The Rubicon Trail is a 22-mile-long route, part road and part trail, located in the Sierra Nevada of the western United States, due west of Lake Tahoe and about 80 miles east of Sacramento.
The maintained portion of the route is called the McKinney-Rubicon Springs Road; it begins in Georgetown, California, a hamlet in California's Gold Country. The road continues from its intersection with State Route 193 towards Wentworth Springs, where the trailhead for the unmaintained portion of the route exists adjacent to Loon Lake. The trail portion of the route is about 12 miles long and passes in part through the El Dorado National Forest.
There are entrances to the trail, either at Wentworth Springs or at the Loon Lake spillway. The Wentworth Springs entrance, at Ellis Creek, is the original entrance to the trail, and starts with an obstacle known as Devil's Postpile (not to be confused with Devil's Postpile National Monument near Mammoth). The Loon Lake route is longer, first crossing the Granite Bowl, a large open rock valley. (Previously the Loon Lake entrance had an obstacle known as The Gatekeeper, however it was demolished in 2005)
At Ellis Creek, the Wentworth Springs entrance to the trail unites with the trail from Loon Lake. After driving through the relatively mild section of Ellis Creek, the Walker Hill obstacle is encountered. It includes a rocky climb followed by a notch that can either be straddled or side-hilled.
A short ways past Walker Hill is the Soup Bowl. The Soup Bowl is a short climb with a series of ledges that is difficult to climb, with high clearance and a long wheelbase a help in this obstacle. After passing the Soup Bowl, the Little Sluice is close.
The Little Sluice is also known as the Sluice Box or simply as "The Box", leading to Spider Lake. It is the most difficult section of the trail, and as such can be bypassed in two ways, for vehicles that can not ascend the main trail. The most common bypass route to the left of the obstacle, an off-camber trail that leans the driver over the Little Sluice. The second way to bypass the Little Sluice is to drive up Toyota Rock. Toyota Rock is to the right towards Spider Lake (so named because it resembles a spider from above) just before the large rocks in the Little Sluice, and leads to the slabs that surround Little Sluice.
After passing the Little Sluice, the next obstacle is Thousand Dollar hill (also sometimes called Million Dollar hill). It is a rock ledge followed by a steep grade, facind downhill if driving the trail towards Lake Tahoe. This obstacle can be bypassed.
The trail splits again after this point, either continuing on the granite slabs or through the Old Sluice. Both routes lead to Buck Island Lake. The granite slabs are off camber but an easier route to take.
After passing Buck Island Lake, the trail continues downhill towards Big Sluice. This section contains a switchback with a rock drop-off and an off camber rocky section, leading to a bridge and then into Rubicon Springs.
Rubicon Springs is on private property, and must be respected as such. An old cabin and some camp spots are available, as well as a helipad for emergencies and for large events to fly in supplies. Most large events will set up base camp in the Springs because it is large enough for hundreds of people to camp.
After Rubicon Springs is Cadillac Hill. Cadallac Hill is a series of switchbacks up to Observation Point, starting with a rutted out section with many exposed tree roots. After turning a hairpin, the trail becomes very off camber and contains a series of boulders to maneuver around or over. After that is a steep waterfall to climb. At the top of the hill is Observation Point, a good place to see where you have just driven and to take a short break before the long dirt road to Lake Tahoe. There are a few small sections of rocks after this but no significant obstacles
History of the Rubicon Trail