How long does it take to drive the Rubicon Trail? That’s a loaded question. It really depends on an awful lot of underlying factors. If you think that just because the trail is only twenty two miles long, you can get through it in an afternoon, you need to think again. If you’re an experienced off-roader then you might just make it through in under five hours.
If you’re not or it’s your first time hitting this particular trail, which has been officially classed as the most difficult OHV route in the whole of the United States, then figure it’s going to take you the best part of a day. That’s if everything goes according to plan. Which it probably won’t.
Driving the Rubicon Trail is no walk in the park. Though that’s not to say you couldn’t hike it if you wanted to. You can and many people do. To drive it you need to be in a rough tough mood to tackle all the obstacles the trail will throw in your path and under the wheels of your jeep. You also need to be fully prepared before you set off and so does your jeep.
Are You Rubicon Trail Ready
If you drive an unmodified jeep don’t expect it to come out unscathed. If you love your vehicle, you might want to reconsider your plans. It could end up having more dents than a Jamaican steel drum. Believe it. When you start bouncing your undercarriage or side panels against the rocks it could sound like you’ve signed up to play in a steel band.
Before you hit the Rubicon Trail it comes highly recommended to do some basic maintenance. They might sound like pretty simple things which could make you feel like overlooking them but don’t. They’re essential to make sure the ride over rocky ground you’re about to take is as safe as possible. Top of your list should be checking your brakes. Make sure the fluid is topped up and the shoes and pads are in good condition. You’re going to be using them a lot and relying on them in some seriously tricky moments, so don’t skip it.
Follow that with oil checks, fan belt checks, hose checks, coolant checks. In fact, check everything right down to the nuts and bolts – literally. If you find a loose one, tighten it up otherwise it’ll shake, rattle and roll right off down some crevice where you’ll never see it again. Check your tires too. They’re about to get a major beating so make sure they’re up to the job. If you’re not sure if your jeep is trail ready, then take a detour into Georgetown before you go. There you’ll find the Rubicon Trail jeep preparation experts.
Driving the Rubicon Trail is best done as a group practice rather than going it alone. Join up with like minded friends who are jeep lovers too. Make sure you’re carrying the right equipment between you to get yourself out of trouble. That should include tow straps and a winch (if you don’t already have one, then this is highly recommended). Don’t forget to check if your jeep has tow hooks. If it hasn’t, get them installed. There’s a high probability you’ll be using them somewhere along the way.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong
Just think anything and everything, but that’s part of the challenge. The jeep can suffer a roll-over so make sure you add checking the safety belts to your list of things to do before starting. Giving the roll bars the once over isn’t a bad idea either. You might have problems from engine flooding or braking failures after crossing creeks and streams. You could get stuck between boulders, get a wheel jammed in a crevice or suffer serious tire damage. If you just put check spare tire or even load an extra one to your list, you’re right on top of the job.
It doesn’t have to be you who has a problem, things can go wrong for other people too. Be ready to lend a hand to someone else. They’d do it for you. The worst case scenario is that a jeep breaks down in front of you and blocks the trail. It ain’t going nowhere and neither are you until its fixed. So it’s often a case of all hands on deck to get the problem sorted. If you do get stuck behind a breakdown, be patient. It could be you next time.
Study the basics
Every single section of the trail has its own name and presents a unique challenge. Don’t be misguided in thinking because the trail runs through some pretty world country, you and your friends will be alone. The Rubicon Trail is a very popular drive and there’ll be plenty of people around particularly at the most difficult spots. Yep, they’ll all have been there, seen it and driven over what you’re driving over. They’ll direct and offer advice on just how to get over that boulder. It’s not exactly back seat driving though similar. Think of it as more of a free communal, observational advice service.
It’s also great to get that rousing cheer of appreciation when you eventually clear whatever it was you were navigating around or over. Those bystanders understand just how difficult what you just achieved was so bask in the glory until you reach the next practically insurmountable obstacle.
Rubicon Trail Etiquette
Driving the trail has its own set of rules and regulations set out by the Parks Division of the County of El Dorado. One of the most important is hit the trail well equipped. They know things can go wrong and if they do you could be spending the night sleeping in the open.
Make sure you’re well packed with sleeping bags, insect repellent and a good flashlight with extra batteries. Take a tent and you’ll be covered for all overnight possibilities. Pack enough food and water supplies for at least two days. If you’re planning a barbecue, you’ll need to apply for a fire permit as fire restrictions are in place along the trail. Stash a good fire extinguisher and a well stocked first aid kit ( should have everything you need) and you’re almost ready to go.
Don’t forget to carry a change of clothes in a waterproof bag because there’s nothing worse than sleeping rough in damp pants. If you’ve got a radio kit, pack that too.
The Rubicon Trail can be pretty hairy in places and you just might feel like pooping your pants, don’t. The Parks Division have even got rules for doing that. To make sure the ecosystem of the park around the trail doesn’t get affected by deposits of human faecal waste, they recommended using Wag Bags. If you’ve never heard of them they’re chemically eco-friendly pouches which you pee and poop in. The idea is to deposit used bags in trash cans. If you can’t find one, make sure you store your used bag somewhere secure until you do. There’s nothing worse than flying poop bags if you happen to roll the jeep over. No, before you ask, it’s not permitted to leave them on the side of the trail.
To help maintain the environment, you should also make frequent checks to make sure your jeep isn’t losing any oil. Oil spots don’t belong in a natural park, so if your jeep does lose some clean it up with a spillage clean up kit. Yes, you’ve got it. That’s another thing you need to add to your list of equipment to pack.
While you’re out there driving the Rubicon Trail, make sure you stick to the designated routes. Only cross creeks and streams at the marked points. Don’t drive through vegetation. Wear your seat belt at all times when you’re in the jeep, it’s the law and you could be very thankful you did. Do all that and you’ll have an amazing and unforgettable time driving the Rubicon Trail!