The desert has numerous volcanic and geothermal features of the northwest Nevada volcanic region, including two Black Rock Points (west and east) at the southern end of the Black Rock Range and which have dark Permian volcanic rocks similar to another Permian black diabase dike formation in Nevada.[35]

The portion of the Lake Lahontan lakebed in the Black Rock Desert is generally flat with Lahontan salt shrub vegetation, widely-scattered hot springs, and a playa. In areas of the lakebed along mountains, rain shadow results in desert precipitation levels.