Rubicon Peak

Location: Desolation Wilderness, Lake Tahoe, CA (West Shore)

Distance: ~3.5 miles

Type: Day-hike; Out-and-back

Rating: Difficult

Permits & Fees: Parking is free, however, during November to May, a sign is posted stating that only residents are allowed to park on the neighborhood streets. This is due to the potential of snow plowing. During these months park at your own risk, or park on Hwy 89 and walk up to the trailhead (this will add some additional climbing, but it’s all worth the rewarding views at the end!).

To get to the trailhead, drive down Hwy 50 until it turns into Hwy 89; Take Hwy 89 until you reach Scenic Drive and turn left then right. Make your way up to the end of Highland Drive until you see the “End” sign.

Permits are required for all hiking/backpacking/camping in Desolation Wilderness. Unfortunately, day-use permits are not available at the trailhead. If driving down Highway 50, the Pacific Ranger Station is the best way to obtain a day-use permit. Their hours of operation are the following:

Summer Schedule: Open Monday – Saturday; 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Sundays; 8:00 am – 12:00 pm. Memorial weekend through end of September.
Winter Schedule: Open Monday – Friday, starting end of September; 8:00 am – 4:30 pm


This hike is very steep the entire way up to the Peak. During the summer months, there are loose boulders and dirt towards the top. Proper hiking shoes with excellent grip is recommended. As always, bring water and sunscreen!

Trail Summary – ~3.5 miles

  • Start at the sign that reads “End”; continue past the metal gate and water tower (located up a small hill to the left).
  • Follow the trail to the base of the peak.
  • Trail will end, and there are several different ways to get to the peak. Follow the trail ducks and keep making your way upwards.
  • The peak is visible once past the tree-line.
  • On the way down the mountain, follow the trail ducks until you reach the trail again.
  • Follow the trail until you reach the trailhead.

The Hike

Rubicon Peak is a hidden gem of a hike that I just recently discovered. Although the hike is shorter than most in distance, do not let that deceive you. This is one of the most strenuous hikes that I have ever been on. A straight-up climb with minimal opportunities to catch your breath, it is 100% worth it once you reach the top.

The hike is not marked, but a clear trail starts at the beginning of a sign that reads “End”. This is the “trailhead”:


The trail is very easy to follow, although during the winter months it may be difficult to locate the trail. The trail goes all the way up to the base of the peak and from there, with the help of trail ducks and glimpses of the peak, it is a fairly straight (but steep) trek to the top.

The final portion of the hike requires a bit of climbing. If you’re afraid of heights, it may be a little intimidating, but I guarantee it is worth the view:


When making my way back down the mountain, it was somewhat difficult to locate the trail, but there were enough trail ducks to keep me on track. Before I knew it I was back on the trail:

In total, it took about three hours to complete the hike. Coming back down the mountain took less than an hour, so a majority of the hike was dedicated to pushing myself to climbing up the steep mountain.

There was minimal traffic (even during the weekend) and gorgeous views the entire way. This hike is recommended for experienced hikers who are looking for a challenge.