As of December 30th, 2022, the Rubicon Trail is closed to any type of use within El Dorado County. The closure is for 60 days. It is not clear if the closure can be lifted before the end of February. It is not clear if the closure can be extended past the end of February. We’ll all have to wait and see.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything that happened. I’ve tried to piece the events of this story as best I can.
On December 30th, 2022, El Dorado County closed the Rubicon Trail. It’s not clear who initiated this closure. The official closure appeared on the El Dorado County website on the Parks page. It stated:
“As of December 30, 2022, the Rubicon Trail is closed for public safety in accordance with county procedures and a determination was made with the Department of Transportation, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Parks Division.”
There is debate about whether all of the departments listed were actually all in agreement about the closure.
One theory is that the closure stemmed from a group of vehicles getting stuck along Wentworth Springs Road (not yet on the Rubicon Trail), bringing in a front loader for a vehicle recovery (but not using it). For the sake of the county not wanting to rescue unprepared drivers throughout the coming storm, the county closed the trail.
But Parks can’t just close a road for safety, so the story shifted after the initial closure to high water runoff due to the impending storm. The key word being impending. With the storm coming in, expected to drop a lot of rain, not snow, there was concern about water on the trail. In order for Parks to close the Rubicon Trail, due to water, measurements at specific spots along the trail and digital photographs of those spots must be used to document the conditions. Those do not exist.
But the Department of Transportation can close the road for safety. So, the story shifted back to safety and the DOT closing the trail. It helped that El Dorado County had declared a state of emergency, due to the storms. But this is where I have a problem with the reasoning.
As I understand it, Ice House Road to Loon Lake is not and was never closed. So, to protect the people, then and now, you can’t drive on the Rubicon Trail via Wentworth, but you can drive to Loon Lake and drop on to the Ellis Creek Intertie and drive in to the bowl!
Does that make any sense? Close the Rubicon Trail but keep the road to Loon Lake and the Ellis Creek Trail open. This is a government agency, or multiple agencies, at work and demonstrates why most OHV users don’t trust the government. For the record, throughout this ordeal, the Rubicon Trail has always been open within Placer County.
So, El Dorado County closes the Rubicon Trail for the safety of the people. How many people have died on the Rubicon Trail during the months of December, January, February and March? I do not know of any deaths during those months. How many people die at Lake Tahoe every year, about six. How many people die downhill skiing each year, about 40. How many people die hiking in this country every year, 120-150. Has El Dorado County taken the appropriate steps to protect the people from those activities?
El Dorado County overreacted when people got stuck in the snow. They did something they didn’t have the authority to do. Then they changed the story. And then they changed the story again. Then the Board of Supervisors made it official on January 10th (Resolution 017-2023) and back dated the closure to December 30th in order to provide cover for the unauthorized or even illegal early closure. Here’s a link to my original story and a copy of the signed resolution: https://theotherrubicon.com/2023/01/11/rubicon-trail-closed-within-el-dorado-county-until-feb-30th/
OHV advocacy groups were able to change the county meeting about hearing the above resolution in order to allow public comment but it didn’t seem to help as the board voted 4-1 to adopt the closure. It has been reported that the board members didn’t seem to understand the closure but just took the word of the DOT and passed it.
So, the agreement from 2013 (?) that specified scientific measurements and digital photograph documentation were required to close the trail has been thrown out the window and now any one who thinks it’s unsafe can close the trial on a whim.
We do need to address this issue of winter travel. How do we educate people to prevent travelers from getting in over their heads? Can we require trail users to carry recovery equipment? The state requires that all cars carry chains when driving over a pass in winter. Can certain vehicle enhancements be required to travel during snow conditions, like mud and snow rated tires being required on the highway passes during a storm? There could be precedent there.
If this actually started with a need for a vehicle recovery, do we allow the counties to charge for rescues? Should we, as users, develop a winter rescue group? If so, there should be one at each end of the trail. Should there be a fee to use the trail? Should those from out of the county be charged to use the trail and for rescues, but not locals?
After two deaths in recent weeks, Mt Baldy, in San Bernadino County, is considering a permit system to allow people to climb the mountain. Would a Rubicon Trail permit application ask about driving skills, experience, vehicle upgrades, recovery gear and survival gear? Who would set the standards. Could this be a winter requirement moving forward?
The users need to communicate with all of the government agencies involved with managing the Rubicon Trail and our public lands in order to prevent such knee-jerk reactions. In my opinion, the problem is getting the agencies to communicate with and engage with the users before making any decisions regarding the Rubicon Trail.
-just a user
“As of December 30, 2022, the Rubicon Trail is closed for public safety in accordance with county procedures and a determination was made with the Department of Transportation, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Parks Division.“
El Dorado County has closed the Rubicon Trail. For the record, that is only an El Dorado County closure. The Rubicon Trail is open within Placer County.
I assume that the closure is due to the storm systems currently hitting the Sierra Nevada. What I’m not sure of is why politicians, specifically in California, seem to think we need mothering. I’m calling the move “bullshit”!
California has a history of wanting to control everything in our lives. Below is just one story about CA wanting to control thermostats:
I get that the government is trying to protect us. So, let’s play that thought out. Let’s have the government protect us from other dangerous sports and activities.
Probably the big one, skiing. Why does the government allow us to ski? 39 deaths per year:
Why does the government allow us to recreate on Lake Tahoe? Six deaths on Lake Tahoe summer 2022:
Why does the government allow us to go to the Grand Canyon? Multiple deaths at the Grand Canyon:
Why does the government allow us to drive through Death Valley? Six deaths in Death Valley:
And for god’s sake, why do we still have hiking trails in this country? 120-150 hiker deaths every year:
Government control (read as closures) is continuing to creep into our lives. We need to tell the government to back off.
Government agencies are increasingly closing our Rubicon Trail and we need to push back. Safety is the new closure reason. They say they know better than we do. The current El Dorado for weather safety. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has twice closed the trail for fire safety, with the fires 12+ miles away, while the Tahoe National Forest had not even closed the Rubicon Trail.
Our OHV advocacy groups need to push back. They need to push back now. And they need to push back HARD. If we don’t fight to keep our trails open, they will be closed, for one lame reason or another.
I’m calling on RTF to step up and work to their mission statement: “To enhance the future health and use of the Rubicon trail, while ensuring responsible, motorized, year-round trail access.”
I’m calling on Cal4 to fight for our trails. CORVA, Blue Ribbon, AMA, ETC. Anyone and everyone that uses an OHV trail should be fighting this, and every, Rubicon Trail closure. The Rubicon Trail is open year-round. Although I’m not sure I believe that anymore.
How long are these organization willing to wait before they fight? Are you happy with your donations that have gone to these organizations, while you watch them sit on their hands while the trail is closed? Contact your favorite OHV advocacy group and let them know this closure is unacceptable. Let them know it’s time to fight.
It has been brought to my attention that CORVA did indeed challenge the FS fire closures of the Rubicon Trail. Thank you, Amy Granat! I was wrong and stand corrected.
If anyone EVER has corrections to my rantings, please get in touch and I’ll post them up.
U.S. Forest Service Eldorado National Forest 100 Forni Road Placerville, CA 95667 530-622-5061
News Release For Immediate Release December 2, 2022
Media Contact: Jennifer Chapman, email@example.com www.facebook.com/EldoradoNF Twitter:@EldoradoNF
Seasonal dirt road and trail closure begins December 1 on the Eldorado National Forest
PLACERVILLE, Calif. – Due to the amount of rain and snow received, the annual seasonal dirt road and trail closure for motorized vehicles went into effect December 1, 2022 on the Eldorado National Forest. The seasonal closure is designed to protect roadbeds and watersheds from damage and to protect water quality.
A minimum three month closure period from January 1 through March 31 was designated in the Eldorado National Forest Travel Management Plan for the core part of the winter. To maintain flexibility, the timing of the seasonal closure is determined based on current conditions each year which may cause the closure to go into effect early or be extended. This year, storms saturated the soils in November with rain and melting snow making dirt roads and trails susceptible to rutting and erosion. Regardless of when the closure is in effect, visitors should always use good judgement about whether motor vehicle use will cause resource damage.
The roads and trails subject to the seasonal closure are identified on the forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) which are available free of charge and can also be found on the forest website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/eldorado/maps-pubs .
The seasonal closure does not affect routes in the Rock Creek Area of the Eldorado National Forest near Georgetown, which has its own route closure process.
For more information on recreation opportunities and current conditions in the Eldorado National Forest, visit the forest website or contact a Visitor Information Specialist Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at: ·
Forest Supervisor’s Office: 530-303-2412 · Amador Ranger District: 209-259-3774 · Placerville and Pacific Ranger Districts: 530-644-2324 · Georgetown Ranger District: 530-333-4312 ### The U.S.D.A Forest Service is an equal opportunity employer. The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
This early closure would only include the Sourdough Hill Trail on the Tahoe side and all other trails in the ENF.
For the record, the LTBMU closes their trails Nov 15th.
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) and the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) both closed the Rubicon Trail for no justifiable reason during the Mosquito Fire.
Although the closure notices went up quickly, it was a fight to get the Forest Service (FS) to remove the forest order from their website. Many organizations and individuals pressured the Forest Service until the orders were removed. The last order was finally removed from the FS website on October 4th. Remember that on September 27th, the closure order was officially terminated. That’s a full week, for those of you counting.
But what about out on the trail? On Sunday, October 2nd, I ventured out on the trail. This sign was found at the intersection of the Rubicon Trail and the Buck Lake Trail. It was knocked over but still left on the trail.
Take a moment to read those signs that were publicly posted. The FS was posting that the entire forest was closed when in fact only the Rubicon Trail was closed by the forest order. That’s a bit of an overreach.
If we continue to allow the FS to abuse their power, they will only continue to increase the level and frequency of that abuse.
More of a concern, this posting was discovered on a tree along the Rubicon Trail at the intersection of the Ellis Peak Trail. It is a laminated copy of the forest order closing the Rubicon Trail and the associated map. No evidence of the associated termination order issued almost a week ago.
Those signs are no longer in public view but why didn’t the FS do a better job of removing all evidence of the closure?
At the old ATV rental parking area, along the paved portion, the barricades used to block public access were still alongside the Rubicon Trail. One view could be that the FS just hasn’t come back to pick them up or you could think that FS is just leaving them there for the next closure. I’m betting that the two FS guards that staffed the barricade were in a pick-up truck and could have removed the signage when they left.
We all need to keep an eye on all FS actions that close our public lands. We need to challenge each and every closure. And when they reopen, we need to make sure the FS posts the reopening as fast as it posted the closure. Obviously, it will be up to us to get the word out as soon as possible.
As with all of you, I’m trying to get a handle on this Mosquito Fire Rubicon closure situation. So, I try and find all the current information that I can, so I can pass it along to you.
The Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit still have a forest order in place closing the Rubicon Trail. I just checked (9/25/22, 7:45am), it’s still on the LTBMU website.
El Dorado County’s ‘Parks’ page and the subsequent ‘Rubicon’ page still have the Rubicon Trail as closed, but then lists the guidelines for traveling. “The Rubicon Trail is closed and the guidelines traveling are:” A little confusing.
Poking around the website a little more, the El Dorado County’s Sheriff has NOT posted the Rubicon Trail as closed. It lists Ice House Road and Wentworth Springs Road as closed but NOT the Rubicon Trail. A little more confusing.
From the same website, the El Dorado County closure map shows nothing closed or under current evacuation orders. Now, this map does not show roads but shouldn’t it reflect the current FS closures?
Per the Eldorado National Forest, the current closure has the area ahead of the active fire closed.
Our government agencies need to get their act together and become more transparent and to provide accurate information to the general public. The purpose of getting this information out is to educate the general public about where they can safely and legally travel and where they can’t. If the information out there is vague or contradictory, the public is confused.
I’m hoping that tomorrow, through the re-evaluation that has been promised, the Rubicon Trail will once again be open to the public. I’m betting they wait until the end of the day to make an announcement, if they announce anything. It’s more likely that if they reopen the Rubicon, they’ll just remove all orders but not tell anyone the trail has reopened.