Black Rock Desert Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

The Black Rock Desert Wilderness lies in a remote area of northwestern Nevada. The wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and consists of 314,835 acres. Elephant and Pinto Mountains are located on the western boundary of the wilderness with elevations ranging from 3,900 feet to 5,931 feet. Except for the mountainous areas, the wilderness is mostly flat.
Black Rock Desert Wilderness is a playa created by the dry bed of Lake Lahontan, a prehistoric lake. The fossilized skeletons of mammoths have been found here as well as other plant and animal fossils. In modern days, the playa has been used for special events. The world record for land speed was set there. Black Rock Desert Wilderness has also hosted the Burning Man Festival.
Advance planning is necessary when camping at Black Rock Desert Wilderness. There are many areas where dispersed camping is permitted. Established campsites should be used when possible. There is no cell phone service in the area, and the closest towns with supplies are many miles away. Strong winds and extreme heat are common. Visitors will want to stop for fuel and to pick up plenty of water while en route to the wilderness.

RV Rentals in Black Rock Desert Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

Black Rock Desert Wilderness is in the northwestern region of Nevada. It is in an isolated area of Humboldt County. There are very few towns in this region of Nevada, and it is many miles to supplies such as fuel and groceries. Gerlach, Empire, and Winnemucca are the nearest towns. Visitors to the wilderness should plan to restock on fuel and water before continuing to the Black Rock Desert.
The access roads into the wilderness are unmaintained dirt roads. They’re very rough, and high clearance vehicles with four-wheel drive are recommended. Flat tires aren't uncommon due to the rough nature of the roads. Plan to bring a spare tire or two just in case. There are several access points to the monument, but the roads that border the northern and eastern ends are the most commonly traveled.
Advance planning is necessary if visiting Black Rock Desert Wilderness. Extreme heat, sun exposure, and winds are common to the area. Visitors should be well-equipped with water and sunscreen. During periods of high winds, visitors may need to take shelter in their vehicles or RV. The winds can kick up dust devils, and dust storms occur in the desert on occasion.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Black Rock Desert Wilderness

Campsites in Black Rock Desert Wilderness

Reservations camping

Private Campgrounds

While dispersed camping is permitted on BLM land, some RVers may prefer amenities during their camping trip. When camping at Black Rock Desert Wilderness, there are no amenities, and visitors must bring in their own supplies. For those wanting basic amenities, private campgrounds are in the area bordering the wilderness near towns such as Gerlach.
Some of these private campgrounds are still considered primitive but offer some amenities. Pets, including horses, are permitted at most. If traveling to the area with your horse, be sure to have proof of Coggins testing. A group camping area is offered at some, and others even have cabins. Keep in mind, you’re still many miles from services and grocery stores. Bring what you’ll need for your stay.

First-come first-served

Dispersed Camping

Black Rock Desert Wilderness is a BLM property. Dispersed camping is permitted throughout the playa, and many RV accessible campsites can be found along the edge of the playa. There are no services for miles, so those planning to camp will want to take extra measures to ensure they’re prepared for the often extreme desert conditions. Stock up on fuel, plenty of water, and sunscreen. In addition to sun, strong winds are common in the desert and can whip up dust devils and sand storms on occasion.
Campers will enjoy a primitive camping experience at Black Rock Desert Wilderness. Though it is an open space, it is very remote. Camping is a unique experience as the wilderness is open and large, making visitors feel small. The space is very flat, although mountains loom in the distance. Visitors can see for miles and will enjoy breathtaking views. When possible, camp in already established campsites on durable surfaces. Campers will need to take everything they bring in with them when they leave, including any trash.

Seasonal activities in Black Rock Desert Wilderness

In-Season

Lake Lahontan

One of the most visited features in the Black Rock Desert Wilderness is the prehistoric Lake Lahontan. Lake Lahontan is an ancient lake bed that stretches about 400 miles. This playa is not only a unique area of interest, but it has also been used for many events over the years. The world record for land speed was set here in the 90s. The playa has also hosted the Burning Man Festival. In times where no planned events are occurring, this remote lakebed is a great place for stargazing.

Hiking

Black Rock Desert Wilderness is part of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. This area consists of about 180 miles of trails that were used by emigrants looking to settle in different areas and also were active routes during the gold rush. There are historical markers along many of the trails.

If planning to hike, bring plenty of water. The Black Rock Desert is an open space with very little shade and extreme, dry temperatures.

Rafting

A stretch of the Quinn River flows through the wilderness area. During the spring run-off, rafting and kayaking are popular on the river. A hike of several miles may be necessary to reach a road when finished. You’ll also need to carry your boat after you’ve reached an area where the water stops flowing. Beaver and muskrat can occasionally be seen on the banks of the river. The river isn’t always flowing. Check conditions prior to your trip if planning to float the river.

Off-Season

Hunting

Hunting is permitted in the Black Rock Desert Wilderness. Deer, antelope, and chukar are popular with hunters that come to the area. While hunting, cutting any vegetation is prohibited in the wilderness area to prevent destruction to desert resources. Blinds are permitted but must be temporary and taken down. Hunting rules and regulations are enforced by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Wildlife Viewing

Despite the dry desert conditions, many different types of wildlife have adapted and are known to Black Rock Desert Wilderness. Mule deer, antelope, coyotes, and mountain lions roam in the area. Wild horses have also been observed by desert visitors.

The area’s wildlife may be seen out on the trails or even near the dispersed campsites. Keep a safe distance and do not disturb the wildlife. When it’s flowing, muskrat and beaver have been seen along the banks of the Quinn River.

Off-Roading

The roads leading to and bordering Black Rock Desert Wilderness are dirt and rough. A high clearance vehicle with 4WD is recommended and is even necessary on some of the more remote roads. These roads are great for off-roading and for mountain biking enthusiasts. The bumpy, rough nature presents a challenge in some spots. After periods of rain, take caution as the roads can become muddy. Even the most experienced off-roaders have become stuck.

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