28+ miles from Georgetown. 10 miles moderate O.W. MAP
If we could only have one trail to hike I would vote for this one. The best trail available for family hiking, camping, swimming, diversity of plants and geology!
The trail follows the Rubicon River on its N/W side and goes from Ellicott’s bridge ten miles to Hell Hole Rd. (there’s also a obscure trail on the other side). It gives access to the Frey Trail and Hales Camp Trail.
Directions: Drive to Ellicott’s bridge. Take Wentworth Springs Rd. 23 miles, go L on road to Hell Hole 5 miles, cross the bridge and park on the west side. The trail starts as a road going R (upstream) from the bridge.
The Trail goes upstream as a road for about ¼ mile before branching off on the left, (look for a metal angler survey box on a post). From there it’s a wide, well traveled, and easy to follow trail for 10 miles. The trail crosses many creeks with beautiful waterfalls (usually best in May) as the snow melts above in Spring. The trail climbs and descends like a rollercoaster but nothing too steep or too long.
In about ¾ mile a hard to see trail crosses the main trail. This is the Frey Trail. Left it climbs steeply to the site of the Ellicott ranch (fun to find with only a few apple trees, grape vines, and scattered antique trash remaining), Right the trail descends to the site of a washed out suspension bridge that used to cross the river and continue to Uncle Tom’s on the Ellicott Trail.
After about another mile you come to unmarked South Fork Trail branching off to the Right. This trail takes off near where the South Fork of the Rubicon river joins the main river. There’s a popular campsite below with good swimming. If you can make a safe crossing you can find the obscure trail that follows the north side of South Fork all the way to Ice House Road (4-5 miles).
Continuing on for 2 ½ more miles through giant Ponderosa, Douglass Firs, and Dogwood you’ll come to the site of Hales Camp (a big pile of collapsed cabin on the right side of the trail). Further on in less than a half mile the trail intercepts Hales Crossing Trail. You can climb up the left trail to switchback up to the Rim Road or find great camping near the river to the right.
If you continue on the main trail for another 1/3 mile you come to a branching trail on the right, this is the Hales Crossing Trail that can take you to a shallow river crossing before reaching the obscure Rubicon Trail on the opposite side of the river. (see Obscure Trails).
Going on the trail continues to follow along the riverside past numerous camping places, through logged over private land sections, and forested public land. At about 8 miles from the bridge the trail leaves the river and climbs up steeply to the L leading to the Hell Hole Road. (One last camping opportunity is to the R down by the river here).
If you continue up toward Hell Hole watch for an old lost trail fork that takes off to the left near the top of the climb. This would be the Long John Silver Trail. an old abandoned trail that used to follow the canyon rim apparently all the way to Ellicott’s Ranch and beyond. It is probably part of the Prehistoric Belix Trail.