12.3 miles from Georgetown. Moderate-steep options. MAP
TRAIL UPDATE: See comments section below for hiker-supplied trail conditions as of March 31, 2016
Buckeye Flat is an abandoned mining settlement below Ralston Ridge on the north side of the Rubicon River. A cattle bridge crosses the river there just downstream from the confluence of Long Canyon.
Directions: To access this trail follow the directions to Nevada Point Trail and park at that trailhead. You could drive 1 mile further down Rubicon Road with a high clearance vehicle, but why short change a pleasant hike with such awesome views? Follow the road down towards the river and marvel at the fact that this was the main road to French Meadows before Ellicott’s Bridge was built in 1964.
This Trail was originally built by the Ralston’s in the late 1800’s when they wanted to find a better route from Georgetown to the Ralston Mine. This early supply trail also accessed the mining village at Buckeye Springs, (now called Buckeye Flat), before continuing up to the Ralston Ridge. Later, most of the route was replaced by Rubicon Road.
Watch for the trail leaving the road on the left side (plastic post sign) as you approach the lower canyon in 2.8 miles. The road does continue for another half mile but has a dangerous washed out section further along, the detour trail is a shortcut that bypasses the hazard.
The detour trail follows steeply down for 1/3 mile where you go left onto the old road (number 4 here on rocks). Go another ½ mile and watch for the trail to leave the road on the left as soon as you make the first switchback, then down 1/3 mile to the bridge. And what a beautiful bridge it is! The trail up the other side has also suffered a bad washout.
Historical note: In January 1885, the Georgetown Gazette reported that the Ralstons had moved a piano from Georgetown to Ralston via the Mt. Gregory Trail. The piano was secured to a sled that was pulled by two mules. The move required all of three days but the piano reportedly played well after the trip!
The Mt. Hope Trail preceded the Rubicon Road as the way to Ralston but if you hike it today, it’s steepness (straight down no with switchbacks) makes it hard to believe anybody could move a piano there.
2017 May 29th update: Significant washouts
On the Georgetown side, I drive down to just past Zero Spring and park on the 2nd switchback, where the road turns back to the east (about 2700′). Within a ten minute walk, according to my notes, I’ve passed three smaller washouts, several larger trees across the road, and one very large slide (starts about 2640′) that initially gave me pause. All of these, however, you can easily walk around, over, or through. On the edge of the road at 2nd passing of the largest slide (about 2400′), a tree has been uprooted and tangled in its roots is an old automobile frame and odd parts. Nearby may be the motor. You’ll pass this long washout three times before getting to the Buckeye Trail turn-off (about 2000′).
Here, a keen eye keep me on the sometimes vague trail, but on solid ground. I brought loppers and made use of them, especially on poison oak. Though overgrown, it’s fairly obvious where the path lay, especially where it rejoins the old road, and especially if you know the trail.
That is, until, the last place the trail leaves the old road (the switchback turning east at 1640′). At this point, I considered turning back. A very significant slide begins and continues to the river a few hundred feet below. I lopped and cut my way through the sections of trail that remain and picked my way along the edges of the washout, making a steep portion of this hike even more steep.
I was glad to approach the beautiful bridge. High waters are evidenced in twigs and branches lodged in the sides of the bridge.
Crossing the bridge, I found I was not to make Buckeye Flat that afternoon. The already poor trail has suffered a slide not 100′ from the bridge, and this area did not look stable enough to work through and much too difficult to work around. At an earlier time of day, someone might try to connect to the trail from just upstream of where Buckeye Spring enters the Rubicon. A lot of that brush and bramble is currently away due to the high waters.
In my subjective summation, I would say go see the fresh slides on the upper half, but the second half of this trail is probably still dangerous.
Dec. 22, 2017 update. Dropped to the bridge from Ralston ridge. As Paul mentioned, this north side had lots of washouts and the trail from the road to the bridge is very dangerous. I just laughed and did it anyway, but very carefully:) I rested on the bridge and then made my way back up to the top of the ridge. It would take lots of work to fix the access trail. There is some dead-fall on the access road but you can get through it on foot.
March 31, 2016 update: Buckeye flat is very overgrown but doable. when coming down from Georgetown side of river and reaching the work around trail, look for a small sign in the shape of a foot pointing to the trail. almost does not look like a trail. steep and overgrown but the bridge is in good condition and the trail on buckeye flat side is usable and steep but eroding.
Thanks for the updates, Phillip!