Each year, tens of thousands of people descend on the Black Rock Desert north of Reno for Burning Man. The world-famous event is a celebration of artistic expression and radical self-reliance that attracts visitors from around the world. The desert playa is one of the most inhospitable environments in Nevada, but every fall, Burning Man’s “Black Rock City” temporarily becomes the sixth largest city in the state.
Of course, horses aren’t welcome at Burning Man, but equestrians seeking a little flavor of the anything-goes gathering need only travel about a dozen miles away, into the hills of the Granite Range. There you’ll find the Iveson Ranch, a 320-acre historic homestead turned guest ranch that is open to horses and riders. This eclectic destination is where the Old West meets the Playa and visitors can expect a unique experience.
The Iveson Ranch is run by Jeff Barker, who gave up a corporate career to run the ranch, which his parents purchased in the 1990s. For years it was his family’s private getaway and operated as a small, traditional ranch. But, recently they decided to branch out and share it with others. With such close proximity, there is no escaping Burning Man. Instead, the Iveson Ranch embraces it.
A creative vibe is infused in the rustic setting. The ranch stores dozens of art cars onsite. If you’ve never had the chance to see these weird and wonderful mechanized contraptions on the playa, you can walk among them in the peace and quiet of the ranch. Many artists also use the ranch as a staging ground for their work before and after the festival, and it’s not unusual to see sculptural art in progress.
But at its core, the Iveson Ranch is a historic homestead site. As you stroll the property you’ll see weathered wood barns, chutes and corrals, a plethora of farm animals, huge cottonwood trees alongside a creek, a lush orchard, several productive garden beds, and a handful of friendly ranch dogs. Old ranching and farm equipment are scattered throughout the property. The ranch is entirely off-the-grid; everything is solar or wind-powered. In the evenings you can watch the stars while the crickets chirp.
Lodging and Accommodations
The Iveson Ranch has several large, secure, wooden corrals available for equine guests. Each corral has its own trough and easy access to water. The ranch also has locally-grown triticale hay for sale, if you find you need some. All the corrals are conveniently located to the lodging sites so you can keep an eye on your horse.
Human visitors to the ranch have a number of options to meet their comfort level. There are private primitive camping sites on the north end of the ranch. The main part of the homestead has space for LQ trailers. But if you really want to get into the spirit of the place, there are several Conex shipping containers that have been converted into living spaces with kitchenettes, beds, bathrooms, and windows. You can also rent the ranch’s former tack room turned cabin, which is decorated with western decor and pieces of tack still on the walls. There is a common-use bathroom and shower building for guests to use.
The lodging spaces at the ranch are positioned around a large communal area, which includes a geodesic dome for live music, spontaneous drum circles, and other gatherings. Next to the dome is a fire pit, several outdoor grills, and a canteen for guests to use. The kitchen is fully stocked with cookware, spices, and other supplies and is large enough to make group meals. There are also several comfy couches and tables, shelves of board games, and musical instruments for anyone to make use of.
If you don’t feel like cooking, the ranch staff can prepare meals for you. If the season is right, they may even use some of the vegetables from one of their many gardens! We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal during our stay, which included steak and several vegetarian dishes. Meals are frequently family-style and include all the guests at the ranch as well as Jeff and his mother. The Iveson Ranch is all about community and you are welcome to take part as much or as little as you feel comfortable.
From the Iveson Ranch, you can head out on dirt roads and trails in any direction. The roads to the west of the ranch will take you back into the hills of the Granite Range. This is nice open country of the classic northwestern Nevada environment, with sagebrush, rabbitbrush, Great Basin wild rye, greasewood, intermittent wildflowers, groves of aspens and mountain mahogany, and more. There are several perennial and seasonal creeks within a few miles of the ranch. (Jeff can tell you what’s flowing when you’re there.)
The footing in the area is fairly rocky in places. Shoes or boots are recommended. There are endless roads and trails to ride that will give good views of the range and down into the playa below. Keep your eye open for wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, wild horses, mule deer, and even bighorn sheep. You won’t run into too many people in this region, but there are plenty of historic ranches, ruins and townsites, and natural wonders.
If you’re planning a long day ride, the ranch staff can arrange to haul water and feed out to you. Jeff also told us that it is possible to ride down in the Hualapai Flat to the east of the ranch, but we did not explore that ourselves.
Other Things to Do
The Iveson Ranch is a great basecamp for outdoor exploration. This area lends itself to hiking, biking, or ATV use. Rock hunters will find plenty of interesting things in this part of the state, including opals! There is a history of gold in the creeks surrounding the ranch if you want to try your luck panning. The ranch is only a short drive from the famous Fly Geyser (which is open for pre-arranged tours through Friends of Black Rock High Rock).
If You Go
The Iveson Ranch is approximately 130 miles north of Reno, just off County Road 34. It is open year-round but spring and fall are the peak seasons for visitors. The nearest town, Gerlach, is a 35-minute drive and there aren’t any stores there so you’ll want to come prepared to be self-sufficient. There is no cell service at the ranch and only limited wifi. There is a ranch phone for emergencies. Well-behaved dogs are welcome.
Learn More: www.ivesonranch.com
Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka