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Ride Spot: Rubicon Trail

Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail is located in the California High Sierra, due west of Lake Tahoe, approximately 80 miles east of Sacramento. This world-renowned 4-wheel drive route leads from Georgetown (at California Highway 49) to Lake Tahoe (near Tahoma), a total distance of approximately 22 miles, with the off-road portion of the trail from Loon Lake to Lake Tahoe is about 12 miles. The trail is actually a County road located in El Dorado and Placer Counties. Parts of the trail pass through the Eldorado National Forest and portions of private lands.

While the current trail travels the same route from Wentworth Springs to Rubicon Springs that has been used since the 1860s, it changes a little each season due to erosion and vehicle traffic. The Rubicon Trail is typically run west to east, but you 

Rubicon Trail Heads

  • Loon Lake – (Google Maps 39.0032054,-120.3123289)
  • Wentworth Springs  at Airport Flats Campground – (Google Maps 38.9838127,-120.3796175)
  • Lake Tahoe (Eastern end of trail) – (Google Maps 39.0455516,-120.1682652) From Highway 89, south of Homewood, turn west onto McKinney Rubicon Springs Road. Take the first left on Bellevue and then the second right on McKinney Road (follow signs to Miller Lake). Make a left on McKinney Rubicon Springs. Go straight at the stop sign and you’re at the Mckinney/Rubicon Trail and Miller Lake Road. Approximately 1 mile up the windy single lane paved road you will find the staging area and the end of the pavement.

There are three entrances to the Rubicon Trail, either at Wentworth Springs, at the Loon Lake spillway or on the Lake Tahoe side along highway 89 near Tahoma. The Wentworth Springs entrance, at Gerle Creek, is the historical entrance to the trail, and starts with an obstacle known as Devil’s Postpile. The Loon Lake route is shorter and more popular, first crossing the Granite Bowl, a large open rock valley. The Wentworth Springs entrance joins the trail from Loon Lake shortly before Ellis Creek. 

Rubicon Trail Map

Download .pdf

Where to Park

If you are coming in on the west side, there is parking for trailers in two locations.  The first and most popular is below the Loon Lake spillway at the Rubicon Trail Head. The other spot for trailer parking is near the Loon Lake Chalet near the helicopter pad (GPS 38.985586, -120.329616).

Where to Camp

Loon Lake: If you want to camp at Loon Lake and just venture into the Rubicon Trail during the day, you can camp just before the spillway at the Northshore Campground. No Reservations. Sites are available on a first-come,first-served basis. You can also rent the Loon Lake Chalet. OHVs are allowed on the paved road from the Chalet to the trailhead so you do not need to trailer your UTV to the start of the trail.

Airport Flat Campground

This campground is near the trailhead at Wentworth Springs and No Reservations. Sites are available on a first-come,first-served basis. More details: Airport Flat Campground.

Wentworth Springs Campground

The unimproved campground is also first-come, first-served and is along the historic route, just off the trail. More details: Wentworth Springs Campground.

Ellis Creek – there is a small area to camping just off the trail right before the bridge.  There is a vault toilet there and also access road for maintenance and emergency vehicles only.

Buck Island Reservoir – GPS 39.005837, -120.254827. There are several places to camp below the dam and along the north side of the lake.  There are several pit toilets available.

Buck Island Reservoir

Buck Island Reservoir

 

Buck Island Reservoir

View of Buck Island Reservoir from the tops of the slabs where Old Sluice splits off from the main trail

Rubicon Springs is the most popular camping area, but it is also Private Property. The Jeep and Jeepers Jamboree events are held here and camping is allowed here for a fee.  There are several pit toilets available and camping along the Rubicon River makes this a great spot to relax during the summer.  Google Maps

Rubicon Springs

Rubicon Springs

Rubicon Springs

Rubicon Springs

Rubicon Springs Bridge

Rubicon Springs Bridge

Rubicon Trail Obstacles

Granite Bowl

Walker Hill

Soup Bowl

Little Sluice

Jeff taking his Can-Am Maverick X3 up Little Sluice on the Rubicon Trail

Rubicon Trail: Jeff cruising up Little Sluice in his Can-Am Off-Road Maverick X3

Posted by UTV Guide on Friday, 29 May 2020

Old Sluice

Old Sluice

Old Sluice

Big Sluice

General Rubicon Videos

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