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
We had about fifty people show up for the meeting Saturday morning. Sorry, no pictures.
The majority of the group were the regular players, El Dorado County, Rubicon Trail Foundation, Friends of the Rubicon, CA Off Road Vehicle Assoc., Nevada Four Wheel Drive Assoc., Forest Service and private property owners, but there were, of course, the users.
Vickie Sanders of El Dorado County lead the show. She reviewed the list of questions submitted to the governing groups and agencies prior to the meeting. Most of those groups and agencies were there to expanded and clarified on those answers. I am trying to get an electronic copy of the questions and answers to post up, stay tuned.
Placer County was a no show. They did provide written answers to the questions sent but did not provide a representative at the meeting.
El Dorado County has obtained and spent 35 million dollars of OHV grant funding on the trail to date! Helicopters will fly this summer working from Arnold’s Rock to the Springs. RTF will fund heavy equipment to rework the rolling dips within the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. RTF will manage opening the Tahoma staging area bathrooms earlier in the season and keeping them open later in the year.
Tahoe side adoptions are possible but not yet organized: sections of the Rubicon Trail, rolling dips within the LTBMU and campsites along the trail.
Parking at the staging area was discussed and will likely include no parking along the outside edge of the staging area to allow a permanent ‘through route’ for users and more specifically emergency equipment.
The hot topic was the always reappearing Snow Wall. Somehow, an excess of snow is appearing at the Rubicon Trail entrance. Placer County claims they are plowing linerally, only a blade pushing snow to the side. Yet they have and use a rotary blade in the area. Placer is standing by their current practices. Hopefully, a meeting will be scheduled that will include Placer County, OHV users’ groups and the local residents to finally come to a solution to this issue. Many solutions were documented and will be followed up on.
Another longer-term thought would be to make the Rubicon Trail a Sno-Park, similar to Blackwood Canyon, but allowing wheeled vehicles. Plow the road up to a parking lot where OHV users could bring in a trailered rig. Yes, there would be a parking fee associated with the Sno-Park. We anticipate that the local residents would strongly oppose this idea. This was only a thought; no action will be taken at this time.
Better communications were promised both between those involved in management and communications to the users.
El Dorado County, Placer County and CA State Parks LEOs have entered into their own MOU to ensure law enforcement across the entire Rubicon Trail.
The suggestion has been made that a similar meeting needs to take place every year, in order to continue the open communications. These meetings could rotate through different cities: Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Placerville, Auburn and Sacramento. Stay tuned.
Overall, it was a good meeting. We needed to get people in the same room and away from their keyboards. Nothing was solved and Placer was a no show, but we are moving in the right direction.
Hopefully, I’ll have those questions and answers to post soon.
-aka, Rubicon Ronin
El Dorado County has scheduled rock work for Cadillac Hill for October 17, 18 & 19. Expect extended delays and/or a possible temporary closure. I will try to post timeline details as the date gets closer.
This project was previously scheduled for Oct 3, 4 & 5 but was pushed back due to the helicopter company being needed to fight the CA wildfires.
Although the paperwork between El Dorado County and the Tahoe National Forest has not been completed, Jeepers Jamboree will work Cadillac Hill next month. El Dorado County will fly in the needed rock. JJ will put down cyclone fencing, fill it with rock and wrap-it to secure the rock in place and cover with more rock. Some concrete work will also be done as needed in various spots. Besides securing the trail from sliding off the hill, improving the drainage of water OFF the trail is also a goal.
Please avoid Cadillac Hill that weekend to allow this crew to work without interruption. It is in all of our best interest to stabilize Cadillac Hill so the trail is there after each winter.
The closure of CA forests was extended through Monday September 21st.
El Dorado County has subsequently closed the Rubicon for the same time frame. Note that the Tahoe National Forest controls the Placer County portion of the Rubicon, the Rubicon is closed within Placer County.
From Vickie Sander on the Rubicon Gazette Facebook page:
Update: I just received word that the Forest Service is extending the order for one week. Till Monday September 21, 2020. The Rubicon Trail will stay closed until the order is lifted. I want to share with you the factors that go into this decision. The Rubicon is an unmaintained County Road. We have a 50′ easement from the Forest Service. With the forest closed that means no camping and no day use. So this would mean that there would be no stopping along the trail. Once you cross the County line into Placer County you are on Forest Service land, which is closed. Placer County does not have an easement. My last conversation with the owners of Rubicon Springs they were not allowing camping either. So it makes sense for public safety and the safety of the Rubicon to work with agencies and do what we feel is the right thing. These are crazy times we are in right now and I will do my best to keep you informed.
Forest Service extension of closure:
El Dorado County will be holding the February Rubicon Oversight Committee (ROC) meeting on Feb 20th in South Lake Tahoe at the California Conservation office at 6:30pm. It’s located at 1949 Apache Ave.
Here’s the agenda…
I. DISCUSSION ITEMS:
• Annual Report
• Rubicon MOU
o New audit requirements
• Maintenance Activities for 2020 Season
• County Seasonal Help
• County Pumper Truck Update
• Jamboree 5 Year Parade Permit
• Upcoming events
II. AGENCY/ORGANIZATION UPDATES/NEW INFORMATION
Vickie Sanders has been trying to move the meetings around, outside of Placerville, in order to get more participation from the users.
If you have any questions about the Rubicon and how it’s maintained and/or managed, please get to the meeting.
El Dorado County will be involved with the management and maintenance of the Placer County section of the Rubicon along with the Tahoe National Forest.