The Loneliest Highway in America and update on the ‘shoe tree’

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Travel
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I am fortunate to have a relative who has a cabin in Southern Utah near Bryce Canyon National Park.  If you have never been to this part of America you are missing something special.  They call that area color country and it is quite possibly the most beautiful part of America and given that it’s a bit off the beaten path happily not so crowded.  However this post is not about Southern Utah, it’s about the trip out there.  Leaving where I do from Northern California to the cabin I roll across Highway 80 through Reno and then take a turn through Fernley and head over to Nevada Highway 50, The Loneliest Highway in America.  Now I’ll add a bit to that piece and include Utah Highway 21 as part of that moniker. 

This is the type of highway where you can drive for an hour or more and never see another vehicle and given that the other vehicle is typically moving well above the 70 mile an hour speed limit, you pass each other in a brief second and once again find yourself all alone.  The only people on this road who may feel, and actually are, even more alone than you, are the occasionally touring bicyclist that you pass, truly brave and hardy individuals to be pedaling, 70 – 100 miles between towns in a place with no shelter, no water, and lots of wind.

There are breaks in the monotony of this high desert area as you cross the plateau and bounce up and over 6000 foot peaks.  Towns spring up out of nowhere, towns like Ely with its hotels and casinos and on this trip it’s town park filled with 50’s hot rods on a cool summer morning.  The metropolis of Austin, airport and all, tucked into the corner of a mountain with a sign as you enter from the west proclaiming, “speed trap ahead” in hand painted letters.  This is the type of country where you stop, gas up, and eat whenever you have the opportunity.  But along this trip there are two spots I always look forward to, the first is a ranch with a very interesting gate.

The skeleton gate of highway 50

I’ve often wondered how the people here came to this gate, did they plan it in advance and go out and purchase the horns or is this something that developed organically over time.  Personally I’m happy to have the mystery.

The next attraction on The Loneliest Highway in America is even more bizarre.

The Highway 50 Tree of Shoes


Highway 50 Tree of shoes

At some point in time someone must have pulled off here, enjoyed the shade of this tree, looked at the cows lazily laying in the dry stream bed and decided, “hey, I’d like to throw my shoes in this tree.”  Then someone else noticing those shoes thought, “they look lonely, let me give them some company,” and threw their shoes up, and on and on.  I know a young lady that has a farm near here and she’s even admitted that her and her sister have shoes in the tree, their names neatly written on the soles.  There is nothing quite like driving down this lonely road and suddenly coming down a hill to find this tree, filled with shoes standing guard on the side of the road.  As you pass it the very first time, driving yourself well above the 70 mile per hour speed limit you wonder, did I see what I thought I saw? Maybe the loneliness of the road makes these things stand out even more, but with its small towns, open landscape, naval bombing range and strange icons Highway’s 50 and 21 may also be some of the strangest road in America.

**** An update to this story, unfortunately someone has cut down the the shoe tree, very sad

  1. Came across your blog when searching for info on this shoe tree! I was just traveling the Loneliest Road a few days ago and could have swore I saw a tree with a bunch of shoes (could not get my husband to turn around and check so we’ll never really know). But of course, once I looked it up, it became apparent a shoe tree had been on this road and was also cut down on this road. I think I may have seen a “rebirth” of this tree starting to collect new shoes. Anyhow, wanted to let you know I shared your awesome photo of the “original” shoe tree on my blog.

    Erika and Sebastian

    • zdeaconblue says:

      Thanks Erika, I had heard a rumor that people had started hanging shoes in another tree, a lot of people were really upset it got taken down. Thanks for the update and the share ~ ZDB

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