While it’s been said “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” at Burning Man, we think it’s a little of both.
Here’s info about all the different ways to get to Black Rock City, the home of Burning Man, as well as important information about traffic to and from the event, helpful resources in nearby towns, and entertaining attractions along the way.
Avoid the Traffic!
As we have 60,000+ participants traveling to and from Black Rock City along a two-lane rural highway every year, traffic (and avoiding it) can be a significant part of the Burning Man experience. Learn how to beat the traffic to and from Black Rock City.
Driving to Black Rock City
- From the East (starting in New York City)
Driving to Burning Man from across the country…
If you’re crossing the United States to Burning Man, you’re likely traveling on Interstate 80 or Highway 50 when you hit Nevada, the seventh largest state and home to Burning Man. If you’re traveling from due east, you’ll be traveling on I-80; from the southeast, on Hwy 50. On either road it’s approximately 450 miles from the Utah border to BRC.
Indeed, one of the best ways to experience Nevada is driving across the state along either road. Known alternately as “Big Sky Country” or “The Great Basin”, you’ve never seen so many different mountain ranges, each separated by immense valleys, along a very, very long straight road dotted all so rarely by small towns and occasional ruins.
One could say every journey to BRC is filled with excitement, apprehensiveness, and attractions. But driving across Nevada can prepare you for the best burn ever.
You can get a hint of what it was like for every traveler coming from the east searching for a new home and making the Wild West. It seems you could stop just about anywhere with so much land, and stop for good — but the vast majority of people just can’t survive, let alone thrive, for long. The elements and temperature are extreme, the land relatively barren, and resources for the average person are non-existent between each town. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is not a bad metaphor here. The strength gathered simply from driving this long and lonely stretch can make for a better week on the playa at Burning Man. Just be prepared before setting off, making sure you have enough gas and supplies and your vehicle is 100%.
And take it easy.
With very minimal emblems of living civilization in this apparently vast desert void, on a certain level it’s simply easier to not be distracted and burdened with externals. If you don’t stop and just wander off on foot into the desert where no person has stepped before (or at least for a very long time), your mind can simply wander in awe with the vastness. You may find your self more easily, and you may come to better cope if anything has been bothering you. You may also catch glimpses of forever, and may be struck by the raw, stark beauty of the “high desert” you’ve never ever imagined anywhere. On the other hand, you’ll need to be rested and keep your attention along either the long road of I-80 or Hwy 50. If you are tired or not centered, you should probably pull over and take a rest — there are plenty of places to stop. You will remain alive and alert as a result. Indeed, accomplishing this last leg of the journey, across Nevada, may very well make you more alive than ever for life in BRC.
Directions to BRC
Whether you’re traveling along I-80 or Hwy 50, you will want to head to Fernley. Once in Fernley, take Exit #46. You can get gas here. Head north on Hwy 445 for one mile. you’re now in Wadsworth of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Turn right on Hwy 447 and head north. 76 miles to Gerlach, and then another 10 miles north on State Route 34 to Burning Man.
There are also places to get gas and supplies along either I-80 or Hwy 50. Indeed, in order to save on gas and weight on your vehicle, many burners have figured out it may be best to get most if not all of your essential supplies in the few remaining towns nearer to BRC.
Along I-80, Lovelock has plenty of gas, lodging and other supplies options. Or, if you’re coming up on Hwy 50, you can stop in Fallon. And along either road, you can also stop in Fernley before heading north for the final 100 mile stretch to BRC. Also, all three of these towns are still struggling after the Great Recession of 2008-2012, so they sure do value your support. Just please remember that these are relatively conservative communities, and you should conduct yourself appropriately, respecting properties, local laws and customs, and driving the speed limit and being fully clothed.
Finally, as always: On the exodus from BRC, please remember to LEAVE NO TRACE. There are ample trash and recycling locations to be found after leaving BRC. Do not deposit your waste at rest areas, behind convenience stores, or at a home – the future of Burning Man depends on it!
- From the Pacific Northwestby email@example.com
How to get to Burning Man from British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, even Northern California!
Welcome to the northern route directions! If you are going to Burning Man and live in Oregon, Washington or British Columbia, these directions offer the best route and tips for driving from your home to Black Rock City. These directions will take you from Eugene, OR to Black Rock City, NV.
While we would love to offer custom directions to get you from your doorstep to Black Rock City, the person that writes the directions (ME!) is too stinking lazy. So instead of investing in a custom-designed mapping engine, we have invested in a six-pack of root beer and laid out the directions as best as we could remember. Then we augmented our research by scanning the Yellow Pages and bothering friends for more information. The end result is a treasure trove of misinformation neatly organized and constantly updated. It also offers a newer, faster route that takes people past a really neat hot spring. Why aren’t we telling you about that one? Face it, we are trying to guarantee we have a camping spot.
We would be darned surprised if you didn’t have better things to do than to read through the information on the arf site, so we have summarized the more useful information right here for easy access.
Although the directions make perfect sense to me, perhaps we should explain how they are laid out. Each segment is broken down as travel between destination spots and the approximate mileage between the landmarks along the way. This is to give better details on your progress and to give the navigator who was appointed to the job simply because he yelled, “shotgun” something to do besides sticking their hand out the window and waving it up and down in the wind. Just be happy they are not yelling obnoxious comments like, “MOO!” to any cows you pass. Feel free to print out several copies and take them with you. That way, you have more copies to lose.
Oh, by the way, before we start, can we suggest that you place your tickets for Burning Man in an envelope, then securely tape your tickets to the inside of your glove box? This lessens the chance that you will leave them in a truck stop bathroom or on the kitchen counter at home.
We break out the journey from each point in mileage and the approximate time it should take to legally drive from point A to point B. Your actual time may vary depending on your lead foot or your lead ass. For instance, we list that our starting point Eugene, Oregon is 168 miles from Klamath Falls, Oregon. We estimate it will take you 4 hours of normal driving time. This assumes you didn’t get stuck behind a herd of semi trucks crawling from Oakridge to the top of the pass at 10 mph. We also break out the distance between certain landmarks and add in interesting points along the way. Actually calling some of these places towns may be giving them a little more justice than they deserve. Some have nothing more than a post office and a few abandoned stores. The only place we can safely say has services such as gas stations and stores are the towns that we identify. Otherwise, you may see an open gas station on the road or you may not.
The Starting Point
Our starting point is Eugene, Oregon. If you are coming from Seattle, it should take you 5 hours. If coming from Vancouver, BC, it should take 9 hours, minus border hassles. If you are coming from Spokane, WA or Bend, OR, pick up the route where you feel it works for you. Are you ready? Here we go!
Eugene to Klamath Falls, Oregon
Distance: 168 mi.
Driving time: 4 hours
From Eugene you will pass through the Willamette National Forest with breathtaking views and wonderful Douglas Firs. This is the last time on the journey you will see trees like this. From here on out the land becomes more arid as you go.
Just south of Eugene, take exit #188A to OR-58 (Willamette HWY) towards Oakridge/Klamath Falls. Keep going left at the fork in the ramp.
Take OR-58 to US-97 (86 mi total).
You will pass through Goshen (6.6 mi).
You will pass through Pleasant Hill (4 mi).
You will pass through Trent (4 mi).
You will pass through Minnow (7.2 mi).
You will pass through Crale (5.7 mi).
You will pass through Hampton (4 mi).
You will pass through Willamette City (9.5 mi).
You will pass through Oakridge (1.4 mi).
Note: This is the last town of any size until Klamath Falls.
Note: Kitson Hot Springs is 4.6 mi away down Kitson Springs Rd.
You will pass through McCredie Springs (10 mi – 18 min).
You will cross the Willamette Pass (5,128 ft).
You will pass Crescent Lake.
You will pass through Crescent Lake Junction (24 mi – 42 min).
You will reach US-97. Turn slightly right and head south for Klamath Falls (16.7 mi).
Note: If you need gas or food, La Pine is 28 mi north on US-97.
Take US-97 to Klamath Falls (78 mi total).
You will pass through Chemult (11 mi).
You will pass thorough Beaver Marsh (18 mi).
You will pass by Modoc Point (50 mi).
At Modoc, you will follow the shoes of Upper Klamath Lake into Klamath Falls (20 mi).
You will pass through Algoma (21 mi).
Welcome to Klamath Falls.
Klamath Falls to Alturas, CA
Distance: 100 mi.
Driving time: 2.5 hours
You have to weave through Klamath Falls before you head off to Merrill, then on to California. It is approximately 24 mi to the border. The entire town closes down at 11:00 PM. There is not a single grocery store open until 7:00 AM. The only thing open late is a Denny’s located next to the Safeway.
Stay straight to go onto KIT CARSON WAY. (2 mi).
Stay straight to go onto OR-39 (5 mi).
Turn SLIGHT LEFT onto KLAMATH FALLS LAKEVIEW HWY (0.2 mi).
KLAMATH FALLS LAKEVIEW HWY becomes OR-39.
You will pass through Merrill, OR (12 mi – 30 min).
In California, OR-39 becomes CA-139. Head south to CA-299 (56 mi total).
You will pass through Tule Lake (8 mi – 15 min).
You will pass through Newell (7 mi – 14 min).
You will pass by Copic (2 mi).
You pass through a California Agricultural Station (think of it as a border crossing). You will be asked pointed questions about certain fruits and vegetables you might be carrying (12 mi).
You will pass by Perez (2.6 mi).
You will pass through Ambrose (20 mi).
Continue to the intersection of CA-139 and CA-299 (8 mi).
Take a left at CA-299 and head East to Alturas, CA (19 mi).
Just past the interchange, you will pass through Canby (1 mi).
Welcome to Alturas, CA.
Alturas, CA to Cedarville, CA
Distance: 23 mi.
Driving time: 32 minutes
After leaving Alturas, there is nothing in the way of services until Cedarville. The Cedarville Pass is 6,305 ft and from the top of the pass to Cedarville is very steep and windy road. If you ride your brakes, they can easily overheat and catch fire. Also, beware of cows that congregate on the roadway halfway down. No, I am not kidding.
CA-299 becomes US-395 outside of Alturas. I think right at Main Street.
Continue past the California Agricultural Station to the turn off for CA-299 to Cedarville (6 mi).
Take CA-299 to Cedarville. Along the way you cross the Cedar Pass (6,305 ft) (17 mi).
Welcome to Cedarville, CA. Here you’ll find gas, food and groceries. See our Cedarville information page for a full listing of businesses.
Cedarville, CA to Gerlach, NV
Distance: 83 mi.
Driving time: 2.5 hours
This is the most desolate stretch of the journey. The only business along the way between Cedarville and Gerlach is Planet X Potter a few miles outside of Gerlach. There are almost no houses and I do not know if the ones along the route are occupied or not.
Turn right at the gas station (after gassing up) and continue south to Gerlach on CA-447 (82 mi).
The road is actually called Surprise Valley RD.
You will pass through Eagleville (15 mi – 26 min).
In the distance to the left, you will see Middle Alkali and Lower Alkali Lake.
The color of the road completely changes. Welcome to Nevada (8 mi – 15 min).
You will notice the lack of anything except hills and scrub bushes.
You pass Planet X Pottery (50 mi – 1 hour 30 min).
You arrive in Gerlach (10 mi – 15 min).
Gerlach, to Burning Man
Distance: 11 mi.
Driving time: 20 minutes
We can’t emphasize this enough, when in Gerlach and the surrounding suburbs, drive below the speed limit. You will see more police officers in Gerlach than you saw during your entire journey. They have no problem writing tickets for any offense. However, it has been our experience that the officers will treat you with the same amount of respect that you show them. So our advice is to be courteous to the locals and participants alike. Remember, anything you do reflects on the event as a whole.
Head north from Gerlach to the fork in the road (1 mi).
Veer right and continue on NV-34 (11 mi).
On the right side of the road you should see the entrance of the event. Follow the signs posted by Burning Man staff to conclude the journey. There will be directions on how to get to the event from here. Follow the posted signs, drive below the speed limit and if you for some reason cannot find your way, stop at a bar and ask for directions. I highly recommend that you top off your tank before heading out to the event.
- From the North (starting in Canada)by Blackstrap Jack
Why is Burning Man so popular amongst Canadians? The theories are many-kinship with dust, higher national creativity average, the promise of warmth-but none of them really have much to do with the subject at hand. The thing is, every year more and more Canadians travel to Black Rock City, and there’s one particular aspect of our experience which American Burners won’t have to participate in… you guessed it, the border crossing!
Nothing against the nice Customs officials who work so hard to keep America safe from our socialized medicine, shockingly low dollar and poutine, but no one likes crossing the border. Personally, I do everything but slap a Jesus sticker on my window to get through without worry-and I’m not even doing anything wrong. Then there’s the drive. “Oooh, wah, San Francisco’s 10 hours away!” Try 20 or 30 hours, baby, across vast mountainous terrain, international boundaries and some pretty peculiar customs (did you know you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon? It’s a fact!). With that in mind, we’ve put together a short list of do’s and don’t’s to help better facilitate the Canadian experience of getting to Burning Man.
Wear nice clothes when crossing the border. Think picnic with mom and dad; think “Nothing suspicious here, officer”. Think about waiting ’til you’re in Washington to dye your hair blue; think about removing a few of those facial piercings, just for the drive down. Remember, you can be denied entry for no particular reason-why make it any easier for them to just say no? A clean face (guys, shave!), clear eyes and a casual smile will go a long way toward hearing those six magic words: “You have a good day now.”
Don’t even think about carrying across the line. Remember, Burning Man observes all state and federal laws, especially those dealing with certain substances that shall remain nameless on this page. No matter the proximity to Canada, no matter the shared geography or dangerously similar cultural signifiers, never forget that you are travelling to a foreign country. Watch Midnight Express before you pack. Vacuum your car before you travel-especially if you’re borrowing a vehicle. Clean out the ashtrays, look under the seats, dig behind the cushions. Wipe down the windows, even if you don’t smoke. It may seem like a lot of work for no particular reason, but look on the bright side: you’ll be showroom fresh for that long drive south.
Pick an alternate route. Unless you’re in one of those real hard hurries where you have to drive straight through from Vancouver, Calgary or Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, why subject yourself to that grey, concrete highway rush? Okay, if you’re coming from anywhere on the west coast of B.C., it only makes sense to take the I-5 through Washington, but there’s a few nice choices once you hit Oregon. Split east at Salem (Highway 22) or Albany (Highway 20) and travel the lava fields through Bend; the roads are smooth and empty and very relaxing. At Bend, take highway 97 south to La Pine (nice state park in La Pine), then either keep going straight on through to Klamath Falls for last- minute shopping (for car parts, Schuck’s is very helpful and it’s right on the highway) or skip it and take Highway 31 direct to Alturas-the only logical route to Black Rock City for northwestern travelers. At Alturas, you want to grab 299 to Cedarville, but in between the two you pass through Modoc National Forest, which has a very nice campsite (it’s FREE!) that usually fills with Burners on Sunday before the event starts; it’s a great place to catch your breath and make some pre-playa friends. After Cedarville, take the 447 to Gerlach and you’re home free!
If you’re coming from Alberta, try taking the Highway 12 across the Rockies from Missoula, Montana into Idaho, then heading south. You’ll travel some pretty impressive country and save some time. As for Ontario, well, that’s just too damn far away-find your own way down. Your regional contact [link to BRCYR: regional contacts] might have some suggestions about travel from your area, too.
Don’t tell the Customs official that you’re going to Burning Man, unless he specifically asks. Do tell the truth (“We’re going camping!”), but when asked where, build it into a list (“Oh, Washington, Oregon, California,maybe Nevada”). Unless you’re taking down either an installation or an art car, make sure there’s nothing too obvious lying around to tip your hand (a giant teapot, jars of body paint, a Burning Man Survival Guide on the dash): remember, the fewer questions, the better. If pushed, tell them even more of the truth (“We’re hoping to reach Black Rock City, Nevada”). Be sure to mention “Nevada:” it invokes the secret gambling vibe, which Customs officials understand, and like. Okay, if it comes right down to it, admit you’re going to Burning Man, but whatever you do, don’t make it sound like you’re performing there. You may (like the Vancouver-based DJ’s in 1999) be denied entry because you don’t have a work permit to cover your “performance.” In the event this happens, don’t cause a fuss; just get back in your car, turn around, and try a different border crossing. And never, ever, show them your ticket. It may just vanish. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Know your passengers! If carpooling, make sure your fellow travelers have no skeletons in their closets. If they do, and U.S. Customs finds out, you’ll be forevermore painted with the same brush on ALL subsequent visits. People have been refused entry for things like having an impaired driving conviction or a shoplifting offense. Also, if you just met your fellow travelers, learn a little about each other and make sure you have a story ready about how you all met (they have been known to ask).
Importing multiple items for gifting, such as t-shirts, stickers, sew-on crests or hockey sticks, can be problematic. Customs simply cannot accept that fact that people give things away for free. Better alternatives are mailing the items to an American friend before the event, or spreading the bounty over several vehicles and then converging on the playa. Also, when travelling through Montana or Idaho, it’s a good idea to refrain from flying your “freak flag high” until you’re a little closer to Black Rock City (like, Gerlach). Both states, though friendly, are fairly conservative: the better you blend into the blacktop, the smoother your trip will be.
Make sure the vehicle in which you’re travelling is in good condition. Whether you’re heading out of Vancouver, coming in from Alberta or doing the high plains drifter from Ontario, Black Rock City is a long way from anywhere in Canada, and our old dollar ain’t what it used to be. Vehicle repairs are expensive anywhere in the States, so give it a once-over before you leave and carry a basic emergency kit for your vehicle: flat tire inflater, radiator stop-leak, jumper cables, extra fuses, coolant, oil, pantyhose (for the fan belt), bungee cords (for anything else), and, most importantly, a CAA card. The card, and change for the phone, will get you AAA service wherever you break down-even in Klamath Falls.
If, like a lot of us, you decide to borrow a camper (motorhome, tent-trailer) from your parents (in-laws, homies) to make your Black Rock City experience less… dusty, don’t forget to get something on paper from the owner saying that you have their permission to take this vehicle across the border. Just a letter to that effect, with a phone number where they can be reached around the time you’d be hitting the border. (“Dad, just make sure you’re home around noon, okay? That’s right, Burning Man. I know. I will. Blue. With flippers, yeah. I’ll try, you know, but sometimes it’s hard to find someone with a camera.” ) It’s a little thing, but it works every time. Remember, Americans think we’re unceasingly honest and polite. Work that cultural stereotype!
Don’t say to yourself, “Oh, I’m going to the desert. It’ll be hot. I won’t be needing these winter clothes.” IT’S A LIE! Black Rock is a high-altitude desert and it gets really, really cold there (especially when the wind blows, which is often). This is the one aspect of Burning Man that Canadians do better than their American cousins: we know how to handle cold. Who danced their way through that unexpected 3 a.m. snow flurry in 2000? Canadians. Who have the best looking mukluks on the playa? Canadians. Who already own flame-topped toques? Yup, Canadians. Pack for a saucy night on the slopes, as well as a daring day at the beach, and you’ll be just fine.
Play up your cultural differences on the playa. Flying a Canadian flag is fine, but it’s far more exotic is to pepper your conversation with references to French (even if you’re not fluent, slipping a “Oui” will make you seem oh-so-chic; and don’t forget that old 70s fallback: “Voulez vous couchez avec moi, c’est soir?” ), the metric system (guys, why settle for 8 inches when you can have a whopping 20 centimetres?), and obscure Canadian cultural references (“Larry Harvey? I think Atom Egoyan’s making a movie about him.” or “Hey, did you catch the Gigsville reference in that new Rheostatics cut?” ). And remember, porridge is your friend in the desert: it’s fast, easy to chew (think sore jaws) and the perfect quick meal anytime of the day.
Don’t say “eh.” It’s bad enough that many of us actually use it, but for god’s sake, don’t make it any worse by perpetuating that particular stereotype!
Leave your suspicions at home. Americans are quite nice in their own country, and as long as you’re not doing anything to upset them-or make them shoot-you’ll probably meet a lot of really nice people. If you’re traveling off the interstate, smaller towns are more than happy to have you stop and support their businesses. Just observe the posted speed limit at all times-and remember, it’s in miles, not kilometres (“But officer, I was only doing 100.”)
Don’t let any of this bother you. Hundreds of us travel yearly to Black Rock City from all across Canada with no more problems than you’d expect on any long-distance drive (flat tires, bad music, grumpy passengers). Keep a positive attitude, think happy thoughts, and, before you know it, you’ll be choking on playa dust as you creep into Black Rock City-just like everybody else.
- From the South (starting in LA)by Cap’n Shady
Before you head off to Burning Man, you should sit down with a map and look at where you are going just to familiarize yourself with the different routes that are available. Depending on the time of day you leave Los Angeles, the type of vehicle you are driving and the amount of stuff you’ll need to purchase on the way, there are pros and cons to each route. You should consider all of these options, but make your decision on which route to take right at the moment you get in your vehicle.
In all honesty, you should take out a map and discover your own way to go. If you are driving all the way to Black Rock City from places near Los Angeles, you already have a hell of a drive ahead of you. Burning Man itself is such an incredible experience that you might as well go ahead and make the damn drive interesting. Regardless of the route, you are still looking at over ten hours of driving. Below I’ve outlined three different options for you:
Interstate 5 North to Sacramento
Interstate 80 East to Reno, Nevada
From Reno, take the 80 east for approximately 30 miles.
Take the Wadsworth/Pyramid Lake exit #43 to Hwy 447.
Go north 1 mile to Wadsworth and turn left, staying on Hwy 447 for 75 miles to Empire
Continue 3 miles on Hwy 447 to Gerlach.
This route is primarily reserved for RV enthusiasts, truck drivers and tourists who depend on corporate owned and operated chain restaurants and hotels to get them across the country without incident. This is, by far, the most lackluster approach to Burning Man one could make. Just when you think this ride has sunk as low into the suck-pit as it possibly could, you drive by a gargantuan cattle ranch that, day or night, has such an overwhelming funk to it that you can smell it for miles before and after you drive by it. Interstate 5 just sucks, plain and simple. The only improvement comes when you finally get on I-80 and head into the Sierra Nevada mountains and see some wilderness, great views and, of course, the site of the infamous Donner party.
The biggest advantage of this route is that if you are trying to make decent time in getting to or from Burning Man, you can speed like crazy. Granted, there are cops, but that’s a chance you’ll have to take if you want to speed to Burning Man in the first place, isn’t it? The only legitimate reason for taking this route is if you are leaving Los Angeles close to dusk. Interstate 5 has way more 24-hour resources available to you than any other route and hell, it’s dark, so it’s not like you’ll be doing any sightseeing. The I-5 portion of the route is straight and flat and relatively safe – going through the mountains from Sacramento to Reno is a bit trickier. Be very careful! If you still need to purchase the bulk of your Burning Man supplies, this route is littered with Walmarts and Big K’s and everything else you could want to find all your groceries, camping equipment and ice needs.
If you can, though, prepare in advance and leave in the early morning so that you can avoid this route at all costs. You have set off on a journey to the most avante-garde arts event in the world, why go normal? Get weird from the get-go and go a weird way. Discover that desolation out there before it turns into urban sprawl, already!
Route 14 North to Suburbia
Route 395 North to Reno, Nevada
From Reno, take the 80 east for approximately 30 miles.
Take the Wadsworth/Pyramid Lake exit #43 to Hwy 447.
Go north 1 mile to Wadsworth and turn left, staying on Hwy 447 for 75 miles to Empire
Continue 3 miles on Hwy 447 to Gerlach.
This is a fantastic way to get to Burning Man if you want to go off the main roads, but not too far off. This is a great drive through the Mojave Desert and when you get into the Sierra Nevada mountains it becomes simply incredible, with breathtaking views all around. You are often in places quite rural and remote but there are still plenty of services and supermarkets and restaurants to keep you from going into convulsions or heavy breathing. This route requires a bit more planning: make sure you keep your tank full. This route takes you through the now-destroyed Owens Valley, destroyed because Los Angeles stole all its water.
One of my most favorite places to stop along the way is the Still Life Café, (which has now moved to Independence, CA). You will find an absolutely incredible, gourmet French restaurant that is literally in the middle of nowhere. There is a gas station across the street and a Jerky stand right next to it, but beyond that, you are at the base of great mountains, surrounded by incredibly beautiful desert and about to enjoy one of the best meals you could ever ask for. Many Burning Man people have stopped and eaten here before. Some have had to wait over two hours for their meal during the busy ski season, but my experience after Burning Man last year was just unbelievable. I stopped there for dinner just as the sun was setting behind the mountain. A meal with great food, wine and a beautiful sunset is one of the better ways you can reintroduce yourself to society. Do yourself a favor, though, and call ahead. The Still Life Café has strange hours and there’s not much else nearby it to provide a meal (except the never-ending stream of Beef Jerky stands) if it is closed.
Outside Bishop near Independence, you will find a must-see attraction: the site of the Manzanar Relocation Center, one of the many Japanese-American internment camps (code for concentration camp) that dotted the West during World War II. Once you get out of your vehicle, there is a downright inhospitable spirit that haunts you. Simply put, this place humbles you. During World War II there were, at one time, over 10,000 Japanese Americans interned here. All that is left today is a few buildings and the foundations. After the war, the U.S. government sold all the buildings and hauled off all the lumber, most likely to try to erase the fact that this place ever existed. There are leaflets available for a self-guided tour of the facility. This location represents one of the darkest times in American history and shouldn’t go unnoticed. This is an absolute requirement if you are on the 395 route. You will not leave this place the way you were when you arrived (I do, however, recommend going before Burning Man, not after, for obvious reasons).
Once you get near Mono Lake you’ll pass through Lee Vining and Nicely’s, a fantastic place with great pie (their menu has something for everyone). I specifically recommend this if you are on your way back from Burning Man, because nothing soothes the soul after departing from Black Rock City better than some fetching pie. Mmmm, pie.
In Bridgeport, you can stop at the Bridgeport Reservoir RV Park & Marina for a spell … the proprietor, Jeffrey, will be happy to welcome you. He also offers horse boarding, should the need arise. Also, stop by the Jolly Kone there in Bridgeport … Lynda will help you out with an ice cream to cool down, a burger to fill up, and potties to relieve yourself.
There are also some excellent hot springs in the Mono Lake area, but I’m going to let you discover those for yourself!
Route 395 North to Bishop
US-6 North to Basalt
NV-360 to Tonopah Junction
US-95 North to Schurz
alt-US-95 North to Silver Springs, and onward to Fernley
under I-80, alt-95 becomes NV-427, which connects to 447 at Wadsworth.
This is for those who like things rural, desolate and relatively unspoiled by man. I have not taken this route personally, so I can’t vouch for any of the information. I can vouch for the person who gave it to me, Nobody of Gigsville, but he can be a shifty fellow, and… This route requires that you stop at any gas station you see just so you never, EVER run out of gas. It doesn’t have much in way of traditional tourist kinda crap, but it does offer the Benton Hot Springs. There are Indian tobacco shops in Schurz, plus some strange-ass Naval submarine research facilities (in the middle of the desert?) on this route.
This route doesn’t really have the steep inclines and declines of the 395 or Interstate 80 through the Sierra Nevada mountains. It would probably be the better route to take if your vehicle can’t take steep inclines. But remember to gas up whenever you can! This is truly remote and there are very few cars on these roads even during peak hours, so engine problems and the like could prove to be quite dangerous.
All in all, there’s amazing and spooky landscape and military facilities to see and lots and lots of empty highway. You can do grocery shopping and the like in Yerington or Fernley, though it’s nowhere near as extensive as Reno. Piper’s Casino in Silver Springs is managed by a Gigsvillian, Camp Skynyrd’s own Cuzzin Joshua. Stop in and have a drink with him and put a few quarters in the slot machine.
These are just a few locations and routes that are available to you. There are many amazing places to explore and check out while on your way from Los Angeles to Black Rock City. I encourage you to find your own way there. It will, at least, give you something to talk about when you get to Black Rock City, or back to Los Angeles.
- From Reno (the closest large city)There are two routes:
Route 1 – From Reno, Nevada, take Hwy I-80 east 28 miles. Take the Wadsworth / Pyramid Lake Exit #43. You can get gas here. Then, go north one mile to Wadsworth and turn left, staying on Hwy 447. It’s 78 miles to Gerlach, and then 8 miles north on State Route 34 to BRC.
Route 2 – From Reno, take Hwy I-80 east 4 miles. Take Pyramid Way Exit #18 to Hwy 445. Turn left and travel north 31 miles. At Pyramid Lake, turn right on Hwy 446 and go east 12 miles to Nixon. You can get gas here. Turn left on Hwy 447, traveling north. 54 miles to Gerlach, and then 8 miles north on State Route 34 to BRC.
State highways leading to Gerlach (the closest settlement to Black Rock City) and all other roads in the area are patrolled by the Nevada Highway Patrol. 25 MPH, as posted in nearby towns, means exactly that. Local kids and pets play in the road — be careful! Outside of town, be prepared to share the road with livestock and wildlife. Most vehicle accidents in which participants are injured occur on highways 447 and 34 on the final approach to Black Rock City. It is sadly ironic that people have often made it across the country only to have a serious injury in the last few miles. Please be cautious! Tired? Then stop to rest — especially at night! Be alert for cattle, deer and jackrabbits that will dart into the road in front of you — again, especially at night. Stop and look carefully at all train crossings. Estimating the speed of trains is misleading in the broad desert expanse. Always wait for any oncoming train to pass before crossing railroad tracks. And remember to conduct yourself appropriately (keep your clothes on) in neighboring towns, and LEAVE NO TRACE depositing your trash and recycling only at appropriate locations!
- The GPS coordinates for Black Rock City are: 40°45’13.83″N, 119°16’37.20″W.
- Coordinate a ride sharing connection through the Burning Man Rideshare board.
Shuttle Bus Services
- Burner Express shuttle buses take passengers from San Francisco and Reno to/from BRC! (Questions? See the FAQ)
Flying into Reno and Black Rock City
Travel safe – and see you on the playa!