Black Rock is a "dry" lake about 100 miles north of Reno Nevada. It's very empty country, just about the only town nearby is the town of Gerlach.


From Reno:

Take Interstate 80 East from Reno, about 30 miles from Reno take the Wadsworth/Pryamid Lake exit #43. (The last cheap gas is available at the I80 truck stop at this exit.) Take highway 447 north about 75 miles to Gerlach. As you approach the town of Nixon don't take the Pyramid lake exit, instead drive through Nixon and continue north to Gerlach. About 5 miles before you get to Gerlach you will pass through the company town of Empire. (The store by the road here is the only thing locally that can be considered a supermarket. Stop on your way through to buy ice and anything else you forgot.)

BE CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR SPEED when going through all these little towns - they are notorious speed traps. If in doubt of what the speed limit is, just slow down. If you can see homes and buildings near the road then you're most likely in a slower speed zone.

From California:

Take I80 East from the Bay Area through Sacramento to Reno, follow the directions above. Some people from the north (or Oregon) take CA 299 from Alturas to NV 447 to Gerlach.

From Utah and states east:

Take I80 West through Winnemucca and then take the Wadsworth exit, take 447 north (see above).

From the Reno Airport:

Take 395 north to Reno then I80 East.

Finding the Launch Site

The approximate map coordinates are N40 49'45.8" W119 08'21.6" but are subject to change depending on the playa conditions.

How we get to the launch site also changes from launch to launch. Some years one way out is muddy, in other years other ways out are difficult. Check at the Empire Store in Empire or Bruno's 'Casino' in Gerlach where "last minute" direction changes will be posted. Set your trip odometer at Bruno's Country Club and take the road west out of Gerlach. Bear north to the right on to County Route 34 just after leaving town.

There are several gates to the playa. Which one we use will be posted on the instructions in town. As you descend the low hill toward the 11-mile gate, it is likely you will be able to see the launch site across the playa. The 11 and 12-mile gates are quite close together. The road dips down almost to the lakebed level at 12 mile and then heads off inland. If you find yourself leaving the side of the lakebed you have gone too far.

Once we are set up (usually by mid to late afternoon the day prior to the launch) you will find a large white "Launch" sign by the edge of the road and a track across the lake bed marked by cones placed every 0.2 miles out to the launch site. Follow the orange cones across the playa. It is approximately 8 miles on the track to the launch site from the 12-mile gate.

Be careful if you are coming in after dark or in poor visibility conditions. It is advisable to find a quiet spot to wait or even camp for the night rather than getting lost on the playa or risking collision.

When you get to where you can see the launch site encampment, stay on the track with the cones and do not cut the corner and head directly in. The cones are set to bring you in on the downwind side so that you won't cover everyone in a big cloud of dust with your arrival. Keeping our traffic on a single track minimizes our impact on the playa and reduces the amount of lakebed we pulverize. Please be considerate of others when approaching or leaving the launch site. Nobody likes to breathe your dust, slow down to 5mph for the last little run into the camp.

Take care going off of the marked road. Some years the playa becomes a real lake and it doesn't always dry up before we go to use it. Getting towed out of the mud is very expensive. If you do go off on your own to explore, make sure there's someone who knows where you are and can raise the alarm if you don't come back.

The map above is to scale. The lake is about 60 miles long and we only care about the bottom 20 miles or so. It also does not show any shade areas because there aren't any.

The map above is not to scale. However it has a good approximation of where the "roads" are on the lake bed.