Signal Peak 4×4 Trails
Quick Info — Trail Map — GPX/KML Files — Trail Review — Obstacles — Points of Interest
Signal Peak 4×4 Quick Trail Info:
Difficulty (1-10): 3-7 (Depending on the route you take)
Distance: 8-11 Miles depending on route
Apprx. Travel Time: 1.5 Hours
Type of Trail: In n Out or Loop. Rock Crawling or Forest Access Road. See Routes
Directions to TrailHead: See Google Maps!
Governing Authority: Tahoe National Forest
Sponsoring Club: Boonie Bouncers 4WD Club
Typical Operating Season: April 1 – December 31
Last Fuel Stop: Chevron at Cisco Grove
Last Starbucks Stop for JK Owners: Nothing Close By! Get it Early!
Ham Radio Repeaters: N6ICW – 147.195+ pl 123 Hz, W6YDD – 146.625- pl 123 Hz, K6LNK – 443.475+ pl 156.7 (CARLA link) pl 100 (Local)
Fire Permits: Help Prevent Wild Fires!
Last Updated: 7/31/18
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Signal Peak 4×4 Trail GPX and KML/KMZ Files
We personally prefer Gaia GPS for all of our trail mapping needs. Get a membership (20% off for My Off Road Radio readers if you follow this link!), and then you can either upload one of the files below into your Gaia account, or click on this link here and save our public Gaia GPS Folder to your own folders. Then go hit the trails!
Signal Peak 4×4 trail .gpx file
Signal Peak 4×4 Trail .kmz file
Signal Peak 4×4 Trail Review
Signal Peak 4×4 Trail isn’t necessarily our favorite trail, but it does get our top pick for the most versatile trail. There are 3 distinct routes you can take: an easy route, a medium route, and a hard route. Which means, you can get to the top and enjoy some of the most amazing views in NorCal with a stock 4×4, any ATV, or a built out rock crawler.
Once on top of Signal Peak, take a moment to check out the views, have lunch, get some pictures, and relax. Once you are done catching your breath, follow the walkpath down to the tip of the peak, towards the highway. Here, you will find the abandoned railroad lookout tower.
The railroad lookout hut was used during the first part of the 20th century (1909 to 1935). It served as a place to watch for fires that threatened the railroad below during the summer, and avalanches that threatened the railroad in winter. What is crazy about this place, is how the railroad manned this lookout during the winter. They would haul 3 people to the lookout in late October, early November. With them, would be all of the supplies necessary to last until April/May after the snow melts. Those 3 people then get to deal with each other through the whole winter. While you are here, take a look around and imagine living in this lookout for 6 months in upwards of 20 feet of snow. Crazy right?
Signal Peak 4×4 Obstacles
The easy route (highlighted in RED on our above map), will get you to the top of the 8000ft elevation Signal Peak, in nothing but a stock 4×4. It is a steep climb, so you will want to make sure you have a transfercase with 4Lo (so Subarus and other AWD are discouraged, but it would be fun to see one up there!).
The medium route (highlighted in BLUE on our above map) is usually designated as the ATV or Side by Side route. There are a couple of spots where you will get flexed out in a 4×4 vehicle and will want a little more ground clearance. Thus, we recommend having 33s open/open or 30s and a locker.
The main part of this route that you will have to deal with is the mud swamp just after the “granite section” turn off. Make sure you bring some traction boards like the X-Bull Recovery Traction Tracks, or have a winch during the spring time. The other tricky part of this section is a steep climb covered in tree roots. If there is any moisture on the ground here, you will need to winch or have a locker to get up it.
The difficult route (highlighted in PURPLE on our above map) is the actual 4×4 “Jeep” trail. You will want 33s and a locker for this, or 35s open/open. This route goes over the granite section, which has 3 options for your rock crawling pleasure.
The left option is the easiest option if you have a shorter wheelbase (110″ or less). It takes a slight turn to the passenger side, and has a few smaller boulders smattered around to navigate.
The middle option is the most difficult. It goes straight up the hillside, and is quite rutted out. There is loose dirt and rocks scattered around, and traction is difficult to come by. Due to the steep nature, shorter wheelbases will have a little more difficult here. We recommend having 2 lockers during spring for this climb.
The right option can be more difficult, or easier than the other 2 options here, depending on your vehicle. The right option goes up a granite slab on the other side of the trees you see bordering the middle section. On the granite slab is a pretty good sized 5-6ft ledge that you need to climb. During summer, traction here is great and lockers are unnecessary, but you will want a longer wheelbase and a good approach angle.
The other “difficult sections” on the PURPLE route, are not so much difficult, as they are very steep. They are just a little more difficult than the BLUE route due to their steepness.
Signal Peak 4×4 Points of Interest
After the “Granite Section Turn R” waypoint, there is another waypoint called “Big Hill”. Unfortunately, this hill goes nowhere. It is fun to go up and feel your front end get really light. It is also fun to go down and feel gravity shove you into your seatbelt. But please stay off of this hill if you cannot make it up without spinning out your tires. And only take one vehicle up it at a time. There is very very little room to turn around at the top. Just before the hill climb is a left turn into some trees, that is the correct path to get you back to the main trail.
Small Camp Site
Our first waypoint on the difficult side is a nice little camp site. You can fit 2-4 vehicles in here comfortably. If you decide to stay here, please be aware of the current fire restrictions for Tahoe National Forest. Also, if you decide to do some shooting here, please make sure you pick up your spent shells.
Cisco Grove Campground is a fantastic option for weekend camping. It is located off of the Cisco Grove exit of Hwy 80, and is where the easier RED trail begins. Cisco Grove is setup as more of an OHV friendly campsite. They have over 200 spaces for camping, and lots of space for toy haulers, trailers, campers, and motorhomes. They also have hot showers. If you want to enjoy a camp fire while here, you will need to bring your own fire pit. If you don’t, you will need to rent a fire pit from the general store, and if it is a busy weekend, there is a chance you won’t get one.
Fordyce Lake Campground is an awesome choice for camping. You get there by following the Fordyce Lake Road out of Cisco Grove, all the way to the Fordyce Lake. Just follow the YELLOW trail on our above map. There are a couple of places you will need to be careful if you are in a stock, low clearance 4×4. But as long as you put your tires up on the rocks rather than try to straddle them, you will be fine.
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Thanks for the review! I’m always wary when rock crawlers on 37’s assume that a stock 4×4 can get through a trail because of how easy it is for them but your details and highlights give me confidence that I actually can take my stock Xterra up this trail. My issue is low ground clearance but in the pros column, I have a rear locker, sliders, and 32’s.
If I get stuck, I’m calling on you to get me down!
Hahaha I am always down for a trip up to Signal Peak! Ya, you should be able to do the “Side by Side” or “Blue” route without too many issues. The only spot you may have difficulties is at the tree roots, or at the mud hole during the spring. If the tree roots are dry, you will walk right up it. It is just daunting looking at it when you first drive up haha. Going down the red, easy trail is kinda fun… You can stop in at Fordyce Lake, hike across the dam, or head into Sterling Lake and check it out. There is tons to do in that area for a day excursion!