Rubicon Trail: Things You Should Consider While Hiking

rubicon trail

*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Rubicon Trail refers to two trails that exist within the Sierra Nevada in California.

On the one hand, the Rubicon Trail is a famous route for 4×4 vehicles that is 22 miles long. This is such a famous 4×4 route that Jeep has even named some of its cars after it.

On the other hand, the Rubicon Trail also refers to a hiking trail in this same region. In this article, we will focus primarily on this hiking trail, emphasizing the many things that visitors can do in the area. Towards the end of the article, we offer our final thoughts on the future of Rubicon Trail.


Rubicon Trail runs parallel to Lake Tahoe, offering incomparable views of the lake throughout.

Rubicon Trail connects D.L. Bliss State Park with Emerald Bay State Park. The latter lies on the southwestern shore of Lake Tahoe and is notable for featuring blue-green water. Lake Tahoe is thought to have more of a topaz blue color.

If you only plan on hiking point to point, then Rubicon Trail is about 6 miles. This takes most hikers between 3 and 4 hours to complete. If you plan on hiking this as an out-and-back trail, then it will be about 12 miles round trip.

The trail is mostly flat though it has sporadic sections of elevation gain and decrease. Hikers also get to experience shoreline cliffs, secluded coves, bridges, and an array of flora and fauna along the way.

Rubicon Trail features an elevation gain of about 400 feet. Lake Tahoe is already at an elevation of about 6000 feet since it’s in the Sierra Nevada.

This region of California experiences the extremes of the seasons. The highs in the summer can get in the 80’s while the winter temperatures frequently drop below 0. Snowfall is common in the winter, making the trail slippery and potentially dangerous. As such, most travelers recommend visiting in the fall, spring or summer.

At the end of Rubicon Trail is Vikingsholm Castle. This is a popular destination that many people like to tour during the summer months.  Rubicon Trail is considered a trail suitable for all ages and skill levels. Its main difficulty lies in its total distance, though obviously hikers can turn around at any point. Many hikers only hike a small portion of the trail before turning around, as this allows them to sample the beauty of the area without sacrificing more than an hour.

What are the Benefits of Rubicon Trail?

The main benefit of hiking Rubicon Trail lies in the incomparable access it offers to Lake Tahoe.

Visitors are treated with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding landscape. Additionally, at the end of the trail, Emerald Bay offers a cove for hikers to relax and swim in. This would be a great reward after a 6-mile hike and would be the perfect way to cool off.

Lake Tahoe is certainly awe-inspiring, regardless of the elevation you experience it from. Yet, being able to view the lake from 400 feet above facilitates a certain kind of appreciation. From this angle, visitors can admire its pristine waters as well as all the flora that surrounds the lake.

This picturesque scene is the perfect backdrop for a photograph. This makes the area attractive not only for families looking to capture the life of their children but also for photographers looking for inspiration.

Rubicon Trail would be the ideal place for a picnic, especially during the summer when copious sunlight and warm temperatures make sitting outside for longer periods of time enjoyable. This is such an idyllic setting that many people even propose to their partner here, using the beauty of the area to set the mood.

Many hikers have commented how well-maintained Rubicon Trail is. Some trails offer beautiful views but are difficult to follow and lack proper signage. You don’t have to worry about this with Rubicon Trail, as there are clear markings throughout. It would be difficult to lose the trail, especially when the area is crowded. This makes the hike perfect for a beginner hiker. 

What are the Drawbacks of Rubicon Trail?

There are very few drawbacks to Rubicon Trail, as this is perennially considered one of the most beautiful trails in the Lake Tahoe area.

Still, the trail can be loud in the summer months due to larger crowds. Any hiker anticipating total solitude in the summer might be disappointed.  

Furthermore, the parking lot at the starting trailhead fills up very quickly during the peak summer season. This could mean that you have to park much farther away from the actual trailhead, which would extend your hike. Some hikers are already wary about the distance of Rubicon Trail, so this additional distance to hike would not be desirable.

 What are Some Tips for Visiting Rubicon Trail?

We recommend getting to the trailhead as early as possible, possibly even before sunrise during the summer. This will give you plenty of time to hike the trail without getting stuck behind large groups. It will also provide a more solitary experience that will encourage you to reflect on the value of nature in the 21st century.

Furthermore, starting Rubicon Trail this early will also allow you to do many other things in the surrounding area. We advise spending at least some time at Emerald Bay, especially if you have kids.

Even though the water is still somewhat cold in the summer, many people claim that swimming in it is magical. Swimming in Lake Tahoe is definitely something you have to cross off your bucket list, so we highly recommend this activity.

Consequently, we recommend packing an extra set of clothes as well as extra towels, even if you don’t anticipate getting in the water. Lake Tahoe has a tendency to seduce visitors, so you should prepare for submergence.  

If you have access to two cars, it might be beneficial for you to bring both. This would allow you park at the beginning and end of the trail, which would mean that supplies would be available to you after hiking 6 miles. This would be ideal for families, as sometimes it’s unclear how far kids can hike. Having a car full of supplies at the 6-mile mark would allow these families to end their hike early if an emergency arises.

Bringing two cars would also allow you to pack more supplies that you could potentially use after finishing your hike. Many people like to prepare a delicious lunch but couldn’t possibly carry all the food for 6 miles. These people can leave the food in a cooler with ice and then devour it at the end of their hike.

What are Some Food Tips for Visiting Rubicon Trail?

If you do plan on having a picnic, we recommend making as much of your food from scratch as possible.

This will enhance your picnic experience and will also allow you to control more of the ingredients, leading to a healthier meal. The healthier the meal, the better you will feel and the more enjoyable your experience of Rubicon Trail will be.

We recommend bringing some kind of large bag to store your food scraps. Many people forget an extra bag and end up either throwing away their food scraps or leaving them on the trail. Neither of these are desirable, as the former avoids composting the food scraps while the latter can disrupt the local ecosystem.  

We also recommend bringing food that is dense with nutrition, as you will likely need to refuel at various points on the trail due to its 6-mile length. Fruit is always a good option since it’s also so hydrating. At the very least, you should avoid any food that weighs you down or digests slowly. This entails extremely fatty foods or foods with many preservatives.

In general, we recommend eating a lighter meal and not filling your stomach to full capacity. You never know when you might want to jump in Lake Tahoe. Swimming on a full stomach could lead to some digestive issues.

Our Final Thoughts on Rubicon Trail

We think Rubicon Trail offers unmatchable views of Lake Tahoe while also offering a fairly easy hike.

We think Rubicon Trail will continue to rise in popularity, as we think nature will be even more valorized in the future. We think future visitors will want to disconnect from the daily mundanities of their lives and escape into the unsullied outdoors. Rubicon Trail will offer this kind of refuge, as long as it continues to be preserved.

We think the responsibility for maintaining the trail is shared by both park officials and hikers.

We think it’s critical that hikers take out of the area everything that they bring in. This policy assures that the space is kept clean and natural without any disturbances to the local ecosystem.

[amazon box=”B01D0PKF0Q” template=”table”]

[amazon box=”B07DJTN1LS” template=”table”]

 [amazon box=”B01DPOGK4C” template=”table”]

[amazon box=”B0000DH4LT” template=”table”]

Recent Posts