By Reid Nordin
It doesn’t take much convincing for me to go drive my SXS so when I was asked to come along on a Day Trip to the Rubicon I immediately said yes. Once the commitment was made I started to work out the logistics. For me a one day Rubicon trip turns out to be 3 days as it is an 8 hour drive from So Cal to get there but that still doesn’t damper my enthusiasm to journey to this iconic trail. I planned the trip, prepped my Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity (cleaned it) and packed what necessities I thought I might need.
I actually worked part of the day on day one and then traveled to Shingle Springs where Jon and Teresa were gracious enough to let me crash at their pad prior to making the short AM drive to the Loon Lake trail head on day two. Let me step back a little and let you know a little about my experience with the Rubicon since this is not my first rodeo.
In 1977 I was a passenger with my dad in our 1952 Flat Fender Jeep but it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s before I was able to bring my own toy on the trail. My first driving experience on the Rubicon was in a SXS and we camped at Buck Island Lake and drove in and out the same way. It is logistically difficult in a UTV to drive in one trail head and out the other side unless you have someone meet you with your tow rig since you can’t drive your UTV on the street in California. To drive from one trail head to the other side via the highway is also a fairly long journey as there is no straight route.
I did the complete trail in my Jeep with a group of friend’s and we camped at Buck Island Lake which is in between Old Sluice and Big Sluice. This trip would be luxury camping as I towed my little 4×4 adventure trailer with an RTT along. Towing a trailer on the Rubicon takes some patience, good line selection and a good tow rig. It was a great experience but not sure I would recommend it to just anyone. It was a bucket list thing, so check that box off!
Camping on the Rubicon takes preparation of not only your vehicle but of the supplies you need since you need to be self-sufficient. All these extra supplies add weight, hurt visibly and can also reduce the ability to bring or complicate bringing friends in your rig. The easiest way to see the Rubicon is via these little day trips. You need to pack less, the logistics are easier and if you are traveling via UTV you can cover much more ground comfortably then you can in a Jeep or other 4X4.
The trail itself had changed over the years by weather, big tires, big horsepower and most recently by government agencies “restoring” the trail and eliminating some of the optional lines. None of these changes however make the trail easier, it is just a little different which can be refreshing if you have not done it in a while.
This trip was organized with just 3 UTV’s and all were fully capable to tackle this. We had a new Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC RR, a KOH built RZR XP Turbo S and my 2019 RZR XP Turbo S Velocity. We had capable vehicles, experienced drivers and a goal to get in and out in one day. We started the journey at the Loon Lake Trail head at about 9:30 AM. Our pace was relatively easy and we did take breaks for pictures, snacks, lunch at Rubicon Springs and general BS sessions. The end of the trip would be back at Loon Lake but the goal was to get to the top of Cadillac hill overlook and back before the sun set. The summer days are long so daylight was on our side.
There are several named obstacles along the way which include, Soup Bowl, Little Sluice, Old Sluice, Big Sluice and Cadillac hill. You can bypass some of the harder sections of each of these except Cadillac which is more one-line then the others. Rubicon Springs is at the bottom of Big Sluice at one end and Cadillac Hill is at the other end of a canyon floor. There are plenty of places to stop and play in the water or have lunch at the Springs grassy area or at one of the man-made structures by the caretakers cabin. You can make any of the trail obstacles as difficult as you want by line selection and as with any rock trail, tire placement can make or break cleaning the section or having to be winched. Turning around and running any of these in the opposite direction will make it a whole new trail.
So, back to preparation for a minute. I have done this trail in a virtually stock Teryx with 28” tires so depending on your SXS of choice you may be more or less challenged then others in your group. Speaking of groups I do not recommend going alone as even the smallest stuck or trail fix could spell disaster for someone alone on the trail.
To make my Polaris RZR XP Turbo S Velocity adventure machine fully capable I use the following products to ensure, durability, safety, comfort and performance:
- Walker Evans Racing 15-inch Legend 2 Beadlocks
- Walker Evans Racing performance tuned stock Velocity shocks
- Walker Evans Racing Walker Links
- Factory UTV Skids
- Factor 55llc Closed loop Winch accessories
- Cagewrx Cage
- Holz Racing Products full Doors & seat mounts
- BFG 32×15 KR2 tires
- XTC Turn signal kit
- MasterCraft Safety 2” 5pt Safety Harness
- MasterCraft Safety Genesys Hard shell seat.
- Rugged Radio / Intercom
- Rugged Radio Fresh Air
- Assault Industries Rear view Mirror
- Polaris Accessory 4K winch and mount
- Polaris High clearance radius rods
- Proline Wraps
Of all the SXS’s I have driven on this trail I think I found my newest favorite!
When planning for your trip, remember the necessities to get you home safely and pack out what you pack in and if you see trash always do your part by picking it up. If you need to winch there are usually plenty of natural anchors available but if you have to use a tree please use a tree strap as you will see the scars left from those before you that did not follow this guideline.
The Rubicon Trail changes often and depending on what time of the season you go, traffic and rock movement, some obstacles will be difficult one day and easy the next. So no matter when you go, how many times you have been before or who you go with, expect a challenge and a good time with memories being made at every rock.