Are you visiting the Rubicon for the first time? The Rubicon Trail Foundation recommends that you use some type of mapping system while you're on the trail. Forget 4G or 5G, the Rubicon Trail is 0G because there is no internet on 99.9% of the Rubicon Trail. So how do you use a map while on the Rubicon Trail since options like Google Maps, or Waze will not work?
The Rubicon Trail Foundation recommends three options:
The first is CartoTracks. CartoTracks is a family owned business that provides high quality trail maps all over the United States. In 2021, Jake White traveled to the Rubicon Trail and spent 2 days mapping the entire trail with Rubicon Trail Foundation, including Rubicon Trail Foundation property. We have provided instructions how to get CartoTracks on your mobile device.
The final option is our downloadable PDF map of the trail. It doesn't have all the locations or restrooms, but you can print this at home to have with you while you're on the trail. CartoTracks and OnX Off-Road both work with your GPS on your phone, but the printable map definitely does not! Old school!
Why Do I Need A Map?
If you are first time visitor a map on your phone or GPS enabled tablet is extremely helpful. Trail Sanitation is the #1 need due to the volume of visitors. We call them "White Flowers", toilet paper hiding in all the bushes and behind trees. White Flowers aren't pretty and definitely detract from the beauty of the trail. That's why the Rubicon Trail Foundation built many of the restrooms on the trail, which are serviced by El Dorado County. Both CartoTracks and OnX Off-Road will show you the location of all the restroom stops on the trail.
The second reason is safety. If something happens to you, either vehicle breakdown or medical emergency and you use one of the Trail Communication methods that we recommend, then knowing exactly where you are the trail could be life-saving. The ability to tell rescuers that you were between obstacle A and Obstacle B from the map could be the difference between life and death. Recreation on the Rubicon is dangerous, and you can die, so being as prepared as possible is important.
Finally, fun! The Rubicon Trail has a long and rich history of characters and many of them have over time become the names of locations on the trail. Morris Rock, Nobie's Rock, Soup Bowl, Whale Bones, etc are all part of the lingo for locals on the trail. By using a recommended map, as a first time visitor you can see the names of these locations and learn a bit about the history of the trail.
Will My Mobile Device Work?
Yes! The GPS on your phone or tablet will work on the trail for any of the options we've provided. The GPS functionality does not require cell service or any G to work. You just need to load these items and test them on your phone before you lose service, preferably at home before you leave.