Off-Road Vehicles, clubs, trips... | Jeep Configuration | Trails | Trip Checklist | Jeeps

Contents: Description | Aerial Photo | Maps | History | Books | Organized Trips | Directions | Organizations
Little Sluce
Near Big Sluce
Source: Glenn Wakefield's page
Description at (modified):
The Rubicon Trail is the "granddaddy of trails." Most of the 16.1 miles (17.3 from Wentworth Springs Staging) * of trail consists of large boulders and rocky terrain. The other parts of the trail go across huge granite slabs which have steep inclines and sharp drop offs. This trail is not for the faint at heart! It does offer some spectacular scenery if you wait long enough for the dust to settle. The usual direction of travel is from west to east, toward Lake Tahoe. You can camp along the way at Spider Lake, Buck Island Lake or about 7 miles in there is the Rubicon Springs Campground. This will take a beginner about 6 to 7 hours, or a seasoned wheeler about 4-5 hours if you drive straight through to the campgrounds at Rubicon Springs. The last leg of the journey is about 8 miles (1-2 hours) to paved road.

You can get hung for and hour or more if a vehicle in front of you breaks down on a narrow part of the trail.

(* You will see web pages setting the length of the trail from 12 to 22 mi. My guess is the people who say 12 miles forgot to re-calibrate their odometer after installing larger tires and the people who get 22 mi. had a lot of wheel spin along the way and/or took some bypasses. However, it may be whether they count the distance to the staging area and paved road or all the way out to the highway. Or, count the dirt road into the old Wentworth Springs staging area.)

Glenn Wakefield describes the trail as follows:
"The Rubicon is perhaps the most well known and most traveled four wheel drive trail in the world. It was the birthplace for rock crawling. It combines breath taking scenery with extreme challenge. It is rated a 'Most Difficult' 10."

The original trail went from Georgetown thru Wentworth Springs to Tahoma at Lake Tahoe. Loon Lake is a more popular staging area now. The trail is 15 miles long from the staging areas at Loon lake to the Tahoma staging area, which is 2.5 mi. from Hwy 89 at Lake Tahoe. It can be completed in two days (10 or more hours), but three is recommended.

From Wentworth Springs the axel-busting trail goes over an outcrop of rough basalt lava known as the "Post Pile" or "Devil's Playground".

From Loon Lake the trail goes over Granite Bowl before it connects with the trail from Wentworth Springs.

Jeeps with modifications listed below are recommended, however you can make it with a minimum of 2 1/2 in. lift and 32" tires or even 4x4 pickups by taking bypasses around the more difficult spots. You should go with someone who has experience on the trail the first time.

From Georgetown it is 51.5 miles to Loon Lake and 55 mi. to Wentworth Springs. Jeep Jamboree trips start at Georgetown.
Note: The web sites and books do not have consistent mileages. Next summer I'm going to drive all the routes and get the correct numbers.
Many people come from Hwy 50 where it is about 32 miles to Loon Lake and 35 miles to Wentworth Springs.

Region Map:
Rubicon Trail, Georgetown, Loon Lake, Lake Tahoe
zoom out | Map at
Where to get Parts at
Where to get gas All phone (530)
Ice House Resort 293-3321 7-9 wknds.
Georgetown - Gas & Go 333-1586, Murchie's Garage 333-4344
Homewood - Obexers Marina 525-7962 | Tahoe City - Chevron 583-0211
Kyburz - Silver Fork Store - 293-3172
Pollock Pines - Crystal View Station 644-6041
 Truckee: Dependable Tow 587-5292
See Distances below.
.Rubicon Trail
Adapted from "Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails".
Other map links below.

Wentworth Springs & Loon Lake                 Lake Tahoe
Rubicon Trail
See whole trail map with mileage and regional map above.

Some the best known obsticles are:
Big Sluice - Approximately one mile of downhill trail, littered with huge rock steps and big boulders. Sections are narrow and tilt you toward the cliff.
Little Sluice Box - Narrow section filled large rocks. Usually bypassed now because people have pushed large bolders off the cliff above down onto the trail. It is not uncommon for a group of 5 or 6 vehicles to take over an hour to get through the first 10-20 yards of the entrance to the Little Sluice. Expect some damage if you attempt it.
Cadillac Hill - A long tough hill with some sections of loose rock and a few hairpin turns and a waterfall.

See Directions below.

History: (
Originally a Native American trail connecting the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon Trail was re-discovered by European immigrants in the 1840s. In 1856, the federal governmenet established the Rubicon as an official wagon trail, because it is the lowest pass (7,100') and is a more gradual climb than Echo and Donner summits. By the 1890s, the trail had become an actual road (by the standards of the day) and was used to reach the Rubicon Mineral Springs Resort and Hotel. The first car into Rubicon Springs arrived in 1908, driven by a woman from Lake Tahoe. This historic drive received quite a bit of publicity from the San Francisco newspapers.

However, when the Rubicon Springs Hotel closed in the late 1920s, the road fell into disuse.

In 1939, El Dorado Co. rebuilt the bridge across the Rubicon River and in 1947 replaced the log bridge with a steel bridge.

The route has been used by 4-wheel drive vehicles since the early 1950s and has become one of the most famed, 4-wheel drive trails in the world.

Mark Smith, The "Godfather of Rockcrawling" started exploring the trails out of Georgetown in 1951. When he first ran the Rubicon in 1951, it was, he remembers, mostly a cobblestone road. He says, "You could do the whole thing in a day." Says Smith, "It's much more difficult than it ever used to be. A lot of that's because of vandalism, people rolling big rocks down in the trail.

In 1952 Smith and several other 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." The last weekend of July each year, four-wheelers follow the tradition of these "pioneers." (In 2003 there were 800 vehicles. See below.)

At they say:
Two of the trail's most famous obstacles, the Little Sluicebox, and the Big Sluicebox, provide a study in contrast. The Little Sluice, as it's called, always was tough. But it was driveable. Today it's almost impassable. Explains Smith, "In the Little Sluice, these idiots have pulled great big rocks down and blocked it off. It takes these extreme machines a day to get through there. The guys sit there drinking beer and encouraging the others to crash on through and break their vehicles."

So Little Sluice is blocked off, and the trail takes a bypass. Big Sluice, that heart-in-your-throat downhill that's studded with Jeep-sized rocks and lined by boulders on one side and a cliff on the other--well, that seemed tamer than I'd ever seen it. Hey, none of it's easy, and as I constantly reminded myself, this trail changes every year, not only because of the attentions it gets from various rock rollers, but also because of the incredibly severe winters that descend upon the Sierra Nevadas.

Smith and a group of investors bought the property that holds the Rubicon Springs in 1985. These days, what was a beautiful but primitive campsite holds a caretaker's cabin plus several semi-permanent buildings used for cooking, feeding and watering the crowds that come through on the Jamboree trips.

On July 13, 2004, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors declared a state of local emergency concerning the use of Spider Lake-Little Sluice. The area is south of and adjacent to the Rubicon Trail. A significant amount of human fecal waste has been deposited within this area creating a health and safety threat to the users of the Rubicon Trail and adjacent lakes and streams, which in turn flow into the American River Watershed. The area reopened November 10, 2004, however we're asking that everybody stay at least fifty feet from the lake and pack ALL waste out.

In the 1980's Planning for a basin-wide effort to improve the water quality entering Lake Tahoe included water shed improvements along the McKinney-Rubicon Road. These improvements were funded by State of California Bond Acts, OHV Trust Fund dollars (Greensticker funds as some of us refer to it) as well as Placer County. The improvements along this route included the construction of rolling dips, water bars, rock-lined ditches, sediment basins, hardened water crossings, and rockwork structures as well as the bridge over McKinney Creek just below the staging area. These improvements remove sediment and decrease vehicle interaction with watercourses. As a provision of receiving the funding, Placer County agreed to maintain these improvements for a minimum twenty-year period (1986-2006).

In 2001 Del Albright forms Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR), with the help of the Pirates of the Rubicon, BlueRibbon Coalition, CA4WDC, CORVA, AMA, United FWDA and several individuals. FOTR is an informal coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to keeping the Rubicon Trail open and available to all recreationists. Working with Placer County, El Dorado County, the USFS, private businesses, many organized recreation groups, and other land management agencies.

In 2004, the Rubicon Trail Foundation (Inc.) was set up to help the Rubicon Trail and Friends of the Rubicon. It is separate from FOTR, but supportive of our efforts to keep the trail alive and well. See:
TImeline at
History of name at the Tahoe History Page.

Info on trail status can be obtained at the ElDorado National Forest Georgetown Ranger Station (530) 333-4312
See Also: the Rubicon Trail page at the Forest Service Site.
Eldorado Natiional Forest Trail Conditions at OHV Trails Status page.

On May 23, 2004 there were 2-3' snow drifts on the trail as you approached Miller Lake and 6' drifts beyond it. The trail opened even later in 2005 which had double the normal snowfall.

Vehicle requirements:
There some bypasses around diffcicult spots; that with some manual roadwork to make small ramps with rocks and you can do it with 31" tires (so a stock Rubicon can make it). Mimimum for the most difficult parts are 33"- 35" tires.
See the Jeep Configuration Page and Trip Checklist.

Radio Communications


"4 Wheelers Guide to the Rubicon Trail" by William C. Teie, Published by Deer Valley Press.
"Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles A. Wells.

Organizations and Trips:

There are three main organizations which provide commercial Rubicon trips. Prices are for 2005 and may be higher now.
In addition local clubs have trips for their members.

* Jeep Jamboree USA Trips (530) 333-4777 - Commercial trips across the country.
Founded by Mark Smith who was originally associated with Jeepers Jamboree.
  2776 Sourdough Flat, Georgetown, CA
  The Rubicon Trail (60-135 vehicles) August 10-13 2006. $325/person
    Includes 7 meals, camping fees, mechanics. A helicopter is on call for problems or part delivery.
  Thu. night - Food, lodging at Georgetown; Fri. - staging and 1st part of trail; Sat. - Relax, Talks on Geology and Native Americans; Sun. - out to Lake Tahoe.

    Private trips (they provide the jeep) for $1,850/person 2 people.

* Jeepers Jamboree Inc., (530) 333-4771 - , they sponsor the oldest (Started in 1953) and largest trips (800 vehicles in 2003).

Jeepers Jamboree: last week in July. - 4 day $305, 3 day $285.
Two groups of 200+ vehicles each.
They supply food, camping fees, mechanics (you have to pay for parts). A helicopter is on call for problems or part delivery.

A description of the 2003 Jeepers Jamboree at says: "There was a lot of drinking, drugs, loud music and incredibly poor stewardship of the land."

Jeep Jamboree: first week in Aug. - 3 day $285.
350 vehicles

They have a permit from El Dorado County for exclusive use of the trail during a 10 day period then.

* Adventurous off-road trips on the Rubicon Trail by Harald Pietschmann
530-333 2696 office, 323-646 3856 cell, 254-204 0690 satellite.
Small groups June thru September.
    - Rubicon expert 4WD training $830/person ($1,380.00 to use one of his trucks.)
An intense hands-on 4 day 3 night 4x4 driving seminar combined with the adventurous crossing of the Rubicon Trail. 2-3 vehicles.
    - Rubicon Trail for "first-timers" - $730/person ($1,280 including jeep rental).
  Max 3 vehicles; food, 2 nights hotel, 3 nights camping.
    - Rock Crawling 101 - 1 day. $295
    - Other trips Jeep Clubs often run trips

Vehicle requirement summary at the Jeep Configuration page.

Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR)
Rubicon Trail Foundation (Inc.)

Blueribbon Coalition - The BlueRibbon Coalition champions responsible use of public lands for the benefit of all recreationists.
  Pocatello, ID (208) 237-1008

Directions to Loon Lake and Wentworth Springs:
From Hwy 50:
To Loon Lake: (Standard start today)
Take the Ice House Road \Crystal Basin exit off Hwy 50 about 22 mi. east of the Hwy 49 intersection in Placerville. Follow Ice House Rd. (Forest Rd. 31) for 24-25 mi.; Loon Lake Road (actually an extension of Ice House Road) turns to the right, take it for Loon Lake. Wentworth Springs Rd. goes straight. Follow Loon Lake Rd. 5 miles to the first dam then 2 mi. till across second Dam and spillway. Go down the hill to the left to the start of the Rubicon.

To Wentworth Springs: (The original Rubicon Trail route).
Go straight at this at the Loon Lake turnoff intersection. It will take you towards Gerle Creek.

Travel another 5 or 6 miles. You'll go past the Gerle Creek Campground and the Airport Flat Campground. You'll see a sign for Bunker Hill Lookout and McKinstry Lake (to the right). Take this off-shoot paved road. It won't be paved long.

Just before the pavement ends you'll go past Lawyer Cow Camp (some old buildings still standing there), and shortly you'll encounter a faint, narrow road off to the right. That's the Wentworth Springs Road. You'll cross a creek right off the bat, but the road is in pretty good shape for a while. Mostly 2WD stuff at this point.

Travel a few more miles and you're at Wentworth Springs Campground, with toilet and campfire pit.

From Georgetown:
From Georgetown it is 40 miles to Loon Lake staging and 44 mi. to Wentworth Springs. Jeep Jamboree trips start at Georgetown.
Note: You will see longer mileages in various books, but I measured it.

From Tahoe:

From Rubicon Springs: (approximate calculation - I haven't measured it)

 Homewood (gas)         14 mi. (Marina price is 50% higher)
 Ice House Resort (gas) 31 mi.
 Silver Fork (Hwy 50)   47 mi.
 Pollock Pines (Hwy 50) 47 mi.
 Georgetown  (gas)      48 mi
Trail Descriptions:
The Rubicon 4WD Trail by Glenn Wakefield
Del Albright's page
1996 Rubicon Jeepers Jamboree at
History of the Trail

Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR)
Rubicon Trail Foundation (Inc.)

Auburn to Lake Tahoe
Tahoe NW Back Country
Rubicon Trail West, Rubicon Trail East, Regional map
  and Map of Wentworth Springs Rd. (from Georgetown) and Icehouse Rd. (from Hwy 50) at
Map at Sierra Outdoor Recreation
Eldorado Natl. Forest OHV map North (enf_mvr_fo-03-05-07_north.pdf)
Loon Lake at Fish Sniffer
Loon Lake at
GPS coordinates at: and

Georgetown Information:
Georgetown Divide Recreation Distric - (530) 333-4000 or or 823-9090
Hotels and Motels in El Dorado County
Map, region map above.

History of the Rubicon Name:
There is Rubicon bay, peak and river.
Early settlers named the Rubicon river after its counterpart in Europe - a small river between France and Italy.

But "Rubicon" has more significance than just the name of two rivers. There is a reason why wines and companies bear the name Rubicon.

Julius Caesar put the name Rubicon in all history books and anyone struggling with Latin in school probably still remembers the Rubicon in connection with Caesar's famous words "alea iacta est!" - "the die is cast!" The significance of Caesar exclaiming "alea iacta est" was that by crossing the Rubicon, he was at the point of no return; he was declaring war on Rome. See Also:
Radio Communications
Wentworth Springs at
Introduction to the Rubicon Trail at El Dorado Co.


last updated 2 Mar 2008