The Rubicon Trail is one of the most scenic adventures in California that connects two of the most beautiful state parks, D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay. Explore the shoreline of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and marvel in the breathtaking panoramas of the snow-dusted Sierra Nevada Mountains. This epic excursion is a must-add to your adventure bucket list.
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Route Description for Rubicon Trail
The Rubicon Hike is an amazing adventure that explores two of the most scenic state parks in California. The epic trek covers a lot of ground, demanding stamina and careful footing. Travel the undulating route over flats, through forestlands, along cliff sides, over footbridges, through switchbacks, and along the Lake Tahoe shoreline. Note the sections of the route along the shoreline cliffs are single track and bounded by dramatic drops—it is important to mind your footing and take extra caution when walking with kids. As the trail travels through diverse terrains, we encourage you to wear layers as insurance against changing conditions! Head out in the early morning if you plan to venture this route as a day-hike! Note The D.L Bliss State Park charges a parking fee which typically costs around $10USD. Though long, the stunning scenery will motivate you with every step.
Hiking the Rubicon Trail is an other-worldly, extraordinary experience. Wander along the shoreline of Emerald Bay and revel in the impressive panoramas of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains that bound the waters. Offering a diversity of stunning sceneries, the footpath stretches through lush mixed pine forests, quaking aspens, vibrant wildflowers, past cascading waterfalls, and lighthouses. Admire the impressive views of the busy bay and explore the famous Vikingsholm Mansion. Reserved for active hikers, this trek demands some stamina, but the beauty of the route is that it can easily be converted into an epic overnight expedition. No matter how long or by which direction you choose to complete this hike, you will surely be overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of Lake Tahoe.
Your exciting excursion along the Rubicon Trail begins from the D.L Bliss Visitor’s Center Parking Lot. From here, walk along the shoulder of Lester Beach Road, heading north to the Lighthouse Trailhead. Follow the Lighthouse Trail through the lush woodlands to a junction. Here, you will veer right onto the Rubicon Trail, which will guide you down to the shoreline of Lake Tahoe. Mind your footing on the steep terrain and admire the stunning views of the blue-hued waters. Now trekking southeast along shoreline cliffs, you will soon reach the Old Rubicon Lighthouse. Continue wandering south, and the path will pull away from the shoreline into the woodlands.
Eventually, you will reach yet another scenic overlook, boasting sweeping vistas of the lake flanked by the Sierra Nevada Peaks. From here, the path will gradually descend towards the shores, passing through aspen and mixed conifers, passing cascading waterfalls and granite outcrops. Navigate several granite steps down to a secluded cove before entering the Emerald Lake State Park. Now trekking along the shoreline of Emerald Bay, you will likely be joined by more eager explorers reveling in the beauty of the area. Notice the “boaters’ campground” in the water and several adventurers touring around in kayaks. You will cross over several footbridges as you enjoy the sights of Fannette Island, which decorates the bay.
Follow the Rubicon Trail past the boat pier and busy beach. Soon you will reach the Vikingsholm, a historic Scandinavian mansion that overlooks the bustling bay. If time permits and the mansion is open for visitation, explore the famous historic monument before continuing your journey. After passing the Vikingsholm, the crowds should thin as you wander northeast along the eastern shoreline of Emerald Bay. You will ultimately reach your turnaround point at the Upper Eagle Point Campground. If you have your gear or simply ran out of time, consider camping here and heading back the next day. To get back to the trailhead, simply retrace your steps the way you came, all the way back to your car!
Emerald Bay is a National Natural Landmark, earning the designation as an “outstanding example of glacial geology.” Located in the southwest of Lake Tahoe, the bay is one of the most photographed and popular destinations on the water. The Emerald Bay State Park, which encompasses the area, was one of the first underwater parks in the State which protects the stunning shoreline, historical monuments, such as the Vikingsholm, and the wrecks at the bottom of the bay. In the middle of the bay sits Fannette Island, a small island with ruins of the Vikingsholm’s tea house. This area is one of the most picturesque destinations in California; what are you waiting for?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you hike the Rubicon Trail?
Yes, the Rubicon Trail is a hiking route along the southern shore of Lake Tahoe—often confused with the Rubicon Off-Roading Route along the lake.
Where does the Rubicon Trail start?
The Rubicon Hike departs from the trailhead off Lester Beach Road
How long is the Rubicon Trail?
The Rubicon Trail is a 26.4 km out and back hike along Lake Tahoe.
Are there bears along the Rubicon Trail?
Yes, black bears are common in the area, notably along the Rubicon Trail—so make sure you pack out and lock up your food when camping overnight.
Insider Hints for Rubicon Trail
- Head out early to beat the crowds and complete the route prior to nightfall
- Be bear aware—consider wearing a bear bell
- Charge your camera, there are countless Instagram worthy scenes along this route
- Wear layers as insurance against changing conditions
- Wear a pair of sturdy footwear—you’ll thank us later
- Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated along this long trek
- In the winter, the roads into both the D.L. Bliss to Emerald Bay State Parks
Getting to the Rubicon Trail Trailhead
We began the hike along the Rubicon Trail from the parking lot off Lester Beach Road across from the Visitors Center off Emerald Bay Road/ Highway 89.
Rubicon Trail Elevation Graph
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Rubicon Trail Reviews
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