Known as the "UFO Capitol of the World" Rachel is a tiny town in the middle of a remote desert 115 mi/185 km northwest of Las Vegas and looks just like the kind of place that would attract beings from another planet.

There have been frequent UFO sightings in the area, which might have something to do with the secret military test site—Area 51—that's located nearby. (The "black mailbox" at the Medlin Ranch, 30 mi/48 km south of Rachel, is said to be a hot spot for the flying-saucer sightings.) Some believe aliens are stopping by for a visit; some believe the U.S. military is flying UFOs they've captured; some believe the UFOs are really top-secret human-made aircraft; and some just want to take advantage of all the publicity.

The state legislature has renamed the road that passes through the area (State Route 375) the Extraterrestrial Highway. The watering hole that was once the Rachel Bar and Grill is now the Little A-Le-Inn, complete with a hotel for those who want to spend the night on this part of the planet. Its gift shop has lots of cool extraterrestrial-related stuff.

If you do run across aliens while in the area, you may want to show them a few of the highlights of eastern Nevada (or perhaps they could show you around). Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca (75 mi/120 km east of Rachel) preserves a fascinating canyon whose clay walls have been etched and carved by centuries of erosion. At the north end of the park, Miller's Point offers a good overview of towering needles of stone and rocky grottoes.

Nearby is Beaver Dam State Park, where you'll find a refreshing reservoir in the heart of pine and juniper forests. More watersports can be enjoyed at Echo Canyon State Park and Spring Valley State Park, both near Pioche (north of Panaca). At Spring Valley, you can also hike historic pioneer ranch lands. For state park information, visit http://www.parks.nv.gov.

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