If you’re driving to Burning Man, you’ll likely travel through Empire and Gerlach, gateway to the Black Rock Desert, and center of the known universe.
Here is some basic info about these small and neighborly towns and resources and directions. Scroll down further for the resources to be found here.
Gerlach is a small town filled with small wonders. Although established by the Western Pacific Railroad as late as 1905, the town’s historical significance dates to prehistory. For centuries early humans settled in this region, finding it plentiful in spring water, food and natural shelter. In more recent history, triangle-shaped Black Rock Mountain served as a compass point for pioneers en route to Oregon and California’s gold country. These hardy immigrants traveled from spring to spring, stopping in Gerlach before passing through High Rock Canyon, where you can still find their names carved into barren rock as testimony to their ordeals.
Empire was established with the founding of the gypsum mine in 1923, and U.S. Gypsum owned and supported the town since 1946. 90% of the drywall produced in the United States came from materials mined here.
Since the Empire mine closed a few years ago, the economic impact has been enormous on both Empire and Gerlach, and the combined population of both towns has fallen nearly 80% to around 100. The railroad that passes through and tourism provide economic activity to the towns year-round. However, the economic impact of Burning Man has to helped keep both towns afloat, and many of the residents themselves have been to the event over its long history on the playa just to the north.
Gerlach, Empire and the surrounding environs are a great place to visit the rest of the year. A truly remarkable community and beautiful place. Check out the Friends of Black Rock High Rock for further info, and the legendary Bruno’s Country Club is the most popular spot in town year-round and serves as meeting place with hospitable conversation and information about the region and history.
However, Bruno’s (or any other place in town) is not the place to inquire about the Fly Geyser (which is closed year-round) or other hot springs in the region. Don’t ask. In fact, during Burning Man, much of the surrounding environs is closed, and there are some important things for everyone to be mindful about on their way to and from Burning Man:
Some Important Reminders Passing Through
- Respect that Gerlach and Empire are a very small rural and agricultural community with some conservative roots. Conduct yourself appropriately and with courtesy and you will be very welcome.
- During Burning Man, do not come to the event, Gerlach or Empire if you do not have a ticket. No tickets are sold at the event or in Gerlach or Empire.
- Respect all Closures – most of the playa and the hot springs in the region are closed during Burning Man. If you’re interested in visiting them the rest of the year, visit the Friends of Black Rock High Rock office in Gerlach (see info further below).
- Speed limit is 25 mph in Gerlach, and obey the speed limit in Empire and traffic directions in both towns.
- The road south and north of and through Gerlach/Empire is only one lane. If traffic is backed up, do not try to bypass it by veering into the other lane.
- Unless you are a customer at any of the businesses in Gerlach or Empire, keep moving through town.
- No general parking allowed throughout Gerlach and Empire and observe the No Parking signs.
- Respect all public and private property.
- No loitering.
- No hitchiking.
- No nudity – you must be fully clothed.
- No drugs.
- As pets are not allowed at Burning Man, you cannot leave them in Gerlach or Empire, so don’t bring them.
- The Gerlach Park is closed during Burning Man.
- Finally, Leave No Trace – do not leave it on the playa, and do not leave your garbage in business or citizens’ dumpsters, in their yards or along the side of the road. Go here for disposal locations in the region, while you’ll also likely see entrepreneurs on the side of the road with dumpsters charging for trash disposal.
If you’re traveling from the south to BRC, you’ll pass through Empire first — and then, 8 miles to the north is Gerlach.
If you’re traveling from the north to BRC, you’ll pass by the western edge of Gerlach.
BRC is 8 miles north of Gerlach. Take State Route 34 north and follow the signs.
Whatever direction you leave from here, be sure you have enough gas.
Finally, Gerlach has two radio stations, both with unique and eclectic music and local information – catch the KLAP at 89.5, and the Friends of Black Rock High Rock KFBR station at 91.5, both on the FM dial.
Groceries, Water, Merchandise and Information
Empire Distributing General Store, Deli and Gas
Mile Marker 69 State Route 447 – 775-557-2311 – map
Open Aug 18-21, 9am-5pm, and Aug 22-25, 8am-midnight. The Gerlach GID (the local governing body of Gerlach) will be selling potable water to fill up RVs and water tanks of any size, with the funds going to support the town of Gerlach. Look out for directional signs just as you enter town on Main Street, the station is located in front of the town’s Community Center. Rates are 50 cents per gallon up to 100 gallons, 45 cents per gallon between 100 and 200 gallons, and 40 cents per gallon for above 200 gallons. 5, 7 and 15-gallon water containers also available (free water with purchase of container). Cash only, but ATM is onsite.
305 Main Street – 775-220-9061 – map
Open throughout Burning Man, and the last place to get stuff before leaving Gerlach to BRC. You can’t miss it, it’s the big white tent! Owned and operated by JB and other burners very supportive of our community, you can get water, beer, ice, coffee, food for sunscreen, lip balm, dust masks, glasses, goggles, hats, all kinds of playa and desert clothing in several styles, hip belts, burkahs, bandannas, fire performance tools, hair extensions and many other goodies for life in BRC. You can also fill your RV or barrels with water.
Friends of Black Rock High Rock
320 Main Street – 775-557-2900 – map
Open Mon-Sun 9am-6pm. Closed Mon August 25 to Sunday August 31 (week of Burning Man). Founded in 1999, the Friends of Black Rock High Rock (FBR) focuses on educating people year-round about the National Conservation Area (NCA) encompassing the Black Rock Desert and High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails and mobilizing them to accomplish “boots on the ground” conservation projects and citizen science projects. You can visit their awesome staff at the office here and to learn more about the NCA — books, guides and other materials are also available. They also have t-shirts and other clothing, hoodies, goggles, hats, sunscreen, foot and hand balms, Black Rock Mud and Gerlach Soaps, protein bars and other snacks, and all proceeds go to support FBR and therefore the NCA. You can also check out and purchase prints and other arts from local artists, donations to FBR are always welcome, and check out their radio station KFBR at 91.5fm for eclectic music and public service announcements.
8100 Highway 40 – 775-442-1919 – map
Restaurant is open daily 6am-8pm, the bar and casino are open until midnight. Home cooking like Mama does it with very hospitable service, Bruno’s is a legend built on family and the American Dream. Established in 1952, the menu includes Bruno’s world-famous raviolis, and there is something for everyone, including vegetarians. You can also get Bruno’s t-shirts, books and cups here. You must be fully clothed.
Bruno’s Country Club
325 Main Street – 775-557-2220 – map
The bar and casino are open until midnight. The most popular saloon in town with lots of hospitality, conversation and beverage choices, and with slots, pool and tv. Fools aren’t really welcome however, so make sure you are fully clothed and mind your manners.
415 Main Street – 775-557-2389 – map
Open 5pm-whenever. Open 24/7 during Burning Man. Meet and talk with some of the most down-to-earth people you’ll meet anywhere, and enjoy some drinks as well. Here you can meet and enjoy company with Bev, who has owned the place since the early 60′s, and who is one of the oldest and most respected bartenders in America. You may even get to meet, be served by, and engage in the most enjoyable conversation with Flash, who knows more about the origins and history of Burning Man but a few. In addition to the drinks, there is also pool and pizza also on the menu. Once you’re in, it’s really hard to leave this place. “It is what it is.”
Joe’s Gerlach Club
385 Main Street – map
Open Tues-Sat 4pm-whenever. Open Sunday also during Burning Man. Another down-to-earth and hospitable place with the only Jukebox in town.
Empire Distributing General Store, Deli and Gas
Mile Marker 69 State Route 447 – 775-557-2311 – //firstname.lastname@example.org,-119.3357879,20z”>map
Owned and operated by Sunny and Gay, two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You can rent monthly or yearly. Ideal for storing your theme or art project materials year-round rather than lugging it all the way home and back to BRC every year. They may have storage units still available, call for information. They do have plenty of outside spaces for trailers. Cannot store RV’s or other motorized vehicles.
Bruno’s Gerlach Storage
Offers shipping container and box van storage only in secure outdoor storage yard. Ideal for storing your theme camp or art project materials containers year-round. Call for further info.
Art & Art Car Support
2001 Highway 34 – 775-557-2804 – map
Bruno’s Motel is pretty much booked up right before, during and after Burning Man, but it’s the town motel to stay in for the rest of the year with apartments and kitchenettes, free wifi, and laundry facility.
Bruno’s Trailer Park
230 West Sunset – 775-557-2220 – map
Typically booked from July to October around Burning Man, but spaces available year-round for the rest of year. Call to check for availability and info.
2001 Highway 34 – 775-557-2804 – Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, Reno News and Review, Reno Gazette-Journal, Reno Magazine, Reno Tahoe Tonight, National Traffic and Road Closure Information, PlayReno, NevadaNet, goTahoe.com, Tahoe.com,Fernleynews.com.