Know Before You Go
Careful preparation and planning will ensure a lifetime of adventures in the Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (NCA) that are unforgettable for all the right reasons. Please read this section thoroughly, even if you’ve been here before, and contact us if you have any other questions at 775-557-2900.
General Safety Information
Bring what you need to to survive. Self-sufficiency is as important today as it was for the Native Americans, emigrants and early pioneers.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.
- Pack all necessary water (one gallon of water per day), food and supplies. Surface water is unreliable and must be treated.
- Pack extra supplies in case you get stranded. Use good judgement if you do get stranded. It’s often best to stay at your vehicle.
- Be prepared for changing conditions. Daytime temps can reach over 100 degrees in the summer. Year-round temperatures can fluctuate more than 50 degrees in a single day. Even in summer nights can dip into the 30’s and 40’s. Dust storms on the playa are not uncommon in dry months.
- High clearance vehicles with off-road tires (at least 6-ply) are recommended, as is a second spare if you plan to travel on remote roads.
- There is no cell service in the NCA.
- DO NOT drive on the playa when it is wet. Know what to look for, as it can often be wet just under the surface.
- From Gerlach, the nearest full-service medical facility is over 70 miles away in Fernley. An emergency phone is located at the Washoe County Sheriff’s office in Gerlach.
- Rattlesnakes, scorpions, mountain lions and coyotes are in the area. Be wildlife aware.
- Limit noise from generators, keep speeds slow through camping areas.
- Respect private property. Leave gates as you find them.
- Protect Archaeological sites. Sites are protected on federal land by public law. Removing or vandalizing artifacts is not only illegal, it limits their scientific value and the experience of future visitors
- Bring your own firewood. Fires on the playa and dunes must be contained and elevated to protect the surface from scarring. Extinguish all fires before you leave.
- LEAVE NO TRACE. Pack it in. Pack it out. Leave the area cleaner than you found it.
Driving in the NCA
Once you’re here, driving on the land carries a whole other set of joys and risks. Plus, irresponsible driving or use of Off Highway Vehicles can cause thousands of acres to be closed to all visitors. Be sure you’re informed and prepared before you head out. Driving in Wilderness Areas is not allowed, nor is driving in the hummocks surrounding the Playa.
Weather changes dramatically in the Black Rock Desert area – sometimes as much in one day as it can in the whole year. Checking the latest forecast can help you plan better.
Mines and Hot Springs
To fully enjoy a wild place, you must also respect it. Abandoned mines and Hot Springs pose threats if you are unaware.
Use these maps of the entire NCA and all 10 Wilderness Areas to plan your journey. Always travel with a printed map – don’t rely on GPS or other navigation devices. Remember, driving within Wilderness Areas is not allowed.
Communicating in Remote Areas
“Wilderness” means your mobile phone won’t work here. Even ham radio isn’t always reliable. Knowing how you will communicate, especially in an emergency, is an absolute must.
Groups and Permits
Some activities always require a permit in the NCA, others require a permit in certain areas. Make sure you’re in the clear and give yourself plenty of time to arrange the necessary permits.
The NCA is a vast wilderness. The towns of Gerlach and Winnemucca in Nevada, and Cedarville in California offer you gateways to the land.
Small communities surround the NCA. See what services are available.