Rubicon Trail

MODERATE 325 reviews
#1 of 3 trails in

Rubicon Trail is a 11.9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until September.

DISTANCE
11.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1381 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

paddle sports

rock climbing

trail running

walking

beach

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

no dogs

Two parks in a day - D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks. The Rubicon Trail along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is a gem! It's easily accessible and has some of the best views on Tahoe. It's absolutely a hike one can look forward to repeatedly. The Rubicon covers a lot of terrain. There are flats, undulating short elevation gains and drops, and twists along some stunning shoreline cliffs. The trail dips into secluded coves, and along easily accessible shorelines in Emerald Bay. At both the beginning of the trail and end are a campgrounds, also along the south shore of Emerald Bay, you can find active nesting area for Eagles. Tree coverage includes sugar pines in D.L. Bliss and overall coverage throughout the balance including ponderosa and Jeffrey pines, firs, incense cedar, and Sierra juniper. Along the streams grow alders, quaking aspen, mountain dogwood, service berry and bitter cherry, and black cottonwood. Wildflowers include columbine, leopard lily, lupine, bleeding heart, yellow monkey flower and nightshade. The bulk of the brush includes ceanothus, chinquapin, currant, gooseberry, huckleberry, and manzanita.

hiking
7 days ago

Did this trail starting at Emerald Bay above Vikingsholm. Ample parking available ($5) fee if starting from this lot; an 0.5 mile walk down a wide road brings you to the Rubicon "trailhead." Additional parking available at nearby Eagle Falls Trailhead.

Having completed a number of short, snowy treks, I wanted to complete my Tahoe trip with a longer hike without crowds. On a Tuesday in April with sketchy, remarkably windy weather, there were few people on the Rubicon trail. The crowds thinned out substantially, opting to explore the Vikingsholm area or head up to Lower Eagle Falls. Some remained at the viewpoint near the parking lot.

Rubicon Trail runs parallel to the shoreline of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. At first, the trail periodically switches between singletrack and wide, with sporadic sections of gravel dotting the path. This continues until the Emerald Bay Campground. From there, the trail is primarily singletrack and adopts a more rugged demeanor. Though it's a mostly flat trail, there are intermittent sections of elevation gain and decrease. The heart of the trail seldom ventures more than 20 feet above the shoreline.

If any landscape can be considered objectively beautiful, this is it. Even on a cloudy day with fierce winds, Lake Tahoe retained its aquamarine hue with exceptionally clear water. Patches of snow along the shore contributed a unique wintry essence. Though the views of Lake Tahoe are vast and lack the immediate punch of a waterfall or alpine lake-and-mountain, it provides perhaps the most serene area in Tahoe. There are some small sandy strips and rugged shoreline access that allow calming breaks from hiking.

As of 4/10, there's sparse snow on the trail, mainly on the western portion of the trail. The Emerald Bay area is devoid of snow. There is snow/ice on narrow portions of the trail, however, that require some care to pass. It's completely doable in hiking boots or running shoes. Some (very) minor seasonal flooding and streams appear on the trail infrequently; this should clear up by the summer months.

If hiking from the D.L Bliss Trailhead (North), either hike through Lower Eagle Falls or don't bother with the Emerald Bay section at all. The Rubicon trail is ironically the least scenic in Emerald Bay, as some forest cover and wide paths detract from the trail's beauty. In short, there's little to see that isn't visible in the western portion of the trail. Lower Eagle Falls, however, is powerful and serves as an impactful reward to a tranquil hike. If you make it to Vikingsholm, there's no reason to not continue up to the falls.

Rubicon Trail offers the premier coastal hike on Lake Tahoe. It can be mixed with the nearby alpine Eagle Lake, paired with Cascade Falls, or culminated with a seasonal cruise to complete a full Tahoe day. Regardless of the weather, it's difficult to go wrong with this trail, and should be seen as a safe winter/spring alternative to more questionable conditions.

1 month ago

Amazing trails. Beautiful view

hiking
4 months ago

We hiked this today and it was beautiful! Cool on the trail so dress in layers. Not too many people but enough to make it fun! The only bummer is you have to park at the top of the park and hike down to the trail head. Not bad when you are heading out but an uphill trek at the end.

hiking
5 months ago

Great views

hiking
5 months ago

The gorgeous views that are the destination of many hikes are with you the entire time!

6 months ago

Did the whole trail today and loved it! Perfect weather and amazing views! Tahoe my ❤️

6 months ago

It was amazing views of Lake Tahoe the entire hike! I was constantly stopping to admire nature and was completely enthralled with the experience! I would do it again!

6 months ago

Fantastic - and if it's warm don't forget to take your swimming gear as lots of places along emerald bay to have a dip

hiking
6 months ago

Hiked from DL bliss to eagle falls, took the Vikings trail back to emerald Bay parking lot and got a ride back to DL bliss entrance station, then took the lighthouse trail back to the car, what a day, amazing views and saw a lot. start EARLY, we got to the park at 8am and had vista point emerald bay and the park practically to ourselves on a Sunday.

6 months ago

One of my favorite hikes! You are along the lake for most of the hike, and the hike gets low enough at points where you could easily go for a swim (though water was very cold when we went in late September). The trail is mostly flat so hike is not very strenuous (I saw a few kids in it). There is a $10 fee to get in the state park and there is limited parking. The state park also has access to the beach (calawee cove) so you can make a full day of it.

6 months ago

Great up and down on lake

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful views, interesting paths. Very enjoyable

7 months ago

This trail boasts beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and involves fairly easy walking. It took me a little over two hours from the Vikingsholm trailhead to D.L. Bliss.

hiking
7 months ago

Went about 6a all the way to Eagles Point. Easy to find parking that early, caught a beautiful sunrise. Not much elevation compared to most hikes in the area. Great places to swim along the way. Catch a tour of Vikingsholm if you can, or take a kayak out to Fannette. Plus the view of lower Eagle falls.

7 months ago

Breathtaking views the entire hike. We took it starting at the Rubicon trailhead, stopped in Vikingsholm to take a tour and swim, and finally went to Eagle Point. Around 6 miles one way, and pretty tiring if you do go all the way to Eagle Point. We got there around 830 on a Sunday and there was still plenty of parking and the trail was empty, but it did get pretty crowded at mid-afternoon on the way back.

hiking
7 months ago

Such beautiful views along the northern portion past the visitor's center. The woman working there gave us tips on rock formations and osprey sightings too! One hiker warned us of a bear near the trail to the old lighthouse.

hiking
7 months ago

This hike is very scenic as what others have been saying! Lots of joggers, very refreshing, lots of shade!

hiking
7 months ago

Great scenic route, not too strenuous. Has a ton of beautiful views.

7 months ago

One of the most scenic trails I've ever been on. Had a great time starting on the South end and going to Vikingsholm and back. Definitely recommend anyone try it if you're thinking about it. Won't be disappointed.

hiking
7 months ago

Nice trail to hike if you are staying at Emerald Bay state park or D. L. Bliss state parks as both parks have access. Trail is comfortable to hike with views of the bay or Lake Tahoe along most of the way. Expect some company as area is very popular.

hiking
8 months ago

My 13 yr old son and I parked inside DL Bliss State park, right past the pay entrance, in a small parking lot, on the left. Right across from our spot was entrance to Rubicon Trail. Left was to the lighthouse trail (north), right was to emerald Bay (south). We did the southern trail and walked along the shoreline for 1.5 hrs out and 1.5 hrs back. Ended up being about 6 miles round trip. We did stop and take pictures, climbed down to the water a few times. We made it to Parson's rock past Emerald Point and then had to turn around because we had a rafting reservation. The trail is dirt, rocks, easy to walk on. Mostly shaded. The most beautiful, scenic views of the Lake. I probably took 50 amazing photographs. There are a few subtle hills, but not strenuous. This would be a great trail to run on.

8 months ago

Lighthouse trail is tough but scenic. Not much to see in the middle of this trail though. Great overlooks of the beach on the Bliss side! Took our 8-year-old and did fine.

trail running
8 months ago

Spectacular views! You'll want to stop every 100 feet to take a photo! The path is shaded and soft (for most of the trail). I ran from D.L. Bliss park to Vikingsholm -- 1.5 hours round trip.

8 months ago

This was a beautiful hike that most all skill levels can complete. I saw people from 7 to 70 on the trail. There are some granite steps and ups and downs so be prepared for some minor elevation changes. Very scenic as you hike along the shore of Lake Tahoe. We started at the DL Bliss State Park parking lot at Rubicon Point and hiked toward Vikingsholm. At a leisurely pace with time for a few pictures it took us 2.5 hrs. both ways for a total of 5 hrs. We packed a lunch and took an hour break at Vikingsholm to enjoy the scenery. Great hike! The only issue is parking. We arrived at 8:45 on a Saturday morning and the parking was almost full. Plan on getting there early or you will have to park much further adding to the distance of this hike.

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

I completed a portion of this hike on a warm day (for Lake Tahoe) in July.

This is a nice trail which hugs the lakeshore along Emerald Bay. It includes a waterfall (Eagle Creek Falls), a beautiful historic structure (Vikingsholm), and a lighthouse (which we did not make it to - see below). There are sections of the trail that are not covered, but I would say about 80% of the trail is in the shade, depending on the time of day. You are almost always surrounded by trees. I wore plenty of sunblock, but I did not wear a hat (as I usually do in exposed trails).

There are two sections of significant elevation change if you complete the entire Rubicon trail - at the beginning and at the end. Otherwise, the trail is very flat. It passes through some bustling day-use areas and a boat campground, but outside of these areas, it is peaceful and quiet for the most part. The views of the lake are fabulous. I've posted several pictures along the trail.

While others mentioned that the trail is packed, I did not find this to be a the case with a late morning start on a Sunday. The day use areas on the lakeshore have many people, but I encountered an average number of people. I encountered many more on well-traveled trails in Point Reyes. Parking is just as painful on weekends though.

As others have stated, unless you arrive very early on weekends, you will have to park in Emerald Bay State Park, which adds two miles (one way) to the trail. While many people park illegally on highway 89, we saw a CHP officer writing tickets for each and every car parked around 11am.

Because of our late start, we were unable to complete the entire stretch of the Rubicon trail. On Emerald Bay State Park maps, the Rubicon trail stretches between 12-13 miles round trip. The portion reported on All Trails is an abbreviated segmented which runs from D.L. Bliss to Eagle Creek Falls that is about 8.5 miles round trip. Ultimately, we went about 10 miles round trip starting from the Emerald Bay trailhead because it was getting late in the day and we had to make it back to our car. This is not to mention that we spotted a black bear crossing the roadway near the trailhead parking lot, so we certainly were not anxious to hike back after sundown.

Overall, it is a lovely hike, but unless you can for sure secure a coveted parking spot in D.L. Bliss on the weekend, be prepared to hike closer to 12-13 miles instead of 8.5 miles reported on AllTrails. Aside from doing the short 1-3 mile hikes in the area, this is one of THE trails to do in Lake Tahoe during the summer.

9 months ago

DL Bliss to Emerald bay hike was amazing! So many great views around every corner. We did the one way and got picked up.

9 months ago

Beautiful trail along the lake! Great views, areas to swim!

9 months ago

awesome trail with beautiful view of the lake throughout. Up for a challenge? Start at the parking lot above vikingsholm. Otherwise, start at DL bliss.

9 months ago

The day parking lot was full so we parked off Hwy 89 near the fire road directly north of the boat ramp at Emerald Bay. This added an extra 2 miles to our roundtrip, a mile down to the trailhead and a mile uphill at the end.

This trail was very well maintained and easy to follow. My kids, 10, 12, and 13, were able to be ahead and behind me without getting lost! Always a parent bonus.

Spectacular views throughout! The two miles on the DL Bliss side had steady climbs and decent but, again, the trail is superbly maintained. Lots of tree shade. We were on the trail from 1pm-430pm. Right at the halfway point between Emerald Bay and DL Bliss, there is a stream pouring across the trail. It provided a nice chance to dunk our heads in some cool Sierra Nevada water!

Great hike! Bring at least 2 liters of was per hiker.

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