Cadillac Hill

Cadillac Hill

Cadillac Hill is one of a handful of well known challenges on the Rubicon Trail. Others would include: Little Sluice, Old (True) Sluice, Big Sluice, Postpile, etc. Cadillac Hill is a combination of several obstacles along the journey from Miller Creek to Observation Point. Let me walk you along the trail.

A photographic journal of this trip will be posted soon. There are about 60 photographs that detail the challenges of Cadillac Hill.

When you cross Miller Creek, you leave the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) and enter the Tahoe National Forest (TNF). About fifty yards up on the left is the turn for the Long Lake Trail (TKS-11) recently approved by the TNF.
Just past the Long Lake Trail, the Rubicon starts to rise as it turns to the left. You are now on Cadillac Hill. The first memorable obstacle is what I call “The Driveway”. I’m sure there are many other names for this but hey, it looks like a driveway. The approach is very steep but once you’re on it, it’s a smooth granite drive (way) that curves to the right.

When you get off “The Driveway” you have two choices. Keeping right is the easier of the two routes and follows the base of an outcropping of granite. Keeping left, you actually drive over the granite outcropping. Once past the granite you enter the trees. This is where you want to be when you have to wait for traffic on a Sunday morning.

The trail narrows as it passes through “The Roots”. This section is made up of tree roots and large boulders. Wider vehicles have more of a challenge as they don’t have much choice of the route they will take.
After “The Roots” have been cleared, you approach “The Hairpin”. The turn itself isn’t so bad but it gets really tough just past the turn. There is a rock sticking up on the right side. Most rigs can’t straddle it or put the front right tire on it. My route is to stay just to the left of it then turn to the right and bring your rear tire over it. If you stay too far left, you might flop the rig to the right as there is a large granite slab sloping up on the left side.

With no time to regroup, you’ll immediately find yourself at “The S-turn”. This obstacle has recently been opened up so it’s not as bad as it once was. You have to approach staying far left, almost hugging the vertical wall. A full right turn is then required, followed by a full left turn. This is the only place on Cadillac Hill where a short wheelbase is nice thing to have.

Just as you break out of the trees, take a moment to try and find the remains of the Cadillac for which the hill is named. It’s just off the trail, down the hill in the bushes. There was debate for some time if it was a Cadillac or a La Salle. I’m happy to report that Steve Morris and I took a trip down to the vehicle in question to verify one way or another for Steve’s new book on the Rubicon ( and it’s a Cadillac!

“V-Rock” will be the next obstacle that comes in to view. It’s a large granite slab sloping down from left to right with a large boulder at the far right edge. You should approach from the right side but don’t veer off the edge. Once you start up on the granite move left but stay tight to the boulder on the right. Once even with the boulder, turn to the right. You might think this doesn’t sound right but that’s the line. Straighten up after you’ve cleared the boulder.

Again, before you have time to congratulate yourself on making “V-Rock” you see “The Notch”. The approach is the as bad as the turn. It’s a left turn up a very steep section that has been cemented several times. At this point, if you roll too far backwards, you go off the edge. The notch part is the right turn at the top around a granite wall on to a level section of trail.

There’s a short break in the action with a few yet un-named obstacles that seem to get worse every year. Then the last named obstacle on Cadillac Hill: “Morris Rock” or “The Steps”. This one is named for the same Steve Morris mentioned above for his 50+ years as a volunteer wincher here for those participating in the annual Jeepers Jamboree event. Only Steve knows how many winch cables he’s worm out over the years.

Steve will tell you to use second gear here not first gear and to keep it moving.

There is a large wide spot in the trail above “Morris Rock” to allow you stop and celebrate the completion of the last tough obstacle on the Rubicon Trail. You’re still more than ten miles from pavement but the hardest part is behind you.

Back in the trees the rocky trail turns, splits and winds its way to Observation Point. This is THE view on the Rubicon Trail. Looking south, you can see down in to Rubicon Springs. Looking west you can see the trail as it passes Arnold’s Rock, much easier at night as you can follow the headlights. Looking north Long Lake is hidden in a valley. Hike around a little and much more comes in to view.

I hope you enjoyed the drive.

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