Rubicon Trail

Eldorado National Forest, California
Elevation Gain1,257ft
Trailhead Elevation3,817ft
Elevation Min/Max3742/4388ft
Elevation Start/End3817/3817ft

Rubicon Trail

Rubicon Trail is a hiking trail in El Dorado County, California. It is within Eldorado National Forest. It is three miles long and begins at 3,817 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.0 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,257 feet. This trail connects with the following: South Fork.

Rubicon Trail Trip Reports

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Tracy, CA
Trailblazer | 760 pts
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Santa Susana, CA
Adventurer | 330 pts
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This is a must do for anyone that enjoys rock crawling and camping.
Bentleyville, OH
Adventurer | 267 pts
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An excellent, well-maintained trail with beautiful views. Don't try the loop above Upper-Velma much earlier in the year, however, as the trail is easy to loose when covered by snow, and the snow-melt makes crossing the streams around Velma lakes exciting.
Stockton, CA
Pathfinder | 120 pts
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You get a great view of Lake Tahoe and occasionally get to go over rocks, it's pretty long and the path is dirt. We loved it!

Rubicon Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Top Trails Lake Tahoe (Wilderness Press)
Mike White
"If lakeside views across the sapphire-blue waters of Lake Tahoe are what you want, look no farther than the Rubicon Trail, which follows a 5-mile stretch of shoreline along Emerald Bay and the southwest shore of Tahoe, between Vikingsholm and Calawee Cove. Thanks to the beautiful scenery and the relatively easy route, the trail is popular with hikers and sightseers alike, especially on summer weekends. Plan on an early start to find a parking place and beat the crowds, although photographers will appreciate the lighting later in the day, when the sun is high or fading in the west."
"Hikers on the Rubicon Trail will be treated to spectacular scenery on this fairly moderate trail that begins with a short side trip to a historic lighthouse (and a phenomenal vista), and ends with a visit to a renowned residence nestled among magnificent Jeffrey pine. Your trail starts out with a few uphill switchbacks to reach its high point near the historic Rubicon Point Lighthouse, then descends to Emerald Bay, where the highlight is Vikingsholm, a Depression-era mansion. Breathtaking views are common within the first 2 miles, as your trail either looks out on the lake or precipitously down on its shore before entering the cool shade of the Jeffrey-pine forest surrounding Emerald Bay. Curious hikers who brought along binoculars will have clear views of Captain Dick’s Tomb on Fannette Island."
Hiking The Sierra Nevada (Falcon Guides)
Barry Parr
"Lake Tahoe’s span of brilliant blue hues ranges from green-turquoise near the shore to a deepwater blue of such intensity that the sky pales in comparison. This panoramic hike to a historic mansion on Emerald Bay is the finest footpath of its length along Lake Tahoe’s California shoreline. No cars intrude, conserving isolated coves and spectacular vistas exclusively for hikers and boaters."
"Originating in Desolation Wilderness, the Rubicon River flows through the Sierra foothills on its way to join the Middle Fork American River. Hiking beside this river—clear as glass and emerald green—is a peaceful experience."
"Perhaps the best known and most popular 4x4 trail in the world. A rare combination of difficulty, beauty, length and pure rock-crawling pleasure. Great camping next to crystal clear lakes with stunning views. Most people drive the trail in the direction described here, but it can be driven the other way. You may also enter the trail via Wentworth Springs. History buffs, wishing to see more of the original Rubicon Trail will want to start in Georgetown. This adds about 50 miles to the trip but has several interesting historic features. The trail reaches elevations above 7,000 feet and is partially snow covered in the winter. However, only the Granite Bowl is officially closed to vehicular travel at that time. From a practical standpoint, however, the trail is for summer use. Check with U.S. Forest Service for special event closure dates. A mix of granite slaps, soft dirt, sharp rocks and large boulders which require precise maneuvering to avoid body damage. Several extreme sections can be bypassed but many very rough sections can not. Cadillac Hill is very steep, tippy and potentially dangerous. During wet periods, one water crossing can be very deep and muddy. Extremely dusty with tight brush in places. With an expert spotter, you might get a stock, high clearance, short-wheel based 4WD vehicle through without body damage, but the average driver should not try it. Best done in a modified vehicle with ample body protection and lockers. Route-finding is difficult across the Granite Bowl but, after that, the trail is well defined."

Trail Information

Eldorado National Forest
Nearby City
Eldorado National Forest
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Skill Level
DL Bliss State Park
Local Contacts