I want to start this plane spotting page by stating something that I wasn't too clear on when I first took a drive to Rachel. Rachel is in the middle of no where. It's not in the middle of two cities, two towns, it's smack dab in the middle of rural Nevada. How rural? The nearest gas from Rachel is 50 miles in Alamo, that's rural when you think that it took 50 miles of gas to get there !
I would not be doing anyone any good if I didn't mention some tips about Rachel.
First, if you are going in the summer(April thru late September), tempratures can reach 110 degrees plus. It's a dry heat, really dry heat. You need water, even if you are not hiking anywhere, bring water. Also, that new 300$ cell phone, Droid, whatchamacallit . . .no service out in Rachel, sparse really at best. So, bring a little emergency kit too, pliers, screwdriver, wrench, a can or two of fix-a-flat, and of course, a roll of duct tape.
Before you leave Vegas, check all the fluids even if you have rented a car, check the fluids !
Ok, enough of safety talk, on to the good stuff.
What can you see?
When I speak of Rachel, Nevada with plane spotting, I am really talking about the area from Alamo to the Rte 6 / Rte 375 intersection. I know thats a huge expanse of land, but there isn't anything else to call it . . .well, I guess it is E.T. Highway.
Near Rachel, really, Rachel itself, you can see anything that is flying. Now there are two rules of thumb to follow. If you have a scanner, you'll be ahead of the game. You can catch where they are flying into the ranges from and out of the ranges at. Also, check out the NOTAMS for Nellis Air Force Base (KLSV) so you are in the area at the right times.
One thing you won't see are the USAF Thunderbirds. I've never heard of them flying in this area, nor have seen them.
In between sorties from Nellis, you may catch a test flight from the infamous Area 51. The base is roughly 25 miles east of Rachel. There are no easily accesible viewpoints of the base anymore. For more info on Area 51 visit Dreamland Resort. A great website that is not all hung up into the UFO theories of Area 51, rather the actual activities at the base. They also have many Red Flag trip reports and will post NOTAMs for the Red Flags a few days prior.
Rachel, Nevada - N 37.646791,W -115.74543
This is the closest to a "center" of Rachel there is. The infamous Lil'Ale'Inn bar/restaurant/gift shop/museum is right off of E.T. Highway, the Alien burger is awesome by the way. They are helpful with information as well as what has been flying recently. Very good spot to stop. From the parking lot I have seen a number of different fighters coming and going to the ranges. Some a little low for comfort, but that was the best spotting that day ! Sonic booms are also numerous over Rachel during the excercises.
Coyote Summit - N 37.34331. W -115.40123
This is before Rachel. From the summit you can see squadrons heading into the ranges. It seems as if some of the pilots "aim" for you if you are on top of the hill/mountain. They often come in low and fast. It's a great location to spot from.
Queen City Summit - N 37.45129, W -115.56733
This is the summit after Rachel. Decent spot if they are flying in the ranges around the area. Most often I have seen fighters looping back into the ranges from here. Low and slow and high and fast. Also around this area, just a little further North you can witness high level refueling.
As you descend into the valley on E.T. Highway, it's really open season for plane spotting. From day to day, night to night the great spots change depending on the missions.
Keep your eyes open when you get to the valley floor !