It’s perhaps the best known four wheeling trail in the world. The Rubicon Trail lies about 80 miles east of Sacramento. The trail runs through the Sierra Nevada mountains beginning in the small California hamlet of Georgetown to Lake Tahoe at an elevation of nearly 7000 feet above sea level and a total distance of approximately 22 miles. Click here for a trail map.
Some of the Rubicon Trail’s more famous obstacles include the likes of Post Pile, Walker Hill, Little Sluice, Spider Lake, Old Sluice Box, Chappie Rock, Buck Island Dam and Big Sluice.
Most people opt to begin the trail via McKinney-Rubicon Springs Road. This mid-point entry runs from Loon Lake to Tahoe and covers about 12 miles of serious off road driving through the El Dorado National Forest.
The trail begins with a challenging uphill climb, which levels off and heads to Ellis Creek. At Ellis Creek the trail takes another uphill turn toward Walker Hill.
Walker hill is the first really challenging portion of the trail consisting of sharp turns, loose rock and overall difficult terrain.
Past Walker Hill the trail moves through a heavily wooded section and on to what many consider the most difficult part of the trail—Little Sluice. An optional route just before Little Sluice, leads to Tin Can Alley, a technical obstacle consisting of large boulders.
Little Sluice is not for the faint of heart. Large boulders dominate this section and make navigating the trail extremely challenging. Hence the three by passes that offer less experience wheelers a way around the main trail. Beware though, even the bypasses are challenging, so take it slow and use a spotter.
Whatever route you choose, the trail eventually leads to Spider Lake. This high mountain lake offers good fishing, great scenery and an overall perfect spot for a short rest. Also, a quick detour from Spider Lake leads you to Thousand Dollar Hill.
Upon leaving Spider Lake, the trail splits in two directions. Either way eventually leads back to the main trail. Taking the left fork leads to the Granite Slab which is somewhat less difficult and also less time consuming. Going right at the fork take you to the Old Sluice, a more difficult section of the trail.
Both the Granite Slab and Old Sluice rejoin just past the bottom of Old Sluice and the trail continues toward Buck Island Reservoir. Following the edge of the reservoir leads the trail down to Big Sluice.
Big Sluice is another difficult portion of the trail highlighted by an abundance of technical rock crawling. Sometimes called “The Rock Garden”, Big Sluice is filled with boulders and takes a skilled driver to traverse.
Once you’re through the boulders of Big Sluice, the trail crosses the scenic Rubicon River and down the Rubicon Valley to Cadillac Hill.
Cadillac Hill is a steep section of trail leveling off and providing a wonderful vista of the Rubicon Trail. From here, the major obstacles are done. Lake Tahoe and hopefully a nice cold beer are approximately 45 minutes away.
Remember to tread lightly and preserve the Rubicon Trail for those that follow. Here are some common sense rules of the Rubicon as posted by the Rubicon Trail Foundation:
1. Stay within 25’ of the middle of the trail.
2. Do not drive over vegetation.
3. Stay on the established trail.
4. Do not create new bypasses.
5. Buckle your seatbelt always.
6. Be courteous to others.
7. Go low and slow.
8. Camp away from water.
9. Carry a portable toilet.
10. Pack out your trash and waste.
11. Don’t drink and drive.
12. Be responsible for yourself.