The Dirt: Black Rock Desert



The remains of prehistoric Lake Lahontan and its surrounding mountains are what now make up the Black Rock Desert. The Black Rock-High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation area covers about 800,000 acres in Northwestern Nevada and offers countless recreational opportunities. Famous for events such as the 1997 setting of the land speed record (763 mph!) and the week-long Burning Man Festival that attracts thousands of visitors annually. Visitors interested in off-highway vehicle recreation will be welcomed by hundreds of miles of trail networks that include the historic Applegate Trail, as well as a vast open playa with endless opportunities. Road services vary as you travel from the hard-packed playa to the softer soil of its outer edges, and transitions to exposed rocky conditions once you venture up into the canyonlands.

You can explore this massive piece of land by travelling along some of the 120 miles of historic emigrant trails or riding across the world-famous playa. The Black Rock Desert has an adventure for everyone! Recreational opportunities in the area include hiking, hunting, rock-hounding, hot tubbing, and stargazing.

Test your speed on the world famous Black Rock Desert Playa that is 400 square miles large, drive along the Applegate National Historic Trail, try a technical drive through the High Rock Canyon, or discover some of the areas hidden hot springs.

Dispersed camping is available throughout much of the Black Rock Desert unless otherwise posted. Primitive camping is available within the Soldier Meadows Hot Spring Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) which includes a cabin and vault-toilets. To the north, Soldier Meadow Ranch is a private campground that provides lodging and meals for a fee.

Caution!! During wet seasons the playa, and some of the surrounding areas, can become impassable to motor vehicles. While the playa may appear dry, there may be deep mud just below the surface. It is important to note that OHV use is not allowed on the dunes and hummocks surrounding the playa. Traveling in groups is always a good idea, as well as informing someone of where you will be going due to the remote nature of the conservation area.

Black Rock Visitor Center 

200 Transfer Road 
Gerlach, NV 89412

(775) 557-2503


From Reno to Southern Portion of Black Rock-High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation area:

  • Take I-80 East for approximately 30 miles to Exit 43. Turn left onto State Highway 427.
  • Follow State Highway 427 North for 1.5 miles. Turn left on to State Highway 447 and continue North for 75 miles. 
  • Continue North through Gerlach. You may stage anywhere you please once on the playa.

Rules of the Road

Land Manager: Bureau of Land Management

BLM Field Office – Black Rock
5100 East Winnemucca Blvd.
Winnemucca, NV 89445

Telephone: 775-623-1500

Motor vehicles are permitted on designated trails only. For local regulations regarding OHV use on county roads, visit the BLM OHV Website https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/OHV.

Always plan ahead and prepare for uncertainty. Travel with warm clothing, first aid, food, water and appropriate tools to fix a problem.
Traveling in groups is always a good idea, as well as informing someone of where you will be going.

  • Register Your Vehicle
  • Make sure your vehicle is equipped with a spark arrestor
  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Trail Users

Leave No Trace

Tread Lightly

Historic Preservation

Land Manager

Plan Your Visit