28 miles from Georgetown. Long day hike/overnight trip. MAP
This is one of the best trails for exploring, with some sections easy to follow, some difficult to follow, and some almost lost. The trail was well established before the Hell Hole flood of 1964 wiped sections out. The trail follows along the south/east side of the river canyon and used to cross the South Fork of the Rubicon on a suspended footbridge. This bridge, along with another that linked the Frey Trail, were wiped out when the coffer dam upstream collapsed from record rain.
On the oldest available maps, (Sierra Nevada Folios of the Geologic Atlas of U.S., 1894-1900), a trail is shown going from Uncle Tom’s cabin down and over to Ellicott’s Ranch, up to the present rim road, back down again near Hales Crossing, then up the Deer Creek drainage to Ice House Road. The Deer Creek trail is still there, as is the Ellicott’s Trail.
The trail starts near the S/E side of Ellicott Bridge. Park near here and look for a fisherman-detour trail that climbs up from the north end of the old parking area. This trail climbs up and around a large rock outcrop before dropping back down to the old Rubicon Trail. The trail there is easy to follow, apparently built by the CCC’s in the 1930’s to deluxe standards (level and wide). Some great rockwork is in evidence.
This trail can be followed to the South Fork where it rounds a bend before abruptly ending where the bridge once stood high above the river. Hikers must make a difficult crossing at this confluence to intercept the old trail continuing upstream.
The South Fork Trail can be found just upstream from the confluence climbing up from a sandy bar that is usually overgrown with vegetation. It soon clears and climbs as a good trail up a half mile to a junction where you can go east up along the South Fork Rubicon to the South Fork Campground on Ice House Road, or stay L and continue up river along the old way. This trail is easy to follow all the way to Hales Crossing Trail as it winds in and out each crossing creek drainage. Great old growth trees here.
We sometimes do a loop hike, going up the Hunter’s Trail to cross the river at Hales Crossing, then down the Old Rubicon to South Fork trail, cross back over the main river then return on Hunters. Total distance is about 11-12 miles, (the better part of a summer’s day but an awesome hike!).
About a half mile downstream of Hales Crossing you find the Deer Creek Trail cutting east out of the canyon. It goes all the way to Ice House Road and is abused by motorcycles regularly enough to be easy to follow.
Continuing beyond Hales, the trail is a challenge to follow but well defined in some places with rockwork and many blazes. It goes about 4 miles up to Parsley Bar. From there it apparently found its way up Gerle Creek, according to old maps, but I’ve never been able to find any remnant of the trail there.
To really explore the Old Rubicon trails you should stay overnight, as there are just too many miles of trail to find and follow in a single day. “So many trails—and so little time.”