Grouse Ridge Fire Lookout Trail System – Tahoe National Forest
Grouse Ridge Lookout is located in Nevada County just outside of Cisco Grove and North West of the well known Signal Peak Trail which can be taken via the easy route or the more challenging route. The lookout is a cool spot to go check out for the day if you are looking for something to do.
The actual road getting to the top is not paved, however, is incredibly easy. Anything from a stock 4Runner, a Suburu Outback or even a brave Honda Civic will make it to the campground on top of the hill. On my way up to the top, there was a Tesla parked off to the side where it started to get rocky and rutted out.
There are a few rocky sections but for the most part, it’s smooth sailing to the top. This road to the lookout is not technical, but that’s not the point. The view once you reach the top is what you want to come for.
There are a handful of random roads out here that you can explore. From Grouse Ridge to Bowman Lake and all the other surrounding lake campgrounds to explore, there are lots of cool views, lakes, and points of interest to see around Grouse Ridge.
Grouse Ridge Trail Info:
- Grouse Ridge Road (easy): Main Road to Fire Lookout and Peak
- Grouse Ridge Trail (moderate): Eagle Lakes to Fire Lookout and Peak
- Difficulty (1-10): 2
- Distance: 5+/- Miles
- Round Trip Time: 1.5 Hours
- Directions to TrailHead: Grouse Ridge Rd. to Fire Lookout
- Governing Authority: Tahoe National Forest
- Typical Operating Season: Summer and Fall (Gates to peak closed winters)
- Fire Permits: Help Prevent Wild Fires!
Main Road to Fire Lookout & Peak
This is a general overview of Grouse Ridge Rd and Lookout which is a very easy road. If however, you are looking for a more challenging route, you should check out the Grouse Ridge Trail that connects Eagle Lakes to Grouse Ridge. I have this trail planned next.
For the most part, the main summit of Grouse Ridge is a non-motorized area, this map should give you a good idea of what is accessible and what is not. You can drive up to this area but many roads are closed off with massive PG&E signs or Sierra Pacific Signs that read “CLOSED AREA”. Although this is a hikers paradise, there are still plenty of dirt roads to explore and campsites to hang out at.
Points of interest on Grouse Ridge
- Fire Lookout
1. Grouse Ridge Campground
The campground is boutique and comfortably spread out into a few different sections with around 10-15 campsites, although this website says 9. You want to get here early, at around 11am most of the campsites were taken.
2. Grouse Ridge Trail/Trailhead
The Trailhead is where the 10-mile hiking, walking, backpacking, horse Grouse Ridge Trail sits. You drive up, park and then hike from here north towards Sawmill Lake or South to Eagle Lakes. You can see lakes for miles in all directions here so I would imagine hiking this trail would be incredibly pretty.
3. Grouse Ridge Fire Lookout
The actual Fire Lookout can be accessed year-round as long as the gate to the peak is open. 4wd is not needed until you get passed the gate. I put the 4Runner 4HI and smashed over a snowdrift on a sketchy portion of the trail (and this was in the middle of summer). A stock Jeep Wrangler decided to back down at this same spot. The last 50 Yards of the trail to the peak can be blocked depending on how much snow is on the ground.
Grouse Ridge Lookout
The Grouse Ridge Lookout views are amazing. On a clear day, you have a direct view of Signal Peak to the South East and Lake Spaulding directly to the South.
You can walk around on the top of the peak and the actual fire lookout is in really good shape. The stairs and decking were rebuilt and restored back in 2010, however, the center is boarded up and portions of the railing are falling off. Just hold on to your little ones if you bring them, it’s not a short drop.
So what’s this small door pictured on the edge of the cliff? Take a drive or walk to the top and you’ll find out.
Sanford Lake and Downey Lake
Once you get to the Grouse Ridge Campground, you can hike out to the “vista point” which looks over Sanford lake and Downey Lake in the distance. The views from here, WOW! So incredibly peaceful. There was one group of people swimming in Sanford Lake. Hiking around the lake would take a while but well worth the freshwater and extended views over Tahoe National Forest.
Back Roads off Grouse Ridge Road
There are off-shoot roads and unmarked trails off of the main Grouse Ridge Rd. I took quite a few of them throughout the day. Some of them dead-end and some of them lead to some pretty exceptionally cool spots. Most of these random roads are old logging roads and not well-maintained but this is where things can get more interesting. There are more washouts, whips, dips, rocky sections, and water crossings, and other cool obstacles. Take that lightly though, nothing was really “challenging” here.
Clearing Trees on Random Roads
This had to be one of the best parts of my day. Even though it was ultimately for no reason, I still had a great time doing it. On the map, it was showing this trail connecting back to the main road so when I came upon a couple of trees in the road, I decided to move them.
It was nice to have all the accessories:
- ARB Snatch Strap: Check Price
- ARB Tree Saver Strap: Check Price
- FlatLink E: Check Price
- 2″ Double with D-Ring and Pin: Check Price
- Hitch Pin: Check Price
- Soft Shackle (pictured): Check Price
- Crosby D-Ring USA Made Shackles: Check Price
Cleaning trails and moving trees with the press of a button is pretty awesome. Using the winch, a tree saver strap, shackle block, and a soft shackle, I pulled two fallen trees off the trail and moved/adjusted another one.
Carr Lake and Feely Lake
These lakes are great for camping but not for wheeling or driving around. There are gates that prevent you from driving around Carr Lake and Feely Lake. If you are looking for a great place to hike and camp, check out these two lakes. If you keep on hiking past these lakes, you will get to Island Lake, Long Lake, Milk Lake, and Round Lake.
Lindsay Lakes Area
Wow, what a great place to set up camp for the night. That is if you can get to Lindsay Campground before everyone else. The campground is very small with limited spots, get here early. Lindsay Lakes are small PG&E owned lakes with serene relaxing landscapes. You can’t drive past Lower Lindsay Lakes. In order to access upper Lindsay lakes, you will need to hike the rest of the way. If you want a relaxing weekend kayak fishing, this lake is for you.