The One Driving Secret Burning Man Organizers Don’t Want You to Know

Just kidding! We do want you to know it. This year the Gate opens at 12:01 am Sunday, August 25 to encourage Burners to enter during off-peak travel times. The event still officially starts at 6 pm Sunday, August 25, and ends at 6 pm Monday, September 2. Use the earlier arrival time as an opportunity to set up your camp infrastructure during the day.

Approximately 50,000 participants enter the event on Sunday and Monday. Traffic on Highway 447 is heaviest from 11 am through midnight. The best time to drive Highway 447 is between 2 am and 10 am on Sunday and Monday. If Highway 447 is backed up, consider waiting in Reno or Sparks or camping at Pyramid Lake (permit required).

Traffic Updates — Every Hour on the Hour

Want to know what the traffic situation is on Highway 447 or the wait time at the Gate? Beginning Friday, August 23, we will begin broadcasting hourly traffic reports on BMIR 94.5 at the top of the hour. BMIR will be streaming via iHeartRadio again this year. You want more? We’ll also be providing real-time traffic updates via Twitter at @BManTraffic. BMIR and GARS 95.1 will report Exodus wait times and highway traffic reports from Saturday, August 31, through Tuesday, September 3.

Vehicle Maintenance

There are several things to keep in mind when preparing your vehicle. You are traveling to the Nevada desert in August, where temperatures can reach 100°F during the day. Your vehicle is going to be loaded with extra weight. Check your vehicle’s tires and air pressure after loading your vehicle. Have your local mechanic inspect your radiator, tires (including your spare), belts, brakes, hoses, lights and fluids.

Renting a Vehicle? Get to Know it Before Heading Out

If you’re renting a car, RV or panel van, take the time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s lighting and wastewater systems. RVs and cargo vans (and anything pulling a trailer) typically have multiple switches for headlights, running lights, marker lights and pigtails for trailers. Check them regularly during your travels. Knowing how to operate them can save you from being pulled over by law enforcement unnecessarily. You’ll also want to make sure your license plates are not obstructed from view. It is illegal to leak greywater, blackwater, or vehicle fluids onto the playa surface.

Load Your Vehicle Safely!

Loading your vehicle properly, whether it is a car, truck, trailer, motorhome, or anything towed, will make your trip safer and less stressful. Apply some simple precautions to ensure safety.

  • Never exceed the load capacity or the towing capacity of a vehicle or trailer.
  • Heavy items should be located low, centered, and over or between the axles. For trailers, load the heaviest items toward the front. Secure your load with straps or rope.
  • Cover your load with a tarp whenever possible.
  • Make sure the brakes and lights work on your vehicle and any trailer you’re towing
  • Always use safety chains, installed between your trailer and the tow vehicle.
  • Do not overload the roof or roof rack on your vehicle. Items may fall off. An extraordinary number of trash bags are found along the roadside due to poorly secured loads.

Travel Tips & Reminders

Many motorists travel on Interstate 80 until they reach the Wadsworth exit. The roadway from Wadsworth to the playa (Highway 447) is very different from I-80. I-80 is designed to accommodate several thousand vehicles per hour. Highway 447 is a two-lane road with narrow dirt shoulders that drop off steeply in places, no rest areas and very few pull outs. Highway 447 has many blind curves, grades, open range areas, and soft sand roadway shoulders. Pay attention and obey all traffic laws. Please respect the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe while driving through their land.

  • Highway 447 is open range area. There are no fences bordering the roadway and cattle roam freely. After dark, cattle are often drawn to the road to soak up warmth radiating from the asphalt. Cows can cost more than $2,000. If you hit one, you or your insurance company will be held responsible. Be prepared to share the road with livestock and wildlife.
  • There are jackrabbits in the area. It is not worth jeopardizing your safety to swerve in an attempt to avoid them.
  • If you do need to pull over, look for a wide open area that doesn’t have steep shoulders bordering the highway. This will reduce the potential for getting stuck in the soft sand shoulder (this happens a lot!).
  • Avoid pulling over near curves and grades. These areas can be extremely dangerous for you and other motorists when attempting to re-enter the roadway. Approaching motorists are often unable to see you.
  • Most vehicle accidents in which participants are injured occur on Highway 447 and County Road 34 on the final approach to BRC. Tired? Stop to rest in a safe location!
  • Highway 447 leading to Gerlach and all other roads in the area are patrolled by the Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe County Sheriff and, on tribal land, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Police. Observe posted speed limits.
  • Do not park alongside County Road 34. The Sheriff will ticket any vehicles that are parked by the roadside.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles — meaning get off the road as quickly and safely as possible to allow them to pass. Again, please respect Tribal and all emergency vehicles and personnel.
  • Do not draft emergency vehicles. It is unsafe and potentially illegal.
  • Do not get out of your car if traffic stops.
  • When using safety chains with a trailer, be sure they aren’t dragging on the pavement. They can cause sparks, leading to brush fires.
  • Do not throw cigarette butts — or anything — out the window!
  • Gate Road is your only access to Black Rock City. There are no other routes.
  • The edges of the playa are saturated with water. If you attempt to drive there, you risk getting stuck. Mired vehicles have remained stranded for days or weeks.

Gassing up in Neighboring Towns

Much of the traffic congestion and hazards on the way to BRC are caused by participants not getting gas early, when they should. You can get gas in Nixon, Gerlach and Empire, but you increase your chances of avoiding long lines if you gas up farther away from BRC. Here’s what we’d like you to do if you’re driving to BRC from any direction:

  • If possible, get final gas in Reno, Lovelock, Fernley, Nixon or Wadsworth, or Cedarville!
  • If gas stations in Nixon, Gerlach or Empire are full and starting to back up, don’t stop on the highway and block the road. Keep driving. If people are stopped, do not do risky things like moving into the oncoming traffic lane or stopping on the railroad tracks.
  • While we’re discouraging traffic backups, we do encourage you to support local businesses in our surrounding communities.

Drive the Speed Limit or You Will Get Stopped!

Highway 447 leading to Gerlach and all other roads in the area are patrolled by the Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe County Sheriff and, on tribal land, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Police. Observe posted speed limits.

Right, so don’t speed. Like even 3 mph over. You’ll get nailed, we swear. It’s just not worth it! And it’s just the right thing to do, considering the safety of the people, children and pets living in the small towns along the way. Thanks!

Go Before You Go

Please respect Washoe and Pershing Counties and the Paiute Tribe by not peeing or pooping on Highway 447. There are restrooms in Sparks, on I-80 and at businesses you frequent before you get on the road for the final drive to BRC. Please use them. Make your mom proud.

Some Helpful Advice From the Nevada Highway Patrol

Every year the Nevada Highway Patrol helps hundreds of Burners who get stranded or otherwise experience problems on the road to and from the event. They shared some super helpful tips to avoid the most common problems that Burners experience while on the road:

Too tired to drive…
NHP reports that fatigue is the number one reported cause of accidents that relate to Burning Man traffic. Be sure to be well rested and sober (duh), with a copilot to keep you company while you drive. Behind the wheel is no place for a playa hangover.

NHP reports that bald tires are a significant factor in accidents and breakdowns, so be sure to check your tires before you leave for the event and replace those old tires if you need to. Same goes for oil and radiator fluid.

Driving on empty…
See the tips above for getting gas before your final driving leg into Black Rock City. Gas up fully at the recommended towns beforehand. This goes for fuel for RV generators as well. One more thing — figure out what kind of fuel your generator uses beforehand. Many generators do not run on gasoline.

No camping…
Camping in Gerlach is prohibited. Please respect the local residents.

Going for broke…<
If your vehicle breaks down, carefully pull off the road to allow traffic to continue past you. NHP may push your vehicle off the road if needed, but if you can safely coast or push your vehicle onto a gravel shoulder, please do so.

Hurry up and wait…
The wait for tow trucks can be very long (think hours and hours). Sitting on the side of the road is a major bummer, so please be careful.

International Drivers in the U.S.

Learn the rules of the road. Know what all signs mean and obey them. Do not speed. Yield to all emergency vehicles by slowing down and stopping if necessary on the far right side of the road. Bring your International Driver’s Permit and your primary driver’s license if you are coming in from outside the U.S. and intend to drive a vehicle.  An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates information contained on your driver’s license into 10 languages so officials in foreign countries can interpret your license. An IDP supplements a valid government-issued license — it does not serve as a replacement for a license. If you are stopped by law enforcement, you will most likely be asked to produce both your IDP and your official driver’s license.The United States does not issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you will need to obtain this document before traveling to the U.S. If you are going to reside in the U.S., you can get a U.S. driver’s license once you are in the U.S., but it may take several months to obtain it.