U.S. Highway 6
This view looks northeast along U.S. 6 (Grand Army of the Republic Highway or Midland Trail) at the California-Nevada state line southwest of Montgomery Pass. Photo taken 11/11/08.
U.S. 6 (The Midland Trail) runs from Bishop, California, east toward Grand Junction, Colorado through the Great Basin. U.S. 6 gains in importance as it heads eastward. By the time it reaches Green River, Utah, it becomes absorbed by the Interstate Highway System all the way to eastern Colorado (although there are some distinct, important sections of U.S. 6 between Grand Junction and Denver that do not share alignment with Interstate 70.
Like many U.S. routes in Nevada, U.S. 6 was not an original 1926 U.S. highway. It was commissioned in Nevada in 1938 as part of a major extension from Greeley, Colorado, west to Long Beach, California. According to the original U.S. highway plan, U.S. 6 connected Erie, Pennsylvania, with Cape Cod, Massachusetts. U.S. 6 was extended in 1932, replacing U.S. 32 and 38 between Greeley and Chicago. In 1938, U.S. 6 was extended again so that it became the longest continuous highway in the country, connecting Long Beach, California, with Cape Cod. This distinction was lost in 1964, the year in which California decommissioned the highway south of Bishop.
U.S. 6 has the Theodore Roosevelt Highway boosters to thank for its extreme western extension. The Roosevelt Highway group wanted to have their highway reach from coast-to-coast, similar to the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 50, 40, and 30). To make this transcontinental connection, they needed to attach their highway to one of the US numbers. U.S. 6 followed part of the preferred route in the Northeastern U.S. The Theodore Roosevelt Highway boosters influenced the states to move U.S. 6 onto the Theodore Roosevelt Highway.
According to R.V. Droz, New York was persuaded to move the route away from Kingston, and to connect it to the other segment of U.S. 6 near Mill Plain, Connecticut in 1928, thus creating the first U.S. 6N. U.S. 6 was extended from Erie, Pennsylvania to Greeley, Colorado, in 1932, absorbing Pennsylvania 5, Pennsylvania 77, Ohio 85, Ohio 2 as far as Sandusky, Ohio 34, Indiana 6, Illinois 53, Illinois 69, Illinois 92, Illinois 82, U.S. 32 from Davenport, Iowa to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and U.S. 38 from Omaha, Nebraska to Greely, Colorado. This was the first major extension of the Roosevelt Highway, but the boosters were not finished.
In 1938 U.S. 6 was extended again. The section from Wiggins, Colorado to Greely, Colorado was replaced by Colorado 2 (and later replaced by U.S. 34). The new U.S. 6 went from Wiggins, Colorado to Denver along Colorado 81. From Denver U.S. 6 followed U.S. 40 to Empire, then replaced Colorado 91 to Leadville and merged with U.S. 24 to Grand Junction. At Grand Junction, U.S. 6 picked up the route of U.S. 50. At Spanish Fork, U.S. 6 turned, following U.S. 91 south to Santaquin. At Santaquin, U.S. 6 broke west over new ground. The 1938 route is probably still much as it was signed, the unpaved route passed over Marjum Pass, north of the current route. In Nevada, it was routed along Nevada 14 to Ely, where it bumped into U.S. 50 before heading southwest along Nevada 4, Nevada 3, and Nevada 10. In California, California 168 was absorbed from the Nevada line to Bishop, and U.S. 6 turned south along California 7 (which is now U.S. 395 and California 14). In Los Angeles, U.S. 6 was routed along with California 11 on what is now Interstate 110. The last leg, now California 1, was Alternate U.S. 101 before U.S. 6 arrived.
U.S. 6 also approximates the route of the old Midland Trail. Steve Riner indicates that his Clason's Touring Atlas (dated c.1926) shows the Theodore Roosevelt Midland Trail entering Nevada at what was then designated Nevada 3 east of Oasis, CA, then east to Goldfield, and north to Tonopah. It then followed Nevada 4 east and northeast to Ely. At this point, it picked up Nevada 2 northeast into Utah. This corresponds to today's highways Nevada 266, U.S. 95, and U.S. 6 as far as Ely. From there, the Midland Trail followed U.S. 93 to a point north of McGill and apparently unmarked roads east into Utah. The old route across western Utah is now closed off because of the Deseret Test Center and Dugway Proving Grounds.
Although some would say that U.S. 50 is "The Loneliest Road in America," some would say that U.S. 6 is even lonelier. U.S. 6 begins humbly in the small Eastern Sierra town of Bishop, California. In 1964, U.S. 6 was retracted from its former terminus in Long Beach, California, all the way back to Bishop. While U.S. 6 is signed east-west for most of its journey, the section of U.S. 6 in California is signed north-south.
From Bishop, U.S. 6 travels through the most desolate, empty stretches of Nevada. It enters two towns of significance during its entire trip across Nevada. First, it enters Tonopah along with U.S. 95. On the other side of the state, U.S. 6 skirts Ely (while a business connection serves the main town).
Dan Stober writes, "On U.S. 6, just about two miles inside Nevada, is the Mount Montgomery Casino, a welcome stop in the middle of nowhere -- it's a small place, but very friendly, and I've never lost money when stopping there. Tonopah is the only city of consequence you'll pass on your trip -- buy gas here."
One final note about U.S. 6: do not leave any town along U.S. 6 with a half tank of gas -- you may not be afforded the chance to refill. The only gas between Ely and Tonopah used to be at Warm Springs (Nevada 375), but Curt Roseman indicated that as of the Summer of 1998 there is no gas anywhere along this stretch. Also, the gas station that used to be at Majors Place (eastern junction of U.S. 6/50 and U.S. 93) was closed on my last trip through there, so there's no gas between Baker and Ely. Also, be sure to carry water and food with you, in case you are stranded. The weather along this road is typically hot and dry in the summer and cold in the winter - very typical of the extremes in the desert.
U.S. 6 Nevada Highway Guides
Page Updated March 20, 2010.