U.S. Route 50 in Utah

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U.S. Route 50

US 50 highlighted in red
Route information
Defined by Utah Code §72-4-110
Maintained by UDOT
Length335.541 mi[1] (540.001 km)
Major junctions
West end US 6 / US 50 at the Nevada state line (east of Baker, NV)
Major intersections US 6 in Delta
I-15 in Holden
I-15 in Scipio
I-70 / US 89 in Salina
US 6 / US 191 near Green River
US 191 at Crescent Junction
East end I-70 / US 6 / US 50 at the Colorado state line (west of Fruita, CO)
CountryUnited States
CountiesMillard, Sevier, Emery, Grand
Highway system
  • Utah State Highway System
SR-48 SR-51

U.S. Route 50 (US-50) in Utah crosses the center of the state. The highway serves no major population centers in Utah, with the largest city along its path being Delta. Most of the route passes through desolate, remote areas. Through the eastern half of the state the route is concurrent with Interstate 70 (I-70). US-50 both enters and exits Utah concurrent with US-6, however the two routes are separate through the center of the state.

Three completely different routings of US-50 have existed between Green River and Ely, Nevada. The route between these cities has become progressively shorter as new roads have been paved through this largely uninhabited region of both states. The earlier routings were a result of a dispute between Utah and Nevada over which auto trails would be paved and converted to U.S. Highways.

Route description

The highway enters Utah from Nevada in a desolate portion of the Great Basin Desert. Similar to many portions of the route in Nevada, there are multiple stretches without any motorist services. There are no services between the state line and the small farming village of Hinckley, just outside of Delta, a span of roadway that is about 100 miles (160 km).[2] While passing through the Great Basin the highway crosses two mountain ranges, the Confusion Range via King's Canyon, and House Range via Skull Rock Pass, before arriving at the shore of Sevier Lake, an intermittent lake fed by snow melt from many mountain ranges in the eastern half of the Great Basin. The highway follows the north shore of Sevier Lake and the Sevier River towards Delta.[2] Today much of the water in the Sevier river is diverted for agricultural use before reaching the lake, and rarely is significant water visible in the lake.[3]

The scenery changes as US-50 approaches Delta, where U.S. Route 6 and 50 separate. As the road approaches Delta, a straight passage across desert becomes zigzags through farming areas. The highway continues to zigzag through farms until arriving at more mountainous terrain at Holden. At Holden, the highway merges with Interstate 15 to cross the Pavant Range via Scipio Summit. After passing the mountains, US-50 then separates from this freeway as again a two lane road passing through desolate territory towards Salina where the road joins with Interstate 70. The two highways run concurrent from this point east to Colorado. Yet again, there is a stretch of highway 110 miles (180 km) long without services from Salina to Green River.[2]

While co-routed with I-70, US-50 crosses the Wasatch Plateau and passes through the San Rafael Swell. The construction of I-70 through the swell is noted as one of the engineering marvels of the Interstate Highway System.[4] One specific feat, the excavation through a portion called Spotted Wolf Canyon, required excavating 3,500,000 cubic yards (2,700,000 m3) of rock to have a bed for just 8 miles (13 km) of roadway. Construction workers noted that prior to the construction of the freeway a man could stand in this canyon and touch both sides of the canyon wall.[5]

US-6 rejoins US-50 near Green River. The three routes run concurrent and follow the southern edge of the Book Cliffs to Grand Junction, Colorado. Once again, services are not present from Thompson Springs to Fruita, Colorado, a span of about 60 miles (97 km).[2] This portion of US-50 is part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, a National Scenic Byway. The name of the byway comes from the large number of areas along the route with visible dinosaur remains.[6] The entire route through the state, as well as the concurrencies with I-15 and I-70, is included in the National Highway System.[7]



The modern route of U.S. Route 50 between Ely, Nevada and Green River, Utah is the third iteration.

First iteration

In 1926, when the U.S. Highway system was first announced, there was a gap in US-50 between Ely and Thistle.[8] At the time the states of Utah and Nevada were feuding about which of the old auto trails would be paved and used for the new U.S. Highway System. Nevada favored the Lincoln Highway, which the modern US-50 closely follows in that state. Utah refused to consider the Lincoln Highway west of Salt Lake City. Officials perceived that route would carry all California bound traffic directly to Nevada while passing through very few communities in Utah. Utah instead favored the Victory Highway (modern Interstate 80 west of Salt Lake) and the Arrowhead Trail (modern Interstate 15). By favoring these routes Utah could force travelers destined for southern California to use a different route than those destined for northern California, with both of these traversing through more cities in Utah than the Lincoln Highway. The Arrowhead trail was especially beneficial to Utah as it passed through many communities in the state, but only Las Vegas in Nevada.[9]

Utah prevailed and US-50 did not continue to follow the Lincoln Highway to Salt Lake City as Nevada had wanted. The first continuous route of US-50 across eastern Nevada and western Utah was an arch shaped route. US-50 proceeded north from Ely along what is now numbered U.S. Route 93 and Alternate US-93 where the highway would merge with the Victory Highway (U.S. Route 40 along the Wendover Cut-off, since replaced by I-80) to Salt Lake. From there the highway returned to Green River via what is now numbered State Route 201, U.S. Route 89 and U.S. Route 6.[10]

Second iteration

The second iteration has its origins with the formation of US-6. In 1937, US-6 was extended west from its former terminus at Greeley, Colorado to Long Beach, California.[11][12] In eastern Utah the route used the existing alignment of US-50. However, in western Utah the route used an unpaved road through Delta reconnecting with US-50 in Ely.[10] In 1953, US-50 was approved to use this shorter alignment with the older US-50 alignment designated as U.S. Route 50 Alternate.[13] Nevada first showed this alignment as paved and signed as US 50 in their 1954 map.[14] With this change, US-6/50 ran concurrent from Ely to Grand Junction, Colorado.

The paved version did not exactly follow the unpaved roads. The dirt route passed through the numerous mountain ranges of the Great Basin using Marjum canyon and Marjum Pass to and through the Tule Valley. Once paved, the route was relocated to follow the north shore of Sevier Lake, which reduced the number of mountain ranges crossed.[2] Although US-50 was moved to yet another alignment, this route remains US-6 today.

Third iteration

The modern route of US-50 was created in 1976.[15][16] This iteration of US-50 has its origins in a dispute over the route of Interstate 70 in Utah. While I-70 was in the planning stage Colorado lobbied for an extension of the original proposal to run across Colorado and into Utah. Utah supported an extension using then US-6/50 to connect Denver, Colorado with Salt Lake City. However, federal planners did not see value in this route and instead supported a route that could be used to connect Denver with Los Angeles, California. I-70 was built using the federally selected route.[17] In 1976, US-50 was changed again to a routing mostly concurrent with I-70. The portion of modern US-50 between Delta and Scipio had been previously numbered State Route 26,[15] and the portion between Scipio and Salina had been numbered State Route 63, with the SR-63 portion being transferred to SR-26 in 1971.[18]

East of Green River I-70 closely follows the original route of US-50, with some minor straightening by Crescent Junction, Cisco, and Westwater.[2]

Major intersections


US 6 west / US 50 west – Ely
Continuation into Nevada
SR-159 south – Garrison, Milford
SR-257 south – Deseret, Milford
Delta88.302142.10850 North / 500 WestInterchange; westbound exit and eastbound entrance
US 6 east – Salt Lake City
East end of overlap with US-6

SR-125 east / SR-136 north – Oak City, Lynndyl
SR-100 south – Fillmore

SR-64 to I-15 south
Former US-91 south
I-15 south
West end of overlap with I-15; exit 178 on I-15
125.031201.218184Tower RoadExit number follows I-15; signed as "Ranch Exit" until 2015
I-15 north – Salt Lake City
East end of overlap with I-15; exit 188 on I-15

SR-260 south to I-70 west – Aurora
SR-24 east – Aurora

I-70 BS begins / US 89 north (State Street north) – Gunnison, Salt Lake City
West end of overlap with I-70 Bus./US-89
Mileposts reflect distance along US-89

I-70 BS ends / I-70 west / US 89 south – Richfield
East end of overlap with I-70 Bus./US-89; west end of overlap with I-70; Mileposts reflect distance along I-70
63.193101.69963Gooseberry Road
73.924118.96973Ranch exit
86.773139.64886Ivie Creek rest areaAccess via SR-76

SR-10 north / SR-72 south – Price, Loa
Emery99.488160.11099Ranch exit
104.620168.370Salt Wash view area (westbound)
Sand Beach view area (eastbound)
108.011173.827108Ranch exit
115.634186.095Devil's Canyon view area (eastbound)
116.513187.509116MooreEagle Canyon view area also signed westbound
122.566197.251Ghost Rocks view area
131.507211.640131Ranch exit
142.585229.468Spotted Wolf Canyon view area
146.337235.507San Rafael Reef view area (westbound)
SR-24 west – Hanksville

US 6 west / US 191 north – Price, Salt Lake City
West end of US-6/191 overlap
I-70 BL / SR-19 east – Green River
I-70 Bus. not signed westbound
I-70 BL / SR-19 west – Green River
I-70 Bus. not signed eastbound
Crescent Junction182.153293.147182
US 191 south – Crescent Junction, Moab
East end of US-191 overlap; former US-160 east
187.413301.612187Thompson Springs (SR-94)
189.876305.576Rest area / Visitors Center (westbound)
SR-128 south – Cisco
214.367344.990214Danish Flat
228.352367.497Harley Dome view area (westbound)

I-70 east / US 6 east / US 50 east – Grand Junction, Denver
Continuation into Colorado
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


  1. ^ a b "Highway Reference Online - US-50". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved March 16, 2023. "Highway Reference Online - US-89". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved March 16, 2023. "Highway Reference Online - I-70". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Utah Road and Recreation Atlas (Map) (2002 ed.). 1:250000. Benchmark Maps. 2002. ISBN 0-929591-74-7.
  3. ^ Haymond, Jay M. (1994). "Utah History Encyclopedia - Sevier Lake". University of Utah Press. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  4. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. "Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways Engineering Marvels". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
  5. ^ Brown, Matthew (September 28, 1990). "I-70 Project Reaches End of Road at Last". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, UT.
  6. ^ "Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway". Dinosaur Diamond Partnership. Archived from the original on September 18, 2007. Retrieved October 13, 2007.
  7. ^ "Utah National Highway System". UDOT Data Portal. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  8. ^ Bureau of Public Roads & American Association of State Highway Officials (November 11, 1926). United States System of Highways Adopted for Uniform Marking by the American Association of State Highway Officials (Map). 1:7,000,000. Washington, DC: United States Geological Survey. OCLC 32889555. Retrieved November 7, 2013 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  9. ^ Patrick, Kevin J. & Wilson, Robert E. "15: Lincoln Highway in Utah" (PDF). The Lincoln Highway Resource Guide. Indiana, PA: Indiana University of Pennsylvania. p. 203.
  10. ^ a b Road Atlas (Map). Rand McNally. 1946. p. 22. Retrieved June 15, 2008 – via Broer Map Library.
  11. ^ Executive Committee (September 16, 1937). "Agenda to Minutes of Executive Committee" (PDF) (Report). Washington, DC: American Association of State Highway Officials. p. 307. Retrieved February 19, 2023 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  12. ^ Nevada State Highway Department (1937). Official Road Map of the State of Nevada (Map). Scale not given. Carson City: Nevada State Highway Department. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 12, 2005. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  13. ^ U.S. Route Numbering Committee (1953). [Report of the U.S. Route Numbering Committee to the Executive Committee] (PDF) (Report). Washington, DC: American Association of State Highway Officials. p. 272. Retrieved February 19, 2023 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  14. ^ Nevada Department of Highways; Rand McNally & Company (1954). Official Highway Map of Nevada (Map). Scale not given. Carson City: Nevada Department of Highways. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 12, 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  15. ^ a b "State Road Resolutions SR-26.pdf". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 4, 2007.
  16. ^ Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (November 12, 1976). "Route Numbering Committee Agenda" (PDF) (Report). Washington, DC: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. p. 479. Retrieved February 19, 2023 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  17. ^ Weingroff, Richard F. "Why Does I-70 End in Cove Fort, Utah?". Ask the Rambler. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved January 30, 2007.
  18. ^ "State Road Resolutions SR-63.pdf". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved February 19, 2023.

External links

U.S. Route 50
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