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Black Rock Desert

Into the Great Wide Open

An expansive wilderness area nestled between Gerlach and Empire, Nevada, the Black Rock Desert is about 100 miles north of Reno. Covering approximately 1.2 million acres, the Black Rock Desert is a remnant of the ancient Lake Lahontan, a vast inland sea that existed during the last ice age. The desert’s most iconic feature is the Black Rock Playa, a flat, dry lakebed stretching over 200 square miles, known for its stunning beauty and home to the annual Burning Man event.

Natural Features

When driving to the Black Rock Desert, adventurers can enjoy the unique geological features of the area ranging from hot springs, volcanic rock formations, fossilized remains of prehistoric life, and native wildlife.

The Black Rock Desert’s remote and rugged landscape offers a sense of isolation and adventure, making it a compelling destination for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs and anyone seeking to experience one of Nevada’s most unique natural wonders.

Things To Do In the Black Rock Desert

Whether you’re exploring the Playa during Burning Man, soaking in a hot spring under the stars or grabbing a bite to eat in Gerlach, the Black Rock Desert offers a variety of activities and attractions that cater to diverse interests.

On your way into the Black Rock Desert, stop by Planet X Pottery, just outside of Gerlach. This husband-and-wife-run art gallery is a retreat where visitors can view and purchase unique, hand-made pottery inspired by the Black Rock Desert.

You may have seen photos of Fly Geyser, a stunning, colorful geothermal geyser located on private land that looks other-worldly. While not open to the public without prior arrangement, Friends of Black Rock-High Rock offers guided tours of this otherworldly natural wonder.

The Black Rock Desert is also home to several natural hot springs, including Soldier Meadow Hot Springs and Black Rock Hot Springs. A soak in these geothermal pools provides a relaxing and rejuvenating experience amidst the rugged landscape.

Situated in the small town of Gerlach, Bruno’s Country Club is a popular spot for visitors to grab a meal, enjoy a drink, and experience a slice of local hospitality. Known for its hearty cuisine, particularly the ravioli, it’s a great place to unwind after exploring the desert.

Take your time traveling to the playa and experience the Burner Byway, the route that leads Burners to the pop-up metropolis, Black Rock City on the Playa. This art-filled route takes you from Reno, past the beautiful tribal-owned, Pyramid Lake, through the preserved historic trails of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. Between fishing, camping, hiking and stargazing, this route is an exciting playground for all thrill-seekers.

Planning Your Visit

The best times to visit the Black Rock Desert are typically in the spring and fall, when temperatures are milder, making outdoor activities more enjoyable. Summer temperatures can soar above 100°F, while winter can bring freezing conditions and occasional snow.

When visiting the Black Rock Desert, safety is paramount due to its remote and harsh environment. Here are some key precautions:

  • Bring Plenty of Water - The desert is extremely dry, so pack enough water for drinking and washing.
  • Navigation Tools - Carry a detailed map, GPS device and ensure your vehicle has a full tank of fuel. Cell service is limited.
  • Emergency Supplies - Have a first-aid kit, extra food, a spare tire and basic repair tools ready just in case. Make sure to inform someone of your travel plans beforehand.
  • Respect Wildlife and Nature - Keep a safe distance from wildlife and adhere to Leave No Trace Behind principles to preserve the environment. Follow hot spring etiquette and no driving on the Playa, unless it is completely dry as your vehicle will get stuck if there’s mud.
  • Road Conditions - Travelers should ensure their vehicle is suitable for off-road conditions, as many areas within the desert are accessible only via dirt roads.
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