Rides with Friends; Exploring Black Rock Country by Bicycle

Four seasons in Black Rock Country can be experienced in a single ride
Rides with Friends; Ride ’til Snack Time!

Riding in the northern Nevada, north of Pyramid Lake, west of Winnemucca is not new for me. In late 2018-2019 I spent the year focused on riding out of Gerlach. Over a dozen visits to Gerlach I touched on riding a fan of routes with radii up to about 60 miles. There is a tail of the National Conservation Area that includes the Applegate-Lassen Emigrant Trail from Rye Patch Reservoir to the Black Rock Desert. I followed the Emigrant Trail to Black Rock Point to see how that would work as a route and then lead an overnight loop from Rye Patch to Sulfur. Black Rock Country is BIG. The routes are long, the exposure is high, but the solitude is epic. After meeting with Friends of Black Rock High Rock in 2020 a plan was born to develop routes people could enjoy on their own or on a hosted social ride.

Iconic towers in High Rock Canyon

In October 2020 FBRHR and I planned a trip through High Rock Canyon. We were looking for a high value, moderately difficult trip, that would have broad appeal. The histories; cultural, geological, and biological, of that route make it 5-star. We were fortunate to have a photographer and journalist to chronicle the ride. We had mountain bikes, gravel bikes, e-bikes, and a tandem. We had Stacey Wittek, the Executive Director of Black Rock High Rock to share her knowledge of the area. We offered limited SAG to carry extra gear/food/water for anyone who did not want to carry everything self-contained. This also meant we were treated to extra good snacks and meals at Steven’s Camp. Ultimately we demonstrated the potential for a stewardship organization to host a bikepacking overnight in order to fulfill their vision of Inspire, Connect, Protect.

Ray learning more at the BLM Visitors Center after riding the length of Smoke Creek Desert to Gerlach, Inspire
Noah and Marc on the edge Black Rock Hot Springs, Connect
Meg collecting the bounty on mylar balloons, Protect

Moving forward, it was suggested for 2021 we have another 5-star route in October to make it an annual thing. No problem, the Black Rock Hot Springs Route fit the bill. I had hosted a couple other rides leading up to this as well. If you put Hot Springs in a route name it automatically gains a couple extra stars. This route crosses the Black Rock Desert, visits 3 prominent hot springs and passes several more obscure, follows the Emigrant Trail, and has stories of murder, mischief, and mayhem. This ride had 10 riders, several of them new to me, new to Black Rock Country, and new to bikepacking. Everyone gave outstanding feedback. Rides with Friends was becoming a thing.

Looking across the Black Rock Desert

Going into 2022 the goal was to expand non-motorized recreation in the NCA. My part was to offer regular rides, overnights or day rides, from April to November. This became 6 rides from April through October. Routes were curated from my past rides. I have a list of a dozen or so that I will host and expand over the next few years. From there, the best-of will be made available for self-guided tours as well. The rides, dates, and sign-ups are posted on the Friends’ website. While the rides are free, donations or memberships are encouraged. My big hope is people will share their enthusiasm for the area, bring others, explore on their own, volunteer for site stewardship, and protect this land for future generations.

Marc climbing the Lava Beds, photo Nick Jensen

We are half way into the 2022 season. Ride #1 was a loop around the Lava Beds area south of Trego Hot Springs. We camped by Elephant Rock and were treated to a fast moving snow storm. Ride #2 was a 1/2 day loop between the Black Rock Desert and Hualapai Flat just south of the Calico Hills. This was a part of the Black Rock Rendezvous, the “open house” to celebrate the many groups that care for the Black Rock Desert. Ride #3 was a loop around the Calico Mountain Wilderness (post coming very soon). We crossed the Calico Mountains on a road that forms the boundary between the High Rock Lake Wilderness and the Calico Mountains Wilderness.

Nothing like being touched by the sunrise on the Black Rock Desert

What lies ahead? Ride #4, August 13, will be riding out to the Perseids Meteor Shower Campout. The Campout is a time to watch the skies and participate in a night time ride. Ride #5, October 1-2, will be riding a loop around the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. The northern portion of this route is a road that forms the boundary between the High Rock Canyon Wilderness and the Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness. Ride #6, October 29-30, will be our annual grand trip, this time through Fly Canyon following the Emigrant Trail. Details and sign-ups are on the Friends’ website.

Sunset from Seven Troughs Range

This program is in its first year. By the end of 3 years I hope Black Rock Country will be a destination for bikepacking. There will be dozens of 5-star routes in the 1-5 day range. The routes will be available for self-guided tours but I hope they can also serve as inspiration for new routes through the area. This program will serve as a model for other organizations or communities that want to expand non-motorized recreation and eco/stewardship-based tourism. I encourage everyone to join in on a trip and if I can answer any questions please reach out.

Let Black Rock Country be your Designated Route

5 thoughts on “Rides with Friends; Exploring Black Rock Country by Bicycle

  1. Karleena

    This is SO inspiring! Even someone who doesn’t hop on a bike very often could do parts of these trips and get an amazing experience with landscapes like the ones in your pictures. Cheers and keep on riding/writing!

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