6. Burner Byway
When it comes to road trips, the Silver State has plenty of worthy options. Northwest Nevada’s Burner Byway, however, is special. As the gateway to the annual Burning Man festival in September, this two lane highway starts in Reno and snakes through surreal desert landscapes. The route is dotted with tiny towns and eclectic artistic communities. Long stretches of open road under a blue Nevada sky (hello, perfect Instagram shots) make this an ideal road trip to share with your partner or bestie.

Reno (Photo: D. Birgenheiner via Flickr)
The trip begins in Reno, also known as “The Biggest Little City In The World.” Twenty-two miles from Lake Tahoe, the city of a quarter million is famous for its casinos. Its location at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and proximity to the lake make for picturesque views by day, and a lively party atmosphere by night.

Many a Burning Man sculpture was given life at The Reno Generator. This collaborative art space is best known for their large-scale art pieces at the festival, but art lovers can stop by (and participate) in projects year round. The Generator operates under Burning Man’s Ten Principles, which include radical self-expression and civic responsibility.

What started as a basement operation fixing up old bikes has morphed into a full-fledged cycling community and advocacy group at Reno Bike Project . Don’t forget to bring a bike rack on this road trip—you can snag some sweet wheels for Burning Man (or home) here.

The clothing, accessories and art at Never Ender are created by emerging designers. You’ll find gear for men and women here, all of which have a counterculture vibe.

Some of the art from Burning Man ends up in Reno after the festivities. At Reno Playa Art Park downtown, you can view large-scale outdoor installations year-round. Giant murals, metal sculptures, huge dandelions that double as fireworks, and a translucent chapel are just a few of the works that have been displayed here. When it’s time to settle in for the night, head for The Morris Burner Hostel , a volunteer-run, unique boutique membership art hostel. Thirteen art-themed art rooms go from $10-100/night...if you know the 10 Principles! Otherwise, membership prices range from $20-$1,000 in addition to mentioned room rates.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake (Photo: P. Nouhailler via Flickr)
Moving on, just 30 minutes outside Reno sits Pyramid Lake. The lake, which is named for the pyramidal-shaped island that lies along its eastern shore, is a component of the National Scenic Byways Program, and a totally different experience that touristy Lake Tahoe.

If you have room for fishing poles, bring them: the fishing here is great. Don’t miss the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center , which features exhibits on the tribe's history and culture.


Gerlach, Nevada
Your next stop is Gerlach. The town’s motto is, “Where the pavement ends and the west begins”—fitting, since this is the last place to gas up before heading into the Black Rock Desert. While you’re at it, fill up your bellies, too, at local hangout Bruno’s Country Club. Famous for their ravioli, Bruno’s also features homemade pies and an ice cream machine, the perfect treat on a hot desert day. Bonus: Bruno’s also has WiFi, so send any last emails and text messages now.

Before you head off into the desert—for Burning Man or your own personal adventure—stop by the Friends of Black Rock (320 Main St, Gerlach) office to get acquainted with the area and pick up any last minute supplies. Or, if you’re staying overnight, check out Iveson Ranch , which offers rustic rooms, primitive camping, and RV hookups.

Two miles north of Gerlach is a mile-long, drive through art exhibit known as Guru Road. DeWayne “Doobie” Williams started the project—a tribute to family, friends and local residents—in the late 1970s. Now, words of wisdom line the roadsides and visitors can see exhibits such as a weather station, a tribute to Elvis, Aphrodite and the Desert Broadcast System.

Pottery fans will find their nirvana at Planet X Pottery. The working studio has four show galleries, and each piece is hand painted, inspired by the surrounding desert landscape. These pieces make the perfect memento from your Burner Byway road trip.

by Davina van Buren
Route Details
Reno, NV
Black Rock Desert
205 miles
2-3 days
Recommended Stopovers
  • 1. Reno
  • 2. Pyramid Lake
  • 3. Gerlach
  • 4. Guru Road
  • 5. Planet X Pottery
  • 6. Black Rock Desert