Midland Trail

Nevada Stops On the Midland Trail

DIRECTIONS East to west, generally, White Pine County Road 893 to US 93, then US 6 to Tonopah, then south on US 95 past Goldfield, and then west on SR 266 to the border.

One of the first transcontinental routes planned and signed for auto tourists, the Roosevelt Midland Auto Trail began in 1913. Much like railroads increased economic activity for towns they passed through and decreased it for those they did not, the various auto routes of the day- the transcontinental Lincoln Highway, the Victory Highway, the Midland Trail, and Salt-Lake City to Los Angeles Arrowhead Trail, boasted of their scenic beauty, convenience, and ease of travel-- even when the latter was often questionable. Merchants and government entities sometimes resorted to chicanery in order to get motorists to chose one route over another, eg. claiming one route was shorter or easier when it was not.

Officially the Roosevelt (as in Theodore) Midland Trail, in Nevada it generally followed the present White Pine County road 893 to US 93, then US 6 (aka the Grand Army of the Potomac Highway) to Tonopah, then south on US 95 a little past Goldfield, and then west on SR 266 to the border. I have noticed than on some early USGS maps printed before the 1970's, "Midland Trail" is designated on some dirt roads and Jeep trails close to US 6, and at one point it breaks away quite dramatically to the southeast before rejoining it.

On one map, it lists the towns, ranches, and hamlets you'd be going through from eastern Nevada to California as Tippet, Pearce Ranch, Bendarks Ranch, Stone Cabin Ranch, Andersons Ranch, Shelbourne, Magnuson's Ranch, McGill, Hiline Junction, East Ely, Ely, Barnes, Currant, Calloway Ranch, Blue Valley [probably Blue Eagle], Nyala, Clifford, Nay Station, Tonopah, Klondyke, Goldfield, Lida, and Palmetto.

From the Utah border, the Midland Trail shared a route with the Lincoln Highway, but they separated at Ely.

The easternmost portion of the Lincoln Highway entered Nevada from the east, 4 miles west of Ibapah, Utah, on present-day State Highway 2. The graded roadbed was graveled with two lanes, no shoulders, and “some rough stretches”. West of the Utah state line, the route passed through several small settlements and ranches, including Tippett’s Ranch, Anderson’s Ranch, Schellbourne Station, and Magnuson’s Ranch. These stops offered travel accommodations and places for meals and auto-related services such as radiator water, gas, and oil. Leaving Magnuson’s Ranch, travelers entered the town of McGill. Established to house workers of a nearby copper smelter plant, McGill offered boarding houses, stores, a bank, and telephone service. Just south of McGill, the route entered East Ely at present-day Avenue C and continued several blocks before turning south on 11th Street. The route turned west onto East Aultman Street as it continued through Ely toward the western edge of town.
-National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, Lincoln Highway

One gets excited when one found out one's town was going to be on the Trail.

Transcontinental Auto Road Now Being Mapped Will Pass Through City
The "Midland Trail," third of the three transcontinental routes to be laid out this year by the A. A. A. Touring Information board, is now in process of preparation, with A. L. Westgard, the association's field representative, well on his way from New York to Los Angeles, says the Ely Expositor.
-Daily Tonopah Bonanza, October 22, 1912

That Mr. Howe! Doesn't he have a job?

A.H. Howe of Goldfield, Nev. is in San Francisco. Mr. Howe, it will be remembered, has made five round trips from Goldfield to San Francisco in his 1912 Chalmers "36." He is very well posted on the different routes and is very enthusiastic over what is know as the "Midland Trail" to San Francisco as the terminal of the ocean to ocean highway. He was driven his car more than 12,000 miles.
-San Francisco Call, February 28, 1913

Publicizing the existence of the Trail was important in those days before the Internet.

Party of 100 Cars Probably Will Leave Indianapolis July 1 For The Coast
With San Francisco as a probable destination, provided the efforts of the Denver Chamber of Commerce and the midland trail committee are successful, 100 automobiles carrying members of the Indianapolis Manufacturer's Association will start westward from Indianapolis July 1. "This tour will do a great deal to establish and popularize the route, and we are bending ever effort to send these people over the Midland Trail." said C. M. Kittridge, Jr., secretary of the Denver Chamber and Midland Trail committee.
San Francisco Call, March 5, 1913


Of course, you were quite mad indeed for taking any other Route to California.

The following statement of facts were compiled by W.G. Scott and are taken from the September issue of Pacific Motor:
1. The Midland Trail across Nevada is the state highway.
2. After personal examination of the various cross continent routes, the most eminent transcontinental touring authority in American pronounces, the Midland Trail across Nevada as the best natural trans-state road
3. The Midland Trail in Nevada merits special distinction because it passes through three cities, Ely, Tonopah, and Goldfield, that in order named are world renowned centers of the copper, silver, and gold mining industries, in each of which cities are special attractions for motor tourists.
4. The Midland Trail enters California at a point measured on a due north and south line, that is approximately the center of its eastern boundary. Such a point being practically midway makes it equally fair to both the northern and southern sections of the state.
5. The Midland Trail enters through Westgard pass, the only place on any cross continent highway where, by reason od the wonderful scenic panorama at the threshold of the state, the motor tourist is impressed with the vastness and grandeur of California.
6. The Midland Trail is the nearest and most direct route between New York and San Francisco that is open practically all year. At Big Pine, California, it merges into El Camino SIerra, which affords the motor tourists two routes in San Francisco. In the summer by way of Lake Tahoe, Placerville, and Sacramento.
-Tonopah Daily Bonanza, September 20, 1913

One advantage of the Midland Trail was that it was aabout 100 miles further south so snow wasn't as much of a problem as the more northern routes.

At the meeting of the Chamber last night a resolution was passed in support of the Inyo County Good Rods Club in their effort to cause a change in the route of the proposed Lincoln Memorial Highway through Nevada and California. The route as tentatively decided upon following the Southern Pacific from Ely, Nevada to Sacramento is considered impractical becuase it is blocked at least eight months in the year by snows in the Sierras. The new route proposed would extend from Ely over the Midland Trail to Big Pine, thence over the El Camino Sierra to mojave, to connect with the state highway at Bakersfield, and would be open at all seasons.
-Fresno Morning Republican, January 29, 1914


Motoring back then was much more of adventure than it is now.

Leaving Ely on the morning of June 24th, we drove through Steptoe Valley for some forty miles. Where we turned off from the valley it still stretched on for another forty miles. It looked as if it might go on to the world's end. Just out of Ely we passed through McGill and visited the immense smelting works. As we left Steptoe Valley and came down a long slope into Spring Valley, we crossed Shellbourne Pass under the shadow of the Shellbourne range. We passed some young people from Detroit, the gentleman driving his car. We also passed some men with their laden burros taking supplies to the sheepmen in the mountain ranges. These sheepmen live their lives apart from the world for months at a time, seeing only the man who brings their supplies at intervals. We had luncheon at Anderson ranch, where they treated us very hospitably. I judged that this a Mormon's household, as Mormon marriage certificates hung upon the wall and as the Deseret Weekly was evidently its newspaper connection with the outside world. Here our friend Mr. N. took on board a young man from the ranch who wished to get back to Salt Lake City. This young fellow was delighted to have such a ride and Mr. N. was glad to have a traveling companion. Later in the day we passed Tippett's ranch and learned that its owner travels thirty-six miles for his mail and supplies.
- Across The Continent by The Lincoln Highway by Effie Price Gladding 1915

Looks like the Lincoln Highway boys are getting nervous!

The [Lincoln Highway] Association has found that during the past two years a very large proportion of transcontinental traffic has turned southwest at Ely, Nev. and followed the Midland Trail from that point to Los Angeles, and the Association has received so many requests from all parts of the country asking for information relative to this route that it was felt advisable for the Association to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions. Secretary A. F. Bement and Field Secretary H. C. Ostermann, accompanied by G. S. Hoag, Nevada State Consul for the Association, have just completed a trip  by motor car from Ely, the junction point of the Lincoln Highway, and the Midland Trail, over the latter road via Tonopah, Goldfield, Mojave, and Big Pine to Los Angeles. During the trip very careful observations were made as to road conditions, mileages, accommodations, water, and scenic attractions, and photographic views of the region were obtained for the Associations’ records, with the result that complete advice concerning this popular tributary will be published in the next edition of the Lincoln Highway Guide. Secretary Bement reports conditions on the Midland Trail as being 80 per cent good, about 10 per cent fair to poor, and 10 per cent bad, but states improvement now contemplated in Nevada and California will rapidly tend to eliminate the scattered 10 per cent of bad roads. Water, so highly important to the tourist motoring through this part of the country, is, if anything, more frequently encountered on the Midland Trail from Ely to Los Angeles than on the Lincoln Highway from Ely to Reno. The Lincoln Highway Association is duty bound to advise thousands of transcontinental tourists truthfully and accurately regarding the best routes for reaching the Pacific Coast, and the notoriously poor condition of the Lincoln Highway between Ely and Reno has been deterring hundreds of tourists from essaying the drive from Salt Lake City to Reno. They have been following the Midland Trail into Southern California in increasing numbers. Unless some effort is made in Northern California and Nevada toward improving the trans-Nevada Lincoln Way, the Southern California metropolis will enjoy nearly 90 per cent of the transcontinental traffic during the coming season.
-Motor West, October 15, 1917

The Midland Trail was popular enough that the Lincoln Highway Guide had details.

The road running southwest from Ely, Nevada, by way of Goldfield and Tonopah, into southern California and ending at Los Angeles, is one of the main line branches of the Lincoln Highway and the one probably most used by Lincoln Highway tourists. The road is known as the Midland Trail. It has been marked very thoroughly for its entire distance by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
This road is a short-cut from the Lincoln Highway into southern California, the distance from Ely on the Midland Trail to Los Angeles being 570 miles and the distance from Ely to San Francisco via the Lincoln Highway being 606 miles. Ely is the junction point for all traffic coming from northern and southern California and heading east, and the dividing point for all Lincoln Highway western travel seeking the Pacific Coast.
In the State of Nevada the Midland Trail has been, in the main, in better condition than the Lincoln Highway in that State, and thousands of tourists whose objective has been the Pacific Coast in general, rather than any particular locality, have diverted south from the Lincoln Way at Ely and followed this well marked highway to Los Angeles, proceeding up the coast over the Pacific Coast Highway, if their ultimate objective was northern California.
The Lincoln Highway through the high passes of the Sierras is, of course, closed during many months of the year, and those tourists heading west in the early Spring or desiring to start from the Pacific Coast for eastern points at that time or late in the Fall, find the Midland Trail open at all seasons.
The drive from Ely to Los Angeles is one of great interest and beauty, particularly for the eastern tourist to whom the vast reaches of the southwest desert are new and inspiring and who is willing to put up with the inconveniences of travel and accommodations in this sparsely populated region. The trip can be made easily in from three to four days time, with ample opportunity for short stops in the interesting mining towns of Goldfield and Tonopah, Nevada, and the high summer resorts of California.
-The Complete Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway (Third Edition) 1918

From the 1916 Midland Trail Tour Guide

From Salt Lake City, Utah, WESTBOUND to Ely, Nevada
200.3, keep right;
200.7, ranch on left;
202.8, eight-mile ranch;
205.7 Cross bridge;
219.3 Tippet's ranch. Gasoline.
219.5, take right fork;
221.2, take left fork;
230.1, Summit of Divide;
232.8, take right fork (left goes to Muncy).
234.7 Bednark's ranch;
237.3, Stone Cabin Ranch.
240.7 Anderson's Ranch; supplies. Take water here. Keep to left.
246.2, Summit of Schnellbourne Pass. Use low gear compression going down for short distance, and at
248,2 Burke's ranch; meals and lodgings. Immediately after passing the house turn left into lane.
250.2, take right fork;
258.9 thru Magnuson's ranch;
272.3, cross bridge and keep to left;
274.9, keep to right.
276.9 McGILL. Postoffice.
277.4, cross bridge and take right fork, keeping near telephone line.
278.1, turn left onto auto road;
287.8 cross railroad and turn onto Avenue C, East Ely;
288.1, turn left up Eleventh St., East Ely;
288.2, Hotel, A. A. A. on left;
288.3, turn right onto Avenue F;
289.1, cross R. R.;
289.5, turn left, go one block and turn right onto Aultman St.,
290.0 ELY. Lincoln Highway Garage Company; everything for the tourist.
Ely, Nevada

Ely, Nevada, to Goldfield, Nevada
00.0 ELY. Road is well marked with sign boards all the way. Plain stakes with Midland Trail colors on long stretches. Main and Murray St. South on Murray St. out of town; keep right
0.8, upgrade
1.5; keep left
2.5 and right
2.6; ahead over rolling country with few sharp grades;
5.9, fork; bear right down long grade;
8.6, fork, bear right, also right at 8.9;
28.9; pass ranch on right
30.2; ahead up long grade; house on right
46.2; thru Currant 48.7;
49.8, fork, bear left;
51.6, fork, bear left; curve left past ranch 51.9.
52.0 Take middle fork; thru crossroads
73.0; right around house
106.5 Hot Creek, hotel on far left. Turn left; right with road 107.0;
146.2 Ahead on direct road past all intersections; house on right,
155.8; 160.5, fork, bear right; and left at next fork just beyond, upgrade; house on right,
176.4, fork; bear right; mine on right 178.8;
179.7 TONOPAH. The Tonopah Electric and Tire Company, opposite Midland Trail Sign Post. Kelly-Springfield and Goodrich Tires; Willard Battery and Delco Service Station; Vulcanizing; electric supplies.
Tonopah Auto Supply Co. Ford and Dodge agency; machine shop; expert repairing; electrical supplies and accessories.

Tonopah to Goldfield
Turn sharp left at Butler Building; ball park on right,
180.2; thru crossroads
204.1 4-corners, turn right; cross R. R. at station 204.2, other R. R.s just beyond; ahead on North Main St.;
205.0 end of street; jog left and right, still on Main St.; 205.1, Ramsey St.; left and then first right on Columbia St..
205.2 GOLDFIELD. . Columbia and Crook Streets.
Goldfield Hotel, finest in Nevada; fireproof, modern; café and grill connected; rates reasonable.
Brown-Parker Auto Company; A. A. A.; Southern Ne-vada's "BIG" Garage, opposite Goldfield Hotel.
Goldfield Garage; supplies, repairing; free air; Miller Car-buretors, Aluminum Pistons. South of Goldfield Hotel.

Goldfield, Nevada, to Nevada-California Line
00.0 GOLDFIELD. Very good gravel road with some pretty stiff hills. South on Crook Street 5 blocks;
0.3, Sundog Street, right around large stone school 0.4;
0.8, diagonal 4-corners, poor road ahead, bear left, avoiding road to right
1.0. Caution for short turn here around hill, 1.2;
1.6 fork, right upgrade;
5.7 Left-hand branch road-bear left; curve right into road from left 5.9; 6.4 fork, bear left; keep right 7.0 and left 7.1; keeping ahead on direct road;
17.6, right-hand road; poor road ahead; turn right and immediately left, avoiding road to right at 19.4;
19.5 fork, left, avoiding road to left at 20.0 (to Horn Silver);
26.4 LIDA. 27.3, fork, bear left, and right at next fork beyond. Curve right into road from left at 28.0; up long, winding grade. Keep right 34.1 and 34.3 (mine on right 34.8); winding thru small canon, to fork at

-The Midland Trail Tour Guide 1916

You can view the actual pages of the Tour Guide westbound here and here, and eastbound here and here.

The Midland Trail officially becomes the Roosevelt Midland Trail.

Mr. Scott writes to the Improvement Club telling the things he has accomplished at the convention of the National Midland Trail Association held at Kansas City April 28th. “I succeeded in accomplishing two things. One was to merge the Roosevelt National Highway and the National Midland Trail under one name. Hereafter it will be the Roosevelt Midland Trail. The other was to secure endorsement of a nationwide movement to erect a befitting monument to A. L. Westgard in Westgard Pass. I am busy on plans for the latter and will keep you informed of same as they progress." W. G. Scott
-BIg Pine Citizen, May 7, 1921

There seems to be some bickering between the supporters and backers of the various auto trails.

Some forty business men gathered Tuesday afternoon at the office of C. C. Boak to see what action should be taken to prevent the scrapping of the Midland Trail. Communications from W. G. Scott, vice-president of the National Roosevelt Midland Trail Association, and Gael S. Hoag, secretary of the Lincoln Highway Association, were read and discussed. S. R. Moore, secretary of the meeting, was requested to present the matter to various business organizations throughout Central and Southern Nevada with a view to eliciting their support to have the Midland Trail designated at least as "secondary highway." The seriousness of the situation confronting Tonopah, Goldfield, and Central Nevada was fully recognized and it was the unanimous sense of the meeting that ways and means must be found to save the southern end of the state from being backed off the highway map. R. J. Kelly, Warren S. Richardson and S. R. Moored were appointed a committee to report on establishing parking and rest facilities to encourage motorists to stop over in Tonopah.
-Reno Evening Gazette, March 2, 1922

At this point in time, the Midland Trail's backers and supporters were losing influence to the big cities, and that meant losing State and Federal funding for improvements.

Mr. W. Gillette Scott, Vice-President of the National Roosevelt Midland Trail Association for California comments on the primary and secondary systems as outlined by the Nevada Highway Department, as follows:
I observe with mingled curiosity and apprehension that in the selection of primary highways in Nevada, the roads designated as such, are the Victory Highway and a road across the southern part of the State. The National Roosevelt Midland Trail which is one of the leading transcontinental routes, passing as you know thru Salt Lake City, Ely, Tonopah, and Goldfield to Big Pine, California, is totally ignored. As matters stand now, the National Roosevelt Midland Trail is scrapped by the Nevada Highway Department. The various transcontinental routes crossing Nevada, all have their staunch supporters, they all serve a special purpose, and they are entitled to a place, but part should not be advanced, while all semblance of official recognition is withheld from the main great route thru the central part of the state with its time honored right of priority. I do not wish to arouse opposition to either the Victory Highway or the Arrowhead Trail—far from it. But I certainly insist that the National Roosevelt Midland Trail should have an even break with the others. The State of Nevada is most assuredly large enough to admit it, the people of Nevada are broad-minded enough to acknowledge it. To demand that it be given an even chance. More particularly is my act justified, because I am not striving to curtail nor restrict official recognition extended to other routes. I am simply asking justice of treatment. Asking for fair play and nothing more.

A strenous protest should be made. The following is a letter from Mr. Scott to Mr. Warren which will give some further light on the above.
Los Angeles, Calif.
February 24, 1922.
Mr. Geo. Warren
President of Chamber of Commerce Big Pine, Cal.
My Dear Mr. Warren
I have just had an exhaustive interview with officials of the State Association concerning classification of Nevada highways. We went over the subject thoroughly. The Victory Highway and Arrowhead Trail are primary highways on which will be expended 60 per cent of the Federal money, the secondary highways will be expended 40 per cent. The latter class is included the road from Tonopah via Goldfield to California State line at Oasis. For the present we must be content to have the National Roosevelt Midland Trail classed as a State Highway all the way across Nevada. We are hopelessly outclassed by the combined influence of San Francisco, Reno, and Salt Lake City. We must be good losers, look cheerful, waste no time rag-chewing, crowd local improvements, and keep a sharp eye out for human hogs. We have a state highway all the way across Nevada. It will be improved from Big Pine to Tonopah. From Tonopah to Ely it is the best natural unimproved road in the United States, so pronounced by experts. Waste no time trying to study up a protest as I suggested. It would be absolutely useless. This is a fact shown clearly by investigation. It is not opinion. Therefore all efforts should be concentrated on the California portion, to add to its attractiveness.
Very sincerely yours

It is conceded that some immediate action should be taken.
-Big Pine Citizen, March 4, 1922

The condition of the various trails was not a constant in those days, and was a matter of discussion in planning your trips.

Midland Trail and Lincoln Highway
It is not advisable to attempt this route at present owing to the deplorable conditions across the Great American desert between Ely and Salt Lake City. Conditions are generally good between Los Angeles and Ely via the Owens river valley, thence either over Westgard Pass to Goldfield or Tonopah or via Bishop and Montgomery Pass to Tonopah. Inquiry at Tonopah will determine whether it is best to use the Hot Creek route or the Blue Eagle road by way of Nyala into Ely. The Lincoln Highway is open from Salt Lake City east across Wyoming to Omaha, Chicago, and points further east.
-Imperial Valley Press, May 20, 1922

Sometimes the route changed a bit.

According to information secured by the Delta Commercial Club and published in the last issue of the Chronicle of that city the Grand Central Highway has been selected as an alternate route for tourist travel. A resolution endorsing the Eureka Delta Ely route (Grand Central Highway) was passed at a recent meeting of the National Roosevelt Midland Trail Co and this means that when the matter is properly advertised a considerable portion of the tourist travel will be diverted over the new road. This is a very important piece of news for Eureka Delta and Ely. At the present time the Grand Central Highway is reported to be in better shape that the Lincoln Highway. Parties coming over the road this week state that the route from the Nevada line to Delta is in much better condition than it was a year ago.
-Eureka Reporter, June 30, 1922

Sometimes route changes were decided in an unusual way

Crossing desert stretches and topping three mountain ranges, including Westgard Pass on the Midland Trail, a Chrysler six touring car with windshield removed and top down won the road race from Tonopah, Nev. to Big Pines in the Owens Valley, July 4, in three hours and twenty-eight and one half minutes. The distance was 122 miles and the start was made from the Nevada mining town at 6 a.m., but before the cooler atmosphere of the irrigated valley was reached, the thermometer climbed to 120 degrees- and there was no shade. The event was the result of a rivalry between Bishop and Big Pine over proposed road improvements by Nevada on one of the two routes between Tonopah and Big Pine. At present, the Midland Trail between the two points, a distance of 122 miles, crosses three mountain ranges, including Westgard Pass more than 7200 feet high. The near-by State is considering improving a road farther north, eliminating two mountain ranges and many stiff grades. This route, about sixteen miles longer brings travel from the East into the Owens Valley at Bishop then then south to Big Pine. Because of business Bishop is strong for the northern route and for the same reason, Big Pine would have the route remain as it is. Town boosters decided that a road race would settle the relative merits of the two routes; Big Pine vs. Bishop. A Chrysler six, piloted by J. E. Riley, a well-known desert driver of the valley was chosen to represent Big Pine over the present route.
-Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1924

Interestingly, Google Maps shows taking that route would take 2 hours and 14 minutes, and is 125 miles, while the northern route is a bit longer but takes 9 less minutes.

It's the shortest and the best, folks!

"The greatest lure to the tourist of America seeking good roads and scenic grandeur will be the Roosevelt Memorial Midland Trail purring through Tonopah anti the Yosemite from the east and from the west”. This was the statement of John P. Ness, director of publicity of Nevada’s Exposition, yesterday in a meeting of the Nye county commissioners and in the conference with C. C. Boak. President of the Western Good Roads Association and Grand Central Highway Association. “While there has been much talking of improved highways in Nevada, Nye county has been doing things” said Mr. Ness. “The people of Tonopah must realize that they have the longest stretch of highly improved highway in the state from this city to Ely and that this section is on the shortest transcontinental route in the United States. Another great asset to Tonopah is the authorization of an expenditure of $450,000 by the Department of the Interior for work on the Midland Trail through Yosemite National park during 1926, giving the traveller a highly improved highway from Ely, Nevada, direct to any point upon the Pacific Coast. With the proposed Delta route from Salt Lake City, through Ely, Tonopah, receives another influx of travel and takes its places as one of the most important travel centers in Nevada. While a study of the Midland trail from the East to the West proves it the shortest route for the autoist, there is yet the greatest factor in- its favor as a lure for the tourist—it is undoubtedly the most scenic route in America. This highway not only passes through the most beautiful section of Nevada, but wends its way over the famous Tioga pass, a masterpiece of scenic beauty and the greatest tourist attraction of the Sierra-Nevada mountains. Tourists who travel this route will not take long in telling its beauties to the rest of the country and in two years, I predict this highway the most popular route across the continent because of its shortness and scenic beauty.
-Big Pine Citizen, February 6, 1926

The Midland trail was so important to Nevada it even maintained a bit of the road in California, for some reason.

Goldfield (Special) A movement to finance needed repairs to the cut-off on the Roosevelt-Midland Trail between Oasis [California] and Lida have been undertaken by Esmeralda county citizens headed by W. S. Phillips, to raise about $800 for the work. It is planned to put in culverts, turnpike and gravel the cut-off and make it a first class road in all respects. In addition to repairing the cut-off, it is planned to erect signs directing travel from Big Pine, Cal. via Lida, Goldfield, Tonopah, and ELy to Salt Lake City and points east, and also to direct traffic over the same route to Southern California. The cut-off, which is about seven-eighths of a mile in length, lies in Mono county, Cal. The route of the Midland Trail is by way of Oasis, as designated by the California highway statute, and consequently the cut-off, which is a considerable saving to motorists, cannot be maintained by the State of California. Moreover the road is of no particular concern to Mono county, in which it lies, and no financial aid can be expected from that source. It is therefore up to Esmeralda county to repair and maintain this cut-off which is of great advantage as a time and distance saver for motorists entering Nevada from California by way of the Westgard pass.
-Reno Evening Gazette, June 25, 1926

Come on, Utah! Get it together, willya?

The Lincoln Highway is established in 1913 along the shortest and most direct route across the United States connecting New York with San Francisco and Los Angeles, was designed as the Main street of America. The route as established across Utah and Nevada made Ely the point of diversion for San Francisco and Los Angeles; the latter route over the Midland trail via Tonopah, Goldfield, Big Pine, Lone Pine to Los Angeles. In 1921, Utah, without cause, suspended construction operations, and in 1922 openly repudiated its contract. It has since steadfastly refused to complete the route. This left the world's greatest highway with a dead end at Salt Lake City and another at Ely. Every effort was made by the Lincoln Highway Association to force Utah to live up to its contract, but to no avail. The only logical solution of the Utah-Ely problem is for the Lincoln Highway to use the Victory highway west from Salt Lake City to Wendover near the Nevada line, and for Nevada with Federal aid to build southward through Curry and McGill to Ely. This will be only about nine miles longer than the original route and will also serve as a link in the Yellowstone route. As originally routed the Arrowhead trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles was 863 miles, while the Midland trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles via Tonopah, Big Pine and Lone Pine was 807 miles, or 56 miles shorter. But the Arrowhead trail is now being relocated via Silver Lake, California, and will be 5O miles shorter than the Midland. The Midland trail, however, is the cool, scenic, safe and logical route to Southern California. Assuming that the Utah-Ely gap in the Lincoln highway will be built this year, it behooves all those along the Midland trail to put forth every effort to shorten it at every point possible and to hasten its improvement.
-Big Pine Citizen, August 28, 1926

Meanwhile, the marketing of the Trail continued.

Goldfield, Nev. -The scenic attractions of the Roosevelt Midland Trail are to be described over the radio, broadcast at intervals from Los Angeles, as a result of arrangements made by Judge S. L. Thomas, who arrived here from Los Angeles Sunday. Judge Thomas, who is interested in the Goldfield Hotel, stated that Goldfield in general and the hotel in particular will figure prominently in the broadcasting.
Reno Evening Gazette, October 22, 1929

The Midland Trail in Nevada became the backbone of what was to become US 6.

When U.S. 6 achieved transcontinental status in 1937, it was the longest U.S. route at 3,652 miles. It was not, however, paved the entire distance. When paving was completed in 1952, the news received national attention. On September 21, 1952, The New York Times noted that paving had been completed a week earlier in 100-degree heat in Utah. A planned 2-day celebration would "mark completion of thirty-three and one-half miles of arrow-straight asphalt pavement running from a point just beyond Hinckley, about six miles west of here, to Skull Rock Pass in the Little Drum Mountains." As Business Week pointed out in its issue of October 11, 1952, the paving was much needed:
" It was designated a transcontinental highway in 1937. Technically, it was. You could get from Provincetown to Long Beach on it if you chose to try. But from Delta, about 80 mi. east of the Utah-Nevada border, to Ely, some 80 mi. west of the border, you ran into trouble. Much of this stretch of road was nothing but a wagon trail-rutted, filled with dust. It was one of the worst chunks of federal road in the country."
-U.S. D.O.T. Federal HIghway Administration, Highway History

Slowly, the Midland Trail was turned into a real highway.

On the Midland Trail, east of Tonopah, the state highway engineer's party said that the construction activities on the Locke's Station segment have been completed. As soon as oiling operations can be completed, the Midland Trail will be in excellent condition, State Highway Engineer Robert A. Allen said.
-Nevada State Journal, May 20, 1937

By 1939, State Of Nevada road maps indicated that the Midland Trail from Tippet to Schelbourne was essentialy a dirt road, where it was recommended that you enquire locally about road conditions- the same with the road south of Goldfield to Big Pine. The route now went west from Tonopah ending in Bishop. By 1961, the Nevada State Road map shows the route from south of Goldfield to the border was paved.

As late as the 1940's, though, it was still referred to as the Midland Trail.

Goldfield, Nevada . . .
A new postoffice — Talcton — has been opened on the Roosevelt-Midland highway 12 miles west of Lida to serve miners and operators in the Palmetto district. The name of the new town was coined by a group of men interested in the talc mines in that area. Four companies including the Blue Star, Sierra Talc, Nevada Minerals, California minerals and several independent leasers are now producing about 300 tons of talc daily in this area.
-The Desert Magazine, February 1942

In the early 1900's, GPS technology wasn't what it was today, and signs telling you where you were and which way to go were important for all of the early routes. Alex, Andy, and Brent have an excellent web site here describing the signs used on the Midland Trail.


Much of the Midland Trail in Nevada was replaced by US 6. US 6 was one of the original U.S. highways in the 1925 Bureau of Public Roads plan. It was commissioned in 1926, but was not extended west into Nevada until 1937. On June 21, 1937, U.S. 6 became a transcontinental highway. The alignment of US 6 in Nevada has remained largely unchanged since then.

Although some nasty dirt portions of the original Trail remain, this route is now, for the most part, paved and well-maintained dirt roads from Utah to the California border. The distance from Ely to Tonopah is 169 gas-stationless miles, and 125 gas-stationless miles await you from Tonopah to Big Pine, so you want to make sure you have the essential survival things and plenty of gas if you're going to traverse this route. ANd of course, if you're going to travel some of the remaining original route, you will want to be well prepared for off-road travel.



Photographs | Return to Previous Document | HOME