Stretching for over 800,000 acres in northwest Nevada, Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area feels like another planet. Also known as Black Rock–High Rock NCA, the Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area was first established in 2000 through a congressional bill to protect this untouched area of Nevada desert. RV lovers flock to the area to experience some of the most sparse countrysides within the United States that make you feel like you are a million miles from civilization.
Since the Black Rock–High Rock NCA is so vast and remote (the closest major population center is over 100 miles away in Reno), you will totally be out on your own during your visit. There are no water collection points or shops out here, so you really need to be prepared for this adventure. Some of the most popular places to visit in Black Rock–High Rock NCA include natural hot springs, High Rock Canyon, and the Black Rock Desert playa. There are also over 120 miles of hiking trails, so if you want to explore the whole area, you will have plenty to do.
For RV travelers that are looking for free camping, there are plenty of places to do so as all of the areas are BLM land. We recommend two places in particular - the Soldier Meadows ACEC and at High Rock Canyon. Both of these areas have designated campsites and have previously been used by many people, so you know that the area is popular. It is important to be aware of where you are and to know where you are going as there is no phone or GPS service. If you feel up for this remote getaway, Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area is waiting for you.
Driving to and from Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area is a little more difficult than usual since this area is so remote. There are no major towns or cities within 100 miles of the park, so you really need to be prepared for a wilderness trip if you want to come and visit this BLM Land area. Stocking up on water and food is vital since you won't be able to visit a grocery store. You also need to tell people where you are going and how long you plan on being there for as there is no phone reception in this area of Nevada.
Most of the roads at Black Rock–High Rock NCA are unpaved, and they can become dangerous depending on the weather conditions. If you are driving through the region, it is important to note that cars can get stuck and start to sink if the area is wet. Vehicles driving at high speeds can also flip easier than usual as there are are many small dips that can be unnoticeable. Please use caution when driving, and if anything does happen to your RV, remember to stay with it and not try to walk to help.
Parking within Black Rock–High Rock NCA is recommended in areas that do not have plants or wildlife so that this beautiful area can continue to be preserved.
Soldier Meadows ACEC is one of two developed areas within Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area that is suitable for RV camping. While this campground is nothing special when it comes to amenities, calling this place home for your stay will make life easier when planning your drive to and from the area as it is a well-known spot.
Camping is only allowed on one of the seven developed camping pads, so keep this in mind if you choose to come to this camping area. Our recommendation is to head to the campsite that is near the public cabin, which is available on a first-come, first-served basis. If the cabin is empty, you are free to use it during your stay.
No reservations are required for the Soldier Meadows ACEC, but you will have to bring all of your own firewood, water, food, and other supplies to last your stay.
For RV lovers looking for a bit more peace and quiet, the Stevens Camp within High Rock Canyon might be the best place for you. This camping area has four places to choose from and is known to be a bit quieter than Soldier Meadows ACEC. The campground does have a few amenities for you to enjoy, such as vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and a grill. There is also a public cabin here that you can use on a first-come, first-served basis. The cabin has more amenities than what is in the campground thanks to the running water, shower, hot-water heater, and wood stove.
Staying at Stevens Camp does require a lot of prior planning as it is a remote location. We recommend you tell someone about your plans and for how long you will stay there so that someone is aware of your whereabouts. No reservations are required, and you can stay at Stevens Camp all year round.
Located near the Soldier Meadows there is a private ranch that offers both space to camp in your RV and private accommodation in a lodge-style setting. The ranch is still a working cattle ranch and is referred to as an oasis in the desert due to the numerous fruit trees that are found on the property.
If you want to stay somewhere more luxurious this will be the only place for you to do so while still being within an easy drive of Black Rock–High Rock NCA. The lodge has six private rooms, but if you have a smaller party there are also bunk bedrooms available. The ranch is open all year round.
One of the most popular attractions to visitors of Black Rock–High Rock NCA is to check out the four hot springs. These springs were used by those crossing the desert back in the day as they would drink the water after it had cooled.
Due to the extreme temperatures within the area, it is recommended that you don't venture too close to the springs as you could easily get burned from the water. Despite not being able to go in, they are still worth the visit to see this natural phenomenon in the middle of a desert.
The Fly Geyser on the private Fly Ranch property is one of the most iconic geothermal geysers in the United States. Spraying water up to five feet in the air, the unique look that it has is from the minerals in the water being sprayed onto the surrounding rocks. This results in the multicolored algae that bloom on the rocks, creating an almost supernatural looking fountain.
While the geyser is on private property, you can visit it thanks to the Friends of Black Rock-High Rock three hour guided tour. You will have to pay a fee for the tour, which you can do (as well as see the tour schedule) via their website.
For visitors to Black Rock–High Rock NCA that are looking to do some hiking there is one marked trail available for you to explore. This walking trail is found to the north of Stevens Camp and is well worth your time, but if you don't mind walking on unmarked trails there are plenty more options.
Most of this vast landscape (besides the designated wilderness areas) is free for you to roam on, but remember to bring a lot of water and plan your hikes so that you don't get lost.
If you are a keen rock-climber you will be very pleased to note that this activity can be enjoyed throughout the Black Rock–High Rock NCA. The only spot that rock climbing is not allowed is the High Rock Canyon Area, but if you are fixated on climbing the walls of a canyon there are plenty more in the area. When rock climbing, do not damage the rocks and remember to climb with a buddy. No gear will be available to rent so you will have to bring your own.
Despite the sparseness of Black Rock–High Rock NCA, there are still plenty of animals that call the BLM lands home. Wildlife viewing should be done in complete silence and could lead you to see some of the locals, such as antelope, pygmy rabbits, and even big-horned sheep. A pair of binoculars and viewing some of the areas from a higher elevation (such as a canyon) will tremendously help your chances of spotting some creatures great and small.
Black Rock–High Rock NCA regularly attracts daredevils who love getting dirty and having some fun via off-roading. There are rules and regulations surrounding this activity (for example, riding is restricted to certain areas), but for those with a vehicle such as an ATV can take it for a spin. The most open area that you can use is the playa, but remember to make sure it isn't wet otherwise you may end up sinking into it.
There are no off-roading vehicles for rent at Black Rock–High Rock NCA so you will either have to bring your own or rent one before the end of your drive to the area.