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Rubicon Trail Out and Back

Intermediate
 4.7 (35) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A stunning trail clinging along the edge of Lake Tahoe's cliffs and secluded coves.


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Map Key

12.3

Miles

19.8

KM

Out and Back

6,624' 2,019 m

High

6,240' 1,902 m

Low

1,215' 370 m

Up

1,214' 370 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

19%

Max Grade (11°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Lake · Swimming · Views

Family Friendly Make this hike as long or as short of an out-and-back as the kids would like and finish up with a trip to the beach!

Overview

Don't let the length turn you off - you can turn around at any point and have a stellar hike on this lovely trail. Visitors also have the option to do a shuttle if you can find someone to move your car, or if you decide to take two vehicles. The section near the start at DL Bliss State Park is the most popular, and can be crowded, but it is quite spectacular. Parking can be exceedingly problematic at both ends. Start early, and on weekends be prepared to park a long way from the marked trail ends.

Description

Starting at DL Bliss State Park right off the very inviting beach (plan to swim upon your return!), the trail goes up and down over high rocky cliffs with big drops to the impossibly blue water far below. You'll pass the ruins of a 100-year old lighthouse and navigate short sections of trail that are carved right out of the cliff. Some sections have chain links you can hold on to, but most people won't need them.

Most people turn around after 1 or 2 miles, but the beauty continues. The trail will dip down to lake level, and occasionally head into the forest (off the lake), but the scenery remains gorgeous all the way to Emerald Bay. You'll look out at Fanette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe, where there are ruins of a teahouse that was a plaything for the children of the owners of Vikingsholm.

Vikingsholm is the next logical turnaround point (or hike up to the road if doing this one-way), though the trail continues on to the campground on the far side of the bay. This section of trail is also nice, but mostly used by campers making their way to Vikingsholm.

History & Background

Vikingsholm is the huge mansion that you'll see just at the head of Emerald Bay. Built in 1928 and modeled after Scandinavian architecture, the house is now a on the National Historic Register and is part of Emerald Bay State Park.

Contacts

Land Manager: California State Parks

Shared By:

Nick Wilder

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 35 votes

#207

Overall
  4.7 from 35 votes
5 Star
71%
4 Star
26%
3 Star
3%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#28

in California

#207

Overall
142 Views Last Month
22,476 Since Aug 9, 2016
Intermediate

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Photos

Emerald Bay in the morning light.
Aug 15, 2016 near South L…, CA
An Early Emerald Morning.
Aug 15, 2016 near South L…, CA
Like heading right through the middle of a postcard! The location is approximate.
Jun 20, 2017 near Tahoma, CA
Sunsets over Lake Tahoe leave nothing to be desired.
Aug 15, 2016 near Tahoma, CA
Fannette Island within Emerald Bay
Nov 24, 2017 near South L…, CA
View across Emerald Bay from Rubicon Trail with the snow covered mountains on the other side of Lake Tahoe in the background
Nov 24, 2017 near South L…, CA

Weather


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Check-Ins

Oct 1, 2020
Steve McMurchie
Aug 26, 2020
Niels Bauer
First parking lot full, second empty. — 9h 40m
Aug 17, 2020
Bruce Hope
Jul 8, 2020
S M
Jun 30, 2020
Tez G
12.5mi
Oct 25, 2019
Jennifer H
The DL Bliss State park was closed for the season so we had to hike in and out. That added miles, but they were on a paved road. Very enjoyable hike. 14.5mi — 5h 10m
Sep 1, 2019
Mitchell Cheree
8h 55m
Aug 9, 2019
Walter van Schagen