On March 18, 2019, Massacre Rim became just the 7th designated Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world! This Wilderness Study Area is publicly-owned land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to maintain its wilderness qualities. 

Located in far northern Washoe County near the borders with California and Oregon, Massacre Rim is so remote that it has “exceptional quality of starry nights” and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its natural values, criteria necessary to meet the International Dark-Sky Association’s strict standards for a Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Because so much of our world is flooded with artificial light, most of us have no idea what we can actually see if we’re in a place as dark as Massacre Rim. So it’s hard to describe. Stunningly beautiful. Definitely awe-inspiring. So many stars on a moonless night that they actually cast a shadow. You really have to see it for yourselves. Here’s how to get there, stay a bit, and explore one of the darkest skies on the planet.

Getting to the Massacre Rim WSA Dark Sky Sanctuary

Massacre Rim is accessible by car or truck, but the final stretch from any direction to the perimeter of the Sanctuary will be on a maintained gravel road. Travel inside the Sanctuary is  limited to existing tracks that require a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.

The Sanctuary is about 230 road miles north of Reno, NV; about 170 road miles west of Winnemucca, NV; and about 200 road miles east of Redding, CA.

Please keep in mind that if traveling into the core of a remote area isn’t really your thing, you can still appreciate an amazing dark sky around the perimeter of the Sanctuary, in nearby small towns like Cedarville, CA and Gerlach, NV (see below for where to stay and eat in the area.)

Consult your best road map (or Google map below), then click on our custom map to plan the home stretch to Massacre Rim.


The best times to visit

The following are the best dates for viewing the Dark Sky at Massacre Rim:

April 21 (Moon rise at 10:24 PM- good viewing until the moon rise)  

     through May 5 (Moon set at 9:06 PM- good viewing after moon set).  

May 21 (Moon rise at 11:08 PM- good viewing until the moon rise)  

     through  June 3 (Moon Set at 9:06 PM- good viewing after moon set).  

June 21 (Moon rise at 11:48 PM- good viewing until the moon rise)  

               through July 3 (Moon-sest at 9:52 pm – good viewing after moon set)

Camping inside the Sanctuary

As mentioned, the interior of the Sanctuary/Wilderness Study Area can be accessed via existing tracks (so-called cherry stems roads that technically lie outside the boundary of the WSA) that require a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Road conditions vary considerably depending on weather conditions. Know this! Even though this country is considered “high desert,” significant snowfall can occur fall through spring. Roads can be impassable due to snow, mud, and washouts.

Be prepared! Back country camping requires special planning, equipment and supplies. Here is a checklist to help guide you, but please know that travel of this nature is at your own risk. See a list of campgrounds below.

General Safety Information

  • Bring what you need to survive. Self-sufficiency is as important today as it was for the Native Americans, emigrants and early pioneers.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Pack all necessary water (one gallon of water per day), food and supplies. Surface water is unreliable and must be treated.
  • Pack extra supplies in case you get stranded. Use good judgement if you do get stranded. It’s often best to stay at your vehicle.
  • Be prepared for changing conditions. Daytime temps can reach over 100 degrees in the summer. Year-round temperatures can fluctuate more than 50 degrees in a single day. Even in summer nights can dip into the 30’s and 40’s. Dust storms are not uncommon in dry months.
  • High clearance vehicles with off-road tires (at least 6-ply) are recommended, as is a second spare if you plan to travel on remote roads.
  • There is very limited cell service in northern Washoe County.
  • DO NOT drive on playas and lake beds when it is wet. Know what to look for, as it can often be wet just under the surface. If you get stuck, you may be there for a long time.

Interested in Astrophotography? Check out this helpful guide from our friends at Nemo.

Other things to know

  • Rattlesnakes, scorpions, mountain lions and coyotes are in the area. Be wildlife aware.
  • Respect private property. Leave gates as you find them.
  • Protect Archaeological sites. Sites are protected on federal land by public law. Removing or vandalizing artifacts is not only illegal, it limits their scientific value and the experience of future visitors
  • Leave No Trace – Pack it in. Pack it out.  Leave the area cleaner than you found it.

Weather Forecast for Massacre Rim

Where to Stay and Eat


Sunrise Motel
62271 CA-299, Cedarville

Surprise Valley Hot Springs
67254 CA-299, Cedarville

JK Metzker House B and B
520 Main St., Cedarville

Cockrell's High Desert Lodging
811 County Road 31, Cedarville

Fort Bidwell Hotel & Restaurant
55015 Main Street, Fort Bidwell

Bruno's Country Club & Motel
445 Main Street
Gerlach, NV 

Old Yella Dog Ranch
Vya, NV
*best to contact by email

Rockin' TD Ranch
Vya, NV
*best to contact by email


Stough Reservoir
Modoc National Forest (near Cedarville, CA)

Modoc National Forest (near Eagleville, CA)

Fee Reservoir
BLM (east of Fort Bidwell)

Massacre Ranch
BLM (a couple miles south of the Massacre Rim WSA)

Stevens Camp
BLM (about 20 minutes south of the Massacre Rim WSA)

For more information contact:

Bureau of Land Management
602 Cressler St.
Cedarville, CA 96104

Modoc National Forest
225 W. 8th St.
Alturas, CA  96101


Country Hearth
551 Main St., Cedarville
*Diner food, fresh-baked bread and pastries

Whalen's Public House
540 Main St., Cedarville
* Pizza & beer & wine

415 Main St., Cedarville
* BBQ & Diner

Newell's Fort Bidwell BBQ & Cafe
55015 Main Street, Fort Bidwell
* BBQ & diner

Bruno's Country Club & Motel
445 Main Steet
Gerlach, NV