Trip Reports

Crystal Basin Trip Report

Riding UTVs in the Crystal Basin

Near McKinstry Peak, June 2009

Plenty of trails to explore in this area, and some great views to be had. We used Airport Flat Campground as our base, but if you are going up for a day trip, you can park near the trailhead for Wentworth Springs (Google Maps). The parking area is to the left (north) of the trailhead, just a bit farther along on the paved road.

Base Camp Day One – Airport Flat Campground:

Location: 23 miles east of Placerville on Highway 50 then 24 miles north on Ice House Road (Forest Road 3), and 3 miles north on Forest Road 33. The campground is managed by the Pacific Ranger District.

GPS Coordinates: 38.987,-120.3785
Google Maps Satellite Image for Airport Flats

The campground is at about 5300’ elevation.

Airport Flats Campground has 15 sites and pit toilets.  Sites are first-come, first-served and there is a 14 day limit. No piped water is available, but Gerle Creek is nearby.


There is no fee for the campground, and OHVs are allowed.

We no sooner arrived and got setup that it started to rain.  Now it is mid June, and we have been having some weird weather, but this was crazy.  It came down in buckets!


The good news was we wouldn’t have any dust on the trail.  Bad news was there was going to be a lot of water on the trail.

Day Two:

Crossing Gerle Creek   1937 Bridge across Gerle Creek

From Airport Flats, we took the historic route up to Wentworth Springs Rd. on FS 14N34. We crossed a bridge that was built in 1937, then a bit further along we forded Gerle Creek. Once we hit the Wentworth Springs Rd. (FS 14N07 – which is paved, but legal for OHVs in certain sections), we drove west about a mile. At the trailhead for the Rubicon (historic access, not the more common route from Look Lake), we stayed on the paved road (I think it is still FS 14N07) which is no longer Wentworth Springs Rd.

Wentworth Springs Rd – Trailhead – Google Maps

 Loon Lake in the distance  

At some point, you want to get onto 14N51A which will lead you to the top. There was still a little bit of snow up near the top.

Near McKinstry Peak and the Red Cliffs - Hell Hole Reservoir in the distance McKinstry Lake and Loon Lake in the distance  Red Cliffs

Near McKinstry Peak and the Red Cliffs – Google Maps

14N05 will take you to McKistry Lake and on out to Ellis Creek and the Rubicon Trail.

McKistry Lake – Google Maps

From McKistry Lake, we continued on 14N05 to Ellis Creek and the Rubicon Trail.

Ellis Creek – Rubicon Trail – Google Maps

On the way back from Ellis Creek, we took a detour to Bugle Lake.  From there, we should have been able to take another road out. My GPS and Google Maps both show this route, but we could not find it on the ground.

Bugle Lake 

Bugle Lake – Google Maps

Day Three:

Wentworth Springs Road is the original County road that was also known as the Rubicon Trail. The historical county road actually starts right near Airport Flats Campground.

FS 14N34 starts here.

Wentworth Springs Rd – Trailhead – Google Maps

  Wentworth Springs Rd.
Some private property along Wentworth Springs Rd.

Wentworth Springs Campground 

The campground is at about 6,200’ elevation.

The campground is generally accessible between mid-June and mid-October. These dates are affected by snow conditions.

Wentworth Springs Campground – Google Maps

Just past the campground, the trail will get much more difficult.  We didn’t have enough play in the more difficult parts of this trail, so that will have to wait for another trip.


  • Rubicon Trail Map – This map shows a trailhead at Airport Flats Campground & Gerle Creek

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