The Rubicon/McKinney Road in Northern California got its name because it crosses the Rubicon River at one point near Lake Tahoe. Initially established in the 1800s, the road was used as a stagecoach road between Georgetown and Lake Tahoe. After the hotels went out of business, the road began to deteriorate. Because of this, in 1952, several residents of Georgetown held a meeting to discuss the possibility of an organized Jeep tour from Georgetown to Lake Tahoe via the Rubicon Trail. On August 29, 1953, 55 Jeeps with 155 enthusiastic participants left Georgetown on a two-day trip that is now known as "Jeepers Jamboree 1." Since then, the Jeepers Jamboree organization has moved the event to the last weekend of July. Now it's a four-wheelers tradition of these "pioneers."
Today, almost everyone has heard of The Rubicon Trail. It is an extreme trail and believed to be the Super Bowl of offroad trails. It is a must-do destination for all offroaders, overlanders, and rock crawlers. The Rubicon will test your driving skills and your vehicle. According to who you talk to, this trail is scary intense to a weekend camping trip. But don't be fooled; this trail should never be underestimated for one second.
The trail has several areas that all meet a rating of 7 on our scale. From the rocks at the loon lake gatekeeper to the hardest part of the required trail, the Big Sluice. In these spots, expect rocks up to over 3-feet round.
(Last reset on 09/18/2021)
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Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks and less than 54" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 54" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 10' foot. Tire placement not good. Can be steep and off-camber.Read More about our Rating System
To sum up the Rubicon Trail in one word - "Extreme." Another choice might be "Rocks" - there's a lot of them. On the Rubicon Trail, you will get a non-stop pounding from large, free-standing rocks, huge rock gardens, loose rocky hill climbs, immense rock ledges, substantial rock drops, rocks that come out of nowhere, and massive granite rock slabs. I would expect nothing less from the famous Rubicon. If you think you have spent enough money on your vehicle and your driving skills are great, then it could be a 3-day trip you will never forget for a good reason. But if you haven't spent enough money or your driving skills are subpar, you will remember this trip for a whole different reason, sadly.
The first mile of the trail is shared with foot, horse, and ATV traffic. Please be considerate of other users and allow them safe passage.
After about 20-minutes on the trail, you will be introduced to the Granite Bowl, where the “fun” begins, a definite attention grabber. The scenic view of the canyon below is breathtaking. This large granite slab is something else. Because of the amount of open space, people find this spot to be an attractive area to hang out, take pictures, and explore.
The next stop is Ellis Creek. It’s only a short walk to good fishing and a swimming hole.
The next two difficult miles between Ellis Creek and The Little Sluice will test driving skills, but the views and obstacles will make it worth the effort. Expect large rocks and difficult climbs.
About one and half hours ahead of Ellis Creek is the very challenging stretch of road known as “The Little Sluice.” Vehicles should have a lift, be firing on all cylinders, and have aggressive tires with reduced air pressure. Even with all of this preparation, several stops may be necessary to throw a few rocks in the right places for traction. A camping site with room for many vehicles and tents is available just to the south of "The Little Sluice." Near this camping site is Spider Lake which is only a short and easy walk away.
The next difficult section of the trail, approximately an hour ahead, is a large rocky patch that will test your driving skills and vehicle. To make it through this section, you will need a lot of patience and vehicle modifications. At the end of this section, the "True Old Sluice" breaks off to the south. You'll know you're there when you see a rock marker on the southwest side of the trail. Many believe the "True Old Sluice" is the most difficult obstacle on The Rubicon.
Following the hill climb, granite slabs return, but you are dropping off of them this time. Along this area, you will be exposed to extreme downhill angles along with extreme sidehill angles. Make sure you approach every downhill and sidehill at an optimal angle to reduce the risk of rollovers.
Over the next hour, you will end up at Buck Island Lake as you drop off the mountain. Usually a little more of a party scene, Buck Island Lake has it all. It's a great lake for swimming and fishing. Plus, it has plenty of open space, outhouses, and an ample amount of challenging wheeling inside the camping area. Many people, when doing 2 or 3-day trips, will spend one night here. The area is a first-come, first-serve, so make sure you get there early enough to get a spot.
About 30 minutes outside of Buck Island Lake, you will be introduced to "The Big Sluice". Not feared for the last several years, "The Big Sluice" has had some major changes happen to it, including some large drops over 5 feet tall, large holes over 4 feet deep, and new free-standing rocks with no way to drag over them. As you descend the trail, it will only get harder and harder and harder. As you get close to the bottom, there is no easy way to turn around or head back up the mountain, so make sure you have everything you need and that your group is together.
A short 20-minute drive from the bottom of the hill is Rubicon Springs, probably the most famous of the campsites. All of Rubicon Springs is a paid campsite, which means it has more amenities than any other area. These include a picnic area, stage, outhouses, swimming areas, tree swings, firewood, campfires, water, fishing, horseshoes and similar games, helicopter landing pad, among other great things. This is allowed because it is private land; therefore, make sure you contact Rubicon Soda Springs for any fee information before leaving on your trip.
Approximately 15 minutes ahead is a stretch known as "Cadillac Hill," probably the most feared part of the trail by the locals. This narrow section of the trail is usually covered in water, mud, and slippery rocks. The reason this area is so feared is that it climbs up the cliff for roughly 30 minutes and is only feet wide. Even though it's wide enough for any 4x4 vehicle, if you make a mistake, you could easily send your vehicle plunging off the side with no hopes of a safe outcome. Vehicles should have a lift, be running fairly cool, and be running at top performance. Again, aggressive tire tread will be a benefit with reduced air pressure. Even with all of this preparation, several stops may be necessary to throw a few rocks in the right places for traction and rethink your line.
Once on top of "Cadillac Hill," you will be introduced to "The Observation Point," which has been known to bring on spiritual moments for the off-road enthusiasts. This panoramic view of the Rubicon is breathtaking.
Over the next hour, the trail will become easier and easier until it is simply a road. You will pass Redwood trees and some beautiful lakes along this route before eventually ending up on the east end of the Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe.
Overall, expect the trail to take somewhere between 5 to 15 hours of moving time. This doesn't include any stops to watch people, bathroom breaks, assisting others in the group, or traffic.
The trail changes year over year on which way is harder. This year (2016), the trail was harder going from East to West, but this can be different according to how much rocks move around and the difficulty of the different sluices. This trip was run from West to East, which is the popular route when looking at the pictures below.
Along the Rubicon, there are a total of 13 bathrooms/outhouses. Due to the volatile nature of the area, the Rubicon Foundation asks you to use the restrooms along the route to help keep the trail open. Failing to do so may result in the closure of the Rubicon Trail. Restrooms can be found in all of the named areas along the trail.
Fires and Camp Stoves:
All forests in California require a fire permit, even for gas stoves. This is free, and all you have to do is watch a short video and answer a few questions. Please print the results or take a screenshot on your phone. Also, please note wood fires are often banned in California starting late spring for the remaining parts of the year. Plan on not having a wood fire unless in the Rubicon Springs Campground. Click Here For CA Fire Permit
***Recommended*** ----- Nothing smaller than 33" inch tires (more than once, these tires will be too small and will require rock stacking to make it over even the easiest obstacles) ----- 2 Lockers ---- A portable toilet (for when the outhouses are full)
***Required*** ----- 1 Locker (Rear) ----- Rock Sliders ----- Quarter Panel Protection ----- Upgraded Skid Plates
***Common Failure Items*** ----- Gas Tank Skid Plates ----- Frames & Suspension (Bring Welding Gear) ----- Axles ----- Steering Components ----- Weak Slider Panels
1. Rubicon Trailhead - Loon Lake (West End) (0
West Rubicon Trailhead - Restrooms
On August 14, 2012, the El Dorado Board of Supervisors formally voted 5 - 0 and then signed a historic agreement for an easement with the US Forest Service. The agreement locks into place a definition of the trail through the forest. It also formally puts the county in charge of the road, making the legal status of the Rubicon Trail an unmaintained county right of way, thus protecting it for future offroaders.
2. The Gatekeeper (0.37
Right out of the hole, you are going to be faced with amazing views and increasing difficulty on the Rubicon Trail. The Gatekeeper, the first difficult obstacle on the trail, is a small rocky section that will give you a true idea of what to expect further up the trail. This section is full of free-standing, large rocks that are over 3 feet round.
3. The Granite Bowl (0.56
Awe-inspiring is the common term people use when talking about The Granite Bowl. This area of the trail is what people normally think of when thinking of The Rubicon Trail. You and your group will have to navigate across this 3/4 mile wide granite slab. Along the route, you will drop off ledges and have to climb back up them. The trail is marked with road markers to help guide you along the path. Try not to get off the trail because you can get into trouble quickly if you stray from the trail.
4. The Steps (0.88
Referred to as "The Steps," this section of the trail has several names, including Granite Bowl Climb, Granite Steps, among others. This area got its name due to a group of ledges you have to drive up. Short and long wheelbase vehicles are all known to have problems here. It is recommended not to try and throttle up the section since there is a high risk of breaking or rolling over. There is a bypass on the left side. Just be careful when navigating up it, so you don't roll.
5. Wentworth Springs Split - Stay East (1.56
The Rubicon Trail has many side trails that connect to it. Many of them take you to private land or other destinations, but Wentworth Springs takes you down to a campsite near Gerle Creek. This short drive of roughly one and a half miles will take you west of The Rubicon Trail down to a relaxing and remote campsite. There are several named obstacles along the route, including The Lost Sluice, The Post Pile, The Lost Pile, 1st Blood, and The Slabs.
6. Ellis Creek Bridge (Restroom) (1.8
On October 9, 2013, the Ellis Creek Bridge officially opened as part of the commitment by El Dorado County to comply with the Clean Up and Abatement order set forth by the California Water Board, helping to keep the trail open for years to come.
This is a popular camping spot because of the creek and restrooms nearby.
7. Walker Hill (Restroom) (2.78
Known to most as a Rocky Hill Climb, Walker Hill has gotten easier over the years. But there is still some remnant of the days past on the left side of the hill about 3/4 of the way up. The lower 3/4 of the hill climb is comprised of loose rocks up to approximately 3 feet in size. The top quarter has two lines. The left line (hard line) is comprised of 4 foot + large, free-standing rocks, while the right line (easier line) is a steep climb over 45 degrees up a granite slab.
8. Soup Bowl (Restrooms) (3.47
Maybe one of the hardest obstacles on the Rubicon Trail, Soup Bowl, will draw crowds all day long. The trick is to be on tires larger than 44 inches, but this doesn't mean people on smaller tires can't make it. The obstacle itself is comprised of 2 sets of ledges over 5 feet tall that are rounded on the top. The issue is that it's at an angle, making it very easy to roll over. On top of that, there is a large hole with an inverted ledge that your passenger tires have to climb through. All this combined makes for great entertainment for the bystanders and bragging rights for the drivers.
There is a restroom at this stop.
9. Bypass - Little Sluice (Restrooms) (3.77
The Little Sluice has several bypasses. This bypass is most notable because it is the easiest. Many call this the long bypass or long route. The bypass itself is left of the restrooms and climbs the large rock surface, while The Little Sluice is to the right.
There is also a bypass to the right of The Little Sluice, but it requires some mild wheeling to get to it.
There are restrooms at this location.
10. The Little Sluice (3.82
Probably the call sign obstacle of The Rubicon Trail, The Little Sluice provides hours of entertainment. Originally full of large rocks, the USGS decided to break up many of the rocks to make this obstacle passable. Today, even though this location has been dynamited, this little area still gives many people trouble. This is because the sluice is full of loose rocks, while some rocks are over 6 feet around. Plus, this is all crushed into a narrow channel of roughly 500 feet.
Many people camp on the right of The Little Sluice by Spider Lake. This large granite area is a popular spot since it is some of the only open space on the trail after The Granite Bowl.
11. Water Crossing (4.17
The first of many water crossings, this section of the trail has you driving through the side of a lake. The water can easily get over 3 feet deep so proceed slowly. There is a side route on the left that passes through the shallower water.
12. V-Notch aka Squeeze (4.22
One of the more recognizable but less talked about obstacles is the V-Notch. Approximately 4 feet wide in spots, this tight area requires you to drive up on the walls to pass through. Because of that, this area makes for great photos and videos.
13. Hard Hill Climb aka Arnold's Rock (4.47
Leaving the V-Notch and heading towards the True Old Sluice, you will be faced with a difficult climb. The trail is full of large 5+ foot rocks and narrow sections that require dragging your sliders over. Also, along the route are several ledges that you have to climb to make it to the top. Many think this is The Old Sluice, but it is just past this section on the right.
14. The True Old Sluice (Restroom) (4.69
Just off to the right of the trail is The True Old Sluice. Many call this the most difficult sluice of the trail. Comprised of large rocks, this section will give you a challenge.
Just before the turn-off is a restroom.
15. Buck Island Dam and Lake (Restroom) (5.78
One of the more popular camping spots, Buck Island Lake, is a party scene at times. The reason for this is that it has some great obstacles people can play on, restrooms, a lake to fish and swim in, and, in general, an awesome view.
When following the trail, the path takes you over the edge of the dam. It is hard to see, so get out and check your line before blindly going over.
16. The Big Sluice (6.45
At one time, The Big Sluice was something to be feared. Then it got easy, and then in 2015, it returned to hard status. The trail took on excessive erosion over the winter of 2015-2016, and many of the obstacles have made their way back and are harder than ever. Along the route, there is a complicated sharp turn with a v-notch you have to ride with a drop at the end over 4 feet. On top of that, there are several obstacles in it, including The Squeeze, a tight squeeze between trees and rocks, and then a new section at the end that is full of freestanding rocks and holes over 6 feet tall/deep. Needless to say, you will be using your sliders and armor a lot through this area.
17. Tree and Rock Squeeze aka Saw Tooth (6.69
What once was, is now changed forever. The Tree and Rock Squeeze, aka Sawtooth, was one of the more recognizable obstacles on the trail, this tree plus rock squeeze was known to take the paint off when attempting to fit through. The only thing that helped was having your tires sticking out past your fender flares.
Unfortunately, in early 2021 the tree fell, resulting in the trail changing forever. The obstacle now has a new line through it that is much less risky to the body of your vehicle.
Pic 1 - How it used to look
Pic 2 - How it now looks
Pic 3 - How it used to look as you were forced to go between the rocks.
18. Rubicon Springs Bridge (7.27
The second bridge on the route, Rubicon Springs Bridge, is the oldest on the trail by far. The history of the bridge is:
1859 - The first bridge to cross the river at this site was built of logs.
1939 - El Dorado County replaced the bridge.
1947 - A steel bridge was constructed by the county
1982 - Bridge was refurbished through the efforts of several volunteers and four-wheel drive clubs.
1997 - Bridge was refurbished through the efforts of CA4WDC and several other four-wheel drive clubs and individuals.
19. Rubicon Springs (Restrooms) (7.7
One of the most iconic campsites on the trail, Rubicon Springs, is the place to stop. With natural soda springs and amazing scenery, many people find themselves staying here for a full day just to enjoy the location.
The history of Rubicon Springs is:
1889 - Vade built a 2 1/2 story hotel at the Springs with curtained glass windows, 16 small rooms, and a parlor with horsehair furniture and a foot-pedal organ. She used white linens and polished silverware to serve 3 meals per day (sometimes 100 people). On busy weekends, visitors slept in tents, cabins, or under the stars. She also put in service a 4 horse, 6 passenger coach to McKinney's. It took 2 1/2 hours to cover the 9 miles.
1930 - Colwell sold Rubicon Springs to the Sierra Power Company.
1985 - Twenty families came together to purchase the area known as Rubicon Springs (Rubicon Soda Springs).
Today - Rubicon Springs is a popular hangout and camping location. With everything from live concerts to massive BBQs, Rubicon Springs has all that is needed to be the ultimate destination in a remote location.
This area is a pay-to-camp area. Make sure you reach out to the Rubicon Springs Group to ensure camping is available on the dates you want to camp.
Please click on this link for more information about Rubicon Springs: Rubicon Spring Campground
20. Cadillac Hill (8.1
The last named obstacle on the Rubicon Trail, Cadillac Hill is feared by the locals because it poses the greatest risk for extreme rollovers and has been known to claim lives. As you climb the cliffs away from the Rubicon River, you will be faced with flowing springs, slippery rocks, slick mud, 50+ degree inclines, and a path that is only 7 feet wide in spots. Just off to the right of that 7-foot wide trail is a cliff from which there is no recovering.
21. Overlook Observation Point (Camping Spot) (8.9
One of many awe-inspiring locations, this is a popular spot to relax and enjoy the views. This is also a popular camping spot, but you might want to rethink this if you are a sleepwalker. The reason for this is that you are up on top of a 2000+ foot sheer cliff. The views are amazing, but that first step could be a doozy.
22. Barker Meadow OHV Trail - Stay South (9.78
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with The Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon Trail, stay to the south.
23. Barker Pass or Hwy 89 - Stay East or South (10.55
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with The Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon, stay to the east or south.
24. 4x4 Trail - Stay South (11.86
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with The Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon, stay to the south.
25. 14N39 - Stay North (12.65
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with The Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon, stay to the north.
26. Miller Lake (13.1
The eastern portion of the trail passes by many lakes. These lakes are popular gathering spots for people that come up from Lake Tahoe to hang out and fish.
27. Trail - Stay South (14.13
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with The Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon, stay to the south.
28. Lily Lake (13.81
The east portion of the trail passes by many lakes. These lakes are popular gathering spots for people that come up from Lake Tahoe to hang out and fish.
29. McKinney Lake (14.13
The east portion of the trail passes by many lakes. These lakes are popular gathering spots for people that come up from Lake Tahoe to hang out and fish.
30. 14N40 - Stay South (14.4
This is one of the many trails that intercepts with the Rubicon on the east portion. To continue on The Rubicon, stay to the south.
31. Rubicon Trail - Tahoe (East End) (15.5
This is the East Trailhead of the famous Rubicon Trail. There is plenty of parking for trucks and trailers here, along with restrooms.
Camping on The Rubicon Trail is a great way to enjoy the area. It is recommended for first-time users to plan to camp for two days at a minimum to get the full effect of the area. While in the National Forests, near the trail, and alongside the trail, dispersed camping is allowed in most areas. Just be warned, you are not allowed to drive off The Rubicon trail to camp and must keep your vehicles on the road.
The ideal camping time in most forest areas is May to October, before winter storm activity. Reservation campgrounds are available; however, some forest campgrounds are operated on a first-come, first-served system. The maximum stay in most campgrounds is 14 days, with a 21-day maximum stay per Ranger District per calendar year. Most campgrounds fill quickly during holiday weekends; therefore, visitors should come prepared to camp in undeveloped areas.
Below is a list of camping spots alongside the trail:
-Loon Lake (Closed 2019)
-Winter Camp (near The Little Sluice)
-The Little Sluice slab area
-Buck Island Lake
-Rubicon Springs (Contact Rubicon Soda Springs for any fee information.)
-Top of Cadillac Hill at The Observation Point area
Below is a description of the camping areas:
The first turn-off will take you down to Wentworth Springs. This secluded campground is a great place to visit when planning a 3-4 day trip. Because of the remote location, you can expect a lot of R&R.
The first stopping area along the trail, Ellis Creek, is usually a common spot for people to stop and take a break while on the trail. Along with a nice creek, this area also has a restroom. The creek is known to have trout and other similar fish.
The next camping area is Walker Hill. This area isn't suitable for anything over a few vehicles. There is a small area off to the right of the trail where you can set up camp. There is also an outhouse.
Along the trail, you will run into the Winter Camp (near The Little Sluice) area next. A much larger area, this is a common spot for people to take a break before heading down to Buck Island Lake. There is an outhouse here, making it a nice stop.
Just feet up the trail is The Little Sluice slab area. This a great spot to stop and camp. This is one of the few areas along the wide-open trail, which allows your group to spread out. The area can easily handle large groups. A short walk to the south is Spider Lake, where you can rest while fishing. The outhouses at the Winter Camp are not far back down the trail, making this a great spot to relax for the night.
The next camping area along the trail is Buck Island Lake. Usually a little more of a party scene, Buck Island Lake has it all - a majestic lake to swim in, fishing, plenty of open space, outhouses, and an ample amount of challenging wheeling inside the camping area. Many people, when doing 2 or 3-day trips, will spend one night here. The area is first-come, first-served, so make sure you get there early enough to get your spot.
Probably the most famous of the campsites, Rubicon Springs is the next stop along the trail. The good part of Rubicon Springs is that it is a paid campsite, which means it has more amenities any other area. These include a picnic area, stage, bathrooms, swimming areas, tree swings, firewood, campfires, water, fishing, horseshoes and similar games, helicopter landing pad, among other great things. This is allowed because this is private land; therefore, make sure you contact Rubicon Soda Springs for any fee information before leaving on your trip.
The last camping spot along the trail is at the top of Cadillac Hill at The Observation Point area. This is probably the best long-range viewing area on the trail, making this is a popular spot to stop and relax. If you choose to stop here overnight, make sure you are not a sleepwalker and have a flashlight on you at all times because if you take a wrong step, it's about 1,000 feet before your next step.
Icehouse Resort, California
There are two directions you can take the trail. To go west to east, start at Loon Lake. To go east to west, start at Tahoe.
***Loon Lake*** - From Icehouse Resort, take Ice House Road North 1.65 miles, and then follow Ice House Road to the left. Stay on Ice House Road for another 13 miles, and then turn right to stay on Ice House Road at Wentworth Springs Road. Take Ice House Road another 7.5 miles to Loon Lake Dam. The trailhead is on the other side of the lake.
Popular Trailer Parking Areas:
Ice House Resort (Paid Parking but protected)
GPS Coordinates: 38.814286, -120.374983
GPS Coordinates: 38.985626, -120.329628
GPS Coordinates: 39.003193, -120.311421
***Lake Tahoe*** - From Lake Tahoe Homewood Mountain Resort, head south on Highway 89 approximately 1.6 miles, and turn right/west on McKinney Rubicon Springs Road. Take McKinney Rubicon Springs Road 0.25 miles to Bellevue Ave, and go left/south. Take Bellevue Ave south for 0.15 miles, and go right where the road comes to a T (Springs Ct.) (west). Take Springs Ct approximately 0.25 miles, and then go left on Rubicon Trail. Take Rubicon Trail approximately 2.25 miles to the trailhead.
Popular Trailer Parking Area:
East End of Trail
GPS Coordinates: 39.045936, -120.168448
This trail has everything. My group gook 3 days and 2 nights to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Rocks, off camber granite slabs for long lengths of time, big boulders, and finally Buck Island Lake added some fun for those who enjoy the technical obstacles. Everyone was lifted with 37's. We all still took some damage mostly to the underneath of the vehicle. I cannot recommend this trail enough. Cannot wait to get back and do it again!
What an experience - this trail is simply unrelenting. I ran this in a JLUR with 37’s, a 3.5” lift, and lots of armor. Never needed our winch. Took 9 hours from Loon to Rubicon Springs and 4.5 hours from RS to The Tahoe trailhead (we had families/kids and met a lot of traffic on the second day). P.S., watch out for rattle snakes.
Great trail. This is the most difficult trail my wife and I have ever done. Poison Spider isn't even a warmup. It is impassable for an off-the-showroom-floor stock Rubicon from Jeep. A winch is absolutely necessary. Our 2020 Sport S with front locker, Warn bumper with winch, 2 1/2" Mopar lift, Rubicon take-off KO2s and a skid plate barely made it : 11 hours with a 15 min break for lunch. My wife's phone said she walked 8.5 miles spotting. We were the only vehicle that we saw that couldn't be ticketed by the CHP. Trail rating should be 9 to 10.
Took my full size IFS Toyota Tundra Crewmax through the Con and made it fit. Had to squeeze through a lot of the sections where my Jeep buddies drove right through. I went after the trail was recently repaired so a lot of the ruts were filled in with rocks that were helicoptered in so it was actually easier than what I expected. I was supposed to go in April but the snow levels were still deep but by mid May the snow was gone and it was drier than I expected - not that muddy. Coming back again next year, hopefully it'll be rutted out and back to normal.
Well what can I say... my Overlanding Gladiator completed a 4x4bucket list trip to the Rubicon Trail! My Daily Driver on 37s and a 2.5in lift took on the trail. I went with heavily modified rigs and experienced drivers/spotters which was invaluable. No body damage! On this first video you can hear/see the rock Tetris we had to play to navigate through the trail and it's obstacles. Plenty of obstacles to make you pucker! What a trip! The views and terrain are amazing in itself... Add the technical parts and obstacles and you can see why this trail measures up! The sheer amount of video/content this trail provides means I have to break the vids up into a series.
This trail guide's difficulty was changed on
We run the "Con" by joining the Toyota Land Cruiser Asso.'s Rubithon 2021 event. It is a very beautiful trail and the difficulties are real, very real, and I have my body damages to prove. Running with a type club was a great way to do the "Con" for this first timer. In addition to having experienced spotters, participants shared their trail spares and there were many qualified mechanic including a welder to help repairing trail damaged rigs.
Without writing a novel, I'll just say this trail lives up to its reputation. With the help of friends to spot, stack rocks, and winch, I was able to make it through the trail with no lift, 31s and a front locker. But I sure did beat the hell out of my diffs, leaf springs, and sliders! Even for the other two Jeeps with 33s and 35s, the trail was plenty challenging and still required pulling line a couple times. Going from Loon Lake to end of the trail near Tahoe, it took us close to 20 hours of wheeling spread over three days and two nights; a couple of those hours were due to trail traffic. Can't wait to go back!
This is it! One of the best trails ever!!! Loved the the challenge in a little group of 3 vehicles. We went right after the closure weekend last fall and spent a full day alone on the trail. We encountered the Jeep factory development team testing 6 of the new 4XE Jeep Wranglers at the Buck Island Lake campground and followed them the rest of the trail the next day. Fortunately we had a vine bottle cork to plug they JL front diff drain plugs and climbed up Cadillac hill together.
Be prepared, have tools and spare parts, you might need them! Lost the top nut of my passenger shock after the gate keeper and wheeled without one front shock for the rest of the trail! 35's on a 4.5" lift is what made this trip a joy! we'll be back!
The Rubicon Trail is amazing, but you already knew that. Bring lots of supplies, be prepared for the unexpected. Having a way to filter water for drinking would be a really good idea! I completed the trail with a group of Toyotas. We experienced a couple tire bead losses and one broken CV.
Our group just finished a 4 day and 3 night trip over the Rubicon with 11 vehicles. The trail was fantastic but I found it to be significantly harder than my trip in 2014 and 2010.
All of the obstacles were more difficult. The holes at the base of obstacles were deeper and climbs and descents steeper.
I did find route finding to be difficult in sections and the GPX track hard to follow.
I would also ask that instead of saying, "stay south/north," I would suggest, "stay right or left." North or south doesn't help.
Rubicon springs was awesome and the host Tony was awesome.
Fun trail of course but not for the inexperienced, unprepared, and solo travellers.
We had to go back and had a great time again! We went in Wentworth Springs this time, went as far as the green bridge and came back up to Buck, up Old Sluice and out through the Granite Bowl at Loon Lake.
Just a couple months ago we were freezing at night on the Rubicon, but last Friday night, at Buck Island Lake, I didn't even need my sleeping bag.
The trail is passable to Buck Island Lake and up Old Sluice. Probably further, but we only went as far as K5 Tree and Gas Can Hill.
The worst of the remaining snow ( up to Buck ) was at Little Sluice and the corner by Merlins Bench / Mud Lake. Zero snow at Buck.
The snow was melting fast ; probably 1 foot or more down between Friday and Monday.
Ran this trail last year with Josh and this year we entered thru Wentworth springs. The trail seemed a little harder in places and easier in others. We only encountered a few vehicles with problems one they were beating the fenders up for tire clearance and another had broken his coil overs. The soil around the rocks has washed away in places making them harder to get over or around but still a good time on the trail.
What a great trip, the trail did change a little from the epic winter but wasn't anything we could easily handle. Wish I could say the same thing for the other people we crossed. Long story short every group we passed has major breakdowns from broken axles, to needing to weld on frames. But overall the trail was great, it did rain on us pretty good the last night which made Cadillac Hill a bit of a pain but we all made it up with anyone use the strap.
Getting ready for our annual trip to the Con and just received word that fire restrictions are going into effect this Friday Aug 18th.
Make sure you bring your gas camp fires if you plan on going after that.
If you are on the trail early next week. Make sure you stop by and say high to us and get yourself some stickers.
I have talked with many locals and I was told the trial is open and has been cleared. The rock blocking Cadillac hill has been removed or has been moved enough for people to get by.
I was told that Cadillac Hill is very wet and slippery so be careful.
I have spoke to the local Ranger Office and The Rubicon Foundation today, and they indicated the trail is not completable due to snowpack exceeding 72 inches as of 5-10-17. They plan on doing a fly over the first week of June to assess the current trail conditions and provide an estimated melt date if not melted completely by then. They are expecting the snow melt to be 1 week later then normal at this point as long as the weather continues to be the same.
Please check back often for updates.
This is my experience running the Rubicon Trail for the first time. Just one year after getting into wheeling. At this point, the hardest obstacle I had faced was a big boulder at Walker Valley ORV in WA. Others will feel very different about what they experience based on their style of driving and personality. But I thought this was going to be relevant to at least some of you, so I’ll share.
Just a few weeks ago I met with a friend to discuss my then upcoming trip to Tillamook and get some suggestions and tips from him.
During lunch, he’s like “hey dude, why don’t you join us for our trip to the Rubicon?”
I was conflicted. I knew that was something I wanted to do eventually, but I was not thinking I’d go for it at the one year anniversary of when I got my first Jeep.
So I said yes. Then I started to worry :-)
Mechanically speaking I was more or less ready: I run a Rubicon JKU with front and rear lockers; I have 35’s on a 2.5” lift; I have steel bumpers and rock sliders; I have a lot of recovery gear; just got 4:56 gearing, sleeved and gusseted front axle and a full set of heavy duty Synergy skid plates.
And I watched a lot of Rubicon videos. A lot of videos.
So off we go.
The plan was simple. Drive down to Reno on Saturday, where our base would be. Shop and regroup on Sunday. Leave for the trail on Monday. We opted for the Wentworth Springs entrance rather than Loon Lake, it’s less frequented, and there is a really nice named obstacle called The Devil’s Postpile. Our first camp would be at Buck Island Lake. Day two on the trail would be about running Old Sluice, uphill, then head over to Rubicon Springs where we’d camp for the night. Day three would be about getting through Cadillac Hill to Observation Point and out. The total for three days would be less than 20 miles of trail.
You can plan for the Rubicon Trail in a number of different ways: mechanical readiness, itinerary, supplies, etc.
There is nothing I could have done to prepared for it mentally.
The Rubicon is a like a dog that bites and never lets go. There are several named sections, and those are more difficult. In between those, there is one obstacle after the other. Some easier, some harder. Some have bypasses, most don’t. Even the bypass is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Running the trail on 35’s and 2.5” lift, I was constantly scratching my belly, hitting the frame, skid plates, control arm supports, shock supports, the diff in some cases (careful with that one…).
Granted, the Jeep is meant to withstand that level of abuse. The driver? Not so much :-)
Do this for eight hours a day and it starts taking a toll on you. You get tired and in turn, start making more mistakes and hitting more.
Luckily I had one of the best spotters in the world! With his help, I was able to get through the most challenging parts. Having a good spotter really takes some of the pressure off and makes the whole thing easier.
At the end got out with only minor damage: fender flares are a lot more loose compared to when I started. Small dent in a door while hugging a tree on Cadillac Hill. The rock sliders have a severe case of trail rash. Wheels are a giant scratch. Few dents in the bumpers. A big dent in the muffler. Underneath is a mess, but skid plates did their job (best spent money, paid for itself in one trip).
I ran the bypass for Devil’s Postpile. Skipped Soup Bowl. Skipped Old Sluice and took the Indian Trail down to Buck Island Lake instead. Ran the rest: Walker Hill, Little Sluice, Big Sluice, Cadillac Hill.
I cannot believe I did most of what was there. I learned a lot in the process. A lot about the vehicle and a lot about me.
I also learned that videos can only give you a rough idea of the obstacle, but the trail changes a lot from year to year and even daily as hundreds of vehicles make their way through it.
In the end, I am glad I did it. Many off-road enthusiasts do not get the opportunity to wheel the Rubicon. Others do, and end up leaving parts of their off-road vehicle there. I feel lucky that I have done it and got out with only minor scratches. Happy that I learned what I learned.
Now I have hours of GoPro video to go through and select the best pictures. I will share as soon as I have something.
Full video of the trail. This is everything from the second you turn off Loon to you get to the trailer parking in Tahoe. Both videos combined are over 6 hours long. The videos are recorded in 1080p 60fps 50Mbps. The video has highlights and is Dual View (Front and rear view at the same time) for most of the video. Making it so you don't miss a minute of the action....
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Mapping Crew - California
Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it.
Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you."
Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information.
If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
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