What You Need To Know Before Wheelin’ The ‘Con - Running The Rubicon: Part 2Posted in Events on April 24, 2015
In Part 1 of this story (Oct. ’14), we started you out at the beginning of the lengendary Rubicon trail and walked you through many different GPS coordinates and notable spots along the way. Now, we are picking up right where we left off, just after the Little Sluice, which is about half way through the Rubicon trail. You can plug our coordinates into Google maps to see their locations. For trail conditions, campfire and cooking restrictions, weather, and more information on the Rubicon Trail, go to rubicontrail.org.
GPS Coordinates: 39.013247, -120.266036
The trail meanders back and forth through rocks, trees, and sometimes a few soupy waterholes. Stay left to take the easier route down the granite slabs to Buck Island Lake. The turn to the right will take you down Old Sluice. It’s not quite as difficult as Little Sluice used to be, but it’s usually not someplace to take a first timer either. The two trails merge at the base of the mountain near Buck Island Lake.
Buck Island Lake
GPS Coordinates: 39.005525, -120.254858
We usually head all the way to Buck Island to camp for our first night. Most of the time we don’t go any further than here, and we’ll stay 2-3 nights. In our opinion, this location is by far the best camp spot at Buck Island. There is plenty of room, it’s close to the water, has trees for shade, and has an awesome view. The only downside is that it’s pretty close to the trail. You will no doubt have yahoos blasting music as they cruise by on their way to Rubicon Springs at 2 a.m. Don’t forget that your 4x4 must remain parked within 25 feet of the center of the trail. If you park outside this limit, the rangers that patrol the area will likely ticket you.
Second Best Buck Island Lake
GPS Coordinates: 39.004895, -120.254654
If it’s not underwater, this is also a great camp spot for a smaller group.
Headed to Big Sluice
GPS Coordinates: 39.005104, -120.245957
The trail meanders alongside Buck Island Lake for a bit. There are a few twisty rocky spots but nothing that’s unmanageable. It eventually makes a sharp right and begins to descend down to Rubicon Springs via Big Sluice.
GPS Coordinates: 39.003957, -120.244101
The tight left turn at the top of Big Sluice often gets eroded. There are several large rocks that seem to move around, making the trail different nearly every time. One of the rocks eats JK Wrangler taillights regularly. There are no bypasses for the Big Sluice, but the trail is wide in a few sections giving optional right and left routes. Further down Big Sluice, there are a several more tight spots where you will need to pick your line carefully. What works well for a short-wheelbase 4x4 may not work well for a long wheelbase 4x4, so don’t follow your buddy too closely.
GPS Coordinates: 39.012530, -120.244816
The bridge crossing the Rubicon River is a great photo stop, but don’t block the trail and make people wait while you take your selfie.
Soupy Water Crossing
GPS Coordinates: 39.015528, -120.244403
On the home stretch to Rubicon Springs, you may have several deep and soupy pools of mud that are the consistency of pea soup in spring. A few of the holes could be deep enough to swamp an engine. Later on in the summer, they become dusty silt beds.
GPS Coordinates: 39.018030, -120.246483
Rubicon Springs is a privately owned campground with sites available for a small fee. Camp spots can be reserved in advance by calling Glenda at Jeep Jamboree USA/Rubicon Soda Springs, Incorporated (530/333-4777 x12). There are lots of other areas around Rubicon Springs to camp too. This is the typical destination spot for most people. Once you reach Rubicon Springs, you are about three-quarters of the way through the Rubicon Trail.
GPS Coordinates: 39.029288, -120.252349
Cadillac Hill is the last real obstacle between you and civilization. There are several ledges and rocky sections. The water oozing from the sides of the trail most of the year makes it even more difficult.
GPS Coordinates: 39.034530, -120.253618
The Observation Deck is at the top of Cadillac Hill. Stop here to survey your Rubicon success! Shoot a few victory images. Sunsets are amazing from this point. There are only a few small obstacles left on your way out.
Dusty Road to Lake Tahoe
GPS Coordinates: 39.036234, -120.216693
If you’re like us, you’ll come to hate this long and dusty road so much that you’d rather turn back and head the other way. Eventually, you’ll exit the dirt and hit a paved road in a neighborhood. As you get closer to Lake Tahoe, you’ll enjoy the sight of the clear blue water. Take a shower and wash off the dust. You need it.
Building for the Rubicon
You really don’t need 44-inch tires and an expensive ultra-flexy suspension to enjoy the Rubicon Trail. In fact, we’ve always had more fun on the Rubicon in mildly built, short-wheelbase 4x4s. There are a few mods we would recommend, though. Most of these mods will help preserve your vehicle and make traversing the trail more enjoyable.
You can’t exactly roll on through the Rubicon in an all-wheel-drive minivan or Subaru Outback. You’ll want a good amount of ground clearance. We’d recommend at least 31-inch tires—33s would be better. All-terrain tires with sturdy sidewalls are a good choice. You’ll also appreciate having rocker guards to protect the quarter panels of your 4x4 and allow your rig to slide more easily over boulders. Stout skidplates are a must. The lower your 4x4 sits, the more skidplates you should have protecting the vitals. There are no part stores anywhere near the Rubicon Trail, so plan accordingly and bring spares for questionable components.
Solid tow points, front and rear, along with a tow strap, are common-sense items. It’s a good idea to have a functioning winch and winch accessory bag, but a winch is not totally necessary as long as someone in your group has one. A rear locker will make your life easier, but it is not absolutely necessary. The trail is regularly crossed by 4x4s with open differentials; however, they usually have seasoned drivers behind the wheel.
Watch the weather. It can be very unpredictable. We’ve rolled in on an 80-degree mid-September day on a Friday, and by Sunday, it was snowing. Unless there is an unusually warm winter, you can forget about crossing the Rubicon during the snow season. Ever heard of the Donner Party? That didn’t end too well. Donner Pass isn’t far from the Rubicon Trail.
Always pack plenty of supplies, warm clothing, tools, and proper camp gear.