The Rubicon Trail is a rock crawler’s paradise tied into a 22-mile route that is literally and figuratively in the middle of nowhere.
Yamaha wanted to be the first Side-by-Side manufacturer to tackle this unforgiving, tough, “no joke” trail and we did just that. You know the Dirt Trax crew was up for the challenge, especially in a vehicle like the Wolverine RMAX2 1000, which is equally capable at handling chores around the farm as it is at rock crawling on the epic Rubicon trail. Let’s ride!
Instead of recapping the event, let’s show you how to tackle this trail yourself, including all the must-see points of interest, camping spots, and hard-core details of the rock climbs (and descents) that make Rubicon the trail that it is today. After all, this trail was on our bucket list, shouldn’t it be on yours?!
Before even thinking about tackling this trail system, you need to have a vehicle setup for this type of off-roading. We went into this RMAX event knowing it was going to be tough. It tests equipment to the max every step of the way (our average speed was between 3-4 mph for an 8-hour period).
The Wolverine RMAX 1000 is built extremely well from the factory, but even the full steel undercarriage needed some extra protection to handle this trail and ours were equipped with full-length UHMWPE skid plates (straight off of ShopYamaha.com). These soften the hard thuds when you touch a rock, and allowed us to slide over the obstacles instead of getting hung up on them.
Skid plates and a set of steel rock sliders were the only two modifications on our RMAX units and we had no issues on all 12 RMAXs on this trip, which is a testament to the durability of these vehicles. Needless to say, we put Yamaha’s “Proven Off-Road” slogan to the ultimate test and the RMAX passed with flying colors.
Pick your place, then get onto the trail!
For this trip, the first thing you need to do is pick a staging area – either the east side at Lake Tahoe or on the west side in Placerville/Sacramento. The latter is closer to the traditional start of the trail at Loon Lake/Wentworth Springs, but the former is the more scenic of the two areas.
There’s something special about Tahoe, and we’d choose to stay there, if possible, then ride from the Tahoma staging area on the east side of the Rubicon Trail.
As far as gnarly rock climbs along the route, you’re going to encounter climbs (and equally difficult descents) like Big Sluice, Little Sluice, Cadillac Hill, Alligator Pit, Soup Bowl, Vee Notch, Old Sluice Box, and many more. Again, the phrase “no joke” comes to mind here.
As you navigate your way through these challenges, it’s all about slow and steady. There are too many people that break things on this trail – don’t be one of them!
You’d be hard pressed to do the entire trail in a day. It’s best to load up the family, take your camping gear with you, pack a bunch of food, water, and supplies, and go enjoy a great weekend on the trail.
Not only can you camp at the breathtaking Rubicon Springs campsite, but you can also camp at various sites along the trail.
We saw numerous pullouts that would allow campers to have a great night’s sleep. We setup camp at Rubicon Springs and put our Klymit gear to the test on this trip. As we sat among the massive pine trees along the river, we couldn’t help but smile while the glamping-style accommodations were just what we needed after a long day riding.
Last but not least, be aware of your surroundings while on the trail. Bring your bear spray, bring a venom extractor in the unlikely event that one of the many rattle snakes in this area caught you on a bad day, get yourself a satellite phone for the trip (GARMIN makes the inReach systems for this type of activity. You dont have any cell service on this trail), and make sure you get a family membership to the life flight service so you don’t have to worry about it on the trail (airmedcarenetwork.com).
Those are just a few helpful tips as you prepare to tackle the Rubicon. If you really want to go all out, you can even hire a guide service, such as Rubicon Trail Adventures, to give you a fully guided tour of the place, complete with meals and top-notch personalities.
Are you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime rock crawling adventure on the most iconic rock crawling trail in the world?! Good, because you’re going to see us back on the Rubicon here very soon in our RMAXs.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment to say you have conquered the Rubicon trail and if you can, we recommend doing it in an RMAX.
We’ll see you out there!
* Rubicon Trail Adventures