I’m not sure I should give away my super secret spooky desert route to Burning Man, but hey, if you are like me and HATE any freeway or road with traffic, this is your kind of route.
My description of this route starts at Susanville, CA. Susanville is east of Redding, south of Alturas. You do not take Hwy 299 to Susanville. I leave the logistics of getting to Susanville to you. Once you are there, you take 395 east out of town. Just out of town is the 395 North turn at the Johnsonville light. Take that. Now you are going to drive through some little towns (Standish, Litchfield). After Litchfield you will come to a big north bend. Right on the outer side of the bend is Wendell Road. Take it.
You are going to be on Wendell Rd for a while. It is paved all the way to the Nevada border. The rest of your journey will be OFF PAVEMENT until you reach the junction of hwy 447 about 7 miles north of the Burning Man turn-off.
Once off pavement in Nevada, the road will become High Rock Rd. You will be driving on it for a while. Eventually (the railroad crossing lets you know you are almost to your next turn), you will come to a T. There is a big sign there, full of bullet holes, that informs you it is Sand Pass Rd. A right turn would take you to Pyramid Lake and Fernley. You want to turn left. Sand Pass Rd becomes Surprise Valley Rd in a short time. You will be on that road for quite a while. You have to drive all the way around the big valley before angling east to meet 447. About the time the road starts its angling east, it becomes Smoke Creek Rd. The entire route is good gravel road, with no confusing turn-offs. It takes me about 3 hours to get from Susanville to Hwy 447. I don’t drive that fast on gravel roads, and I do it in the dark, so you could probably beat that time during the day.
Once you get to 447, you turn right and drive about 7 miles to the left turn (transfer station or something) just before the main turn from Gerlach. Don’t miss that first turn, or you will have to turn left against all the traffic coming from Gerlach. The left turn out of the transfer station (restroom there!) is much easier, because the Gerlach traffic is more pulsed after their turn just down the road.
If you are heavily loaded and/or drive fast on gravel road, that’s a lot of road to get a flat tire on. Keep that in mind. Drive more slowly so you don’t have to unbury your spare. I’ve never had a flat using this route either to Fernley or Burning Man, but I am very careful. Since I travel alone, I do NOT want to be stuck changing a tire on a dark road at 4 a.m.