get weirder than that. (Elvis was there for the E.T. Highway dedication; I’m not sure if he hangs out at the Little A’Le’Inn these days, although it does make sense that he might.)
The gift shop at the Little A’Le’Inn is also recommended. Sure, you can buy alien heads and Area 51 warning signs elsewhere, but they do seem to have some original stuff. Plus, you can say you bought it at the Little A’Le’Inn, for pete’s sakes.
Take a Hike, See the Base?
If you are the rugged type, experienced with the outdoors, you might consider taking the day-long hike to Tikaboo Peak. That’s the only legal vantage point from where, aided by binoculars or a telescope, you can actually see the Area 51 base, some 26 miles away. This is a rough hike by all accounts, and you should know what you’re doing before you undertake it. It’s not a casual stroll.
We’re not going to cover the where and how to do the hike here. A website called Bird and Hike has the whole hike detailed, so we’ll just point you there if you’re interested.
Would-be UFO watchers may be tempted to see the base at night. While this has been done—experienced people have even camped there on Tikaboo Peak—again, it’s not something you’d undertake casually. Just be forewarned. Oh, and make sure you’re ready to take some video. We hear Wednesday nights are when they usually test the craft powered by alien technology. (Seriously.) Be prepared to stay up late; from what we’ve been told, the tests run 2:00 or 3:00 AM. (You might be better off camping on the public land near the old site of the Black Mailbox.)
Paranormal investigator, UFO writer, and founder, Area51.org.
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