High in the Tahoe National Forest, west of Truckee California and just off Interstate 80 lies the Fordyce Jeep Trail; a serious rock crawling trail that will challenge any rig and driver. Fordyce is California mountain rock crawling at its finest. Over 12 miles of sharp, jagged rocky trail twists and turns on its way up from Indian Springs and Eagle Lakes to Meadow Lake at the top of this monster of a trail. Fordyce Jeep Trail runs alongside and crosses Fordyce Creek multiple times, where deep and typically unpredictable water crossings add to the challenge of the huge rock obstacles know as the numbered Winch Hills throughout this trail. Hardcore rock crawling, remote dispersed camping, swimming, fishing, and good ol' 4x4 spectating at Committee can all be found on Fordyce.
Experienced wheelers in built rigs will love the challenge and beauty of the Fordyce Jeep Trail, but new wheelers SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT it. This trail is technical and dangerous. Hang-ups, body damage, steering/suspension breakage, rollovers, mechanical breakdowns, engine flooding, you name it, it can happen on Fordyce.
The entire trail is non-stop obstacles with the worst being Winch Hills 1, 3, 4, and 5. Winch Hills 1, 3, and 5 have easier lines to bypass the hardest sections. Winch Hill 4 has no bypass.
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Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks less than 84" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 72" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 14' foot. Tire placement not good. Can be steep and off-camber.Read More about our Rating System
Fordyce is mostly slow going rock trail broken up by large awkward obstacles and fast flowing deep water crossings. The few short sections of easy-going dirt on this trail do not last long. From Driveline Hill to Winch Hill 5, Fordyce Jeep Trail is non-stop rocks. This is a straight-through trail, connecting from the Indian Springs OHV Staging area on the south to Meadow Lake on the north. There is one "early exit route" at Committee, which includes an additional Creek Crossing and a short stretch of steep rocky hill that exit to Fordyce Lake Road.
From start to finish, Fordyce Jeep Trail is just over 12 miles of rock crawling as it climbs from about 5,400 feet to over 7,300 feet in elevation. 6 named Winch Hills and 3 deep water crossings are the major obstacles this trail is known for but be prepared for continuous rock crawling throughout the trail.
This trail is tough. It is for experienced off-roaders. New drivers should stay away.
Forest service trail statusYuba River South MVUM
About the water crossings:
The water flow of the creek is measured in CFS (Cubic Feet per Second ). Anything over 300 CFS is considered impassable. The pictures below are at only 45 CFS.
The water flow in the creek changes as needed for power generation at the upstream dam operated by PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric). This is typically unpredictable and can drastically change without notice. It is possible to be trapped between water crossings due to a change in flow.
Click here for current and past flow rates
Once, and only once, a year in August, water is held for the CAL4WHEEL Sierra Trek . Outside of this time, it is upto you to research and judge water crossing dangers.
1. Trailhead at Indian Springs (0
Turn north off of Eagle Lakes Road, into Indain Springs to start the trail.
2. Indian Springs OHV Staging Area (0.2
Continue straight, past the Indian Springs OHV Staging Are and Signal Peak Trailhead.
3. Keep Right (0.74
Keep right at the Kiosks.
4. Driveline Hill (1.76
Continue up Driveline Hill; the first of the big obstacles along Fordyce Jeep Trail.
There is a bypass to the left, but if you have trouble here, you likely won't make it much further.
5. Eagle Lakes Intersection - Keep Right (1.99
Keep right at the intersection of Eagle Lakes.
6. Rock Garden to Sunrise Hill (3.47
Continue straight at this rock garden as you approach Sunrise Hill.
7. Sunrise Hill (Upper) (3.61
Continue straight to make your way down this upper section of Sunrise Rise Hill; a steep rocky hill leading to Water Crossing 1.
8. Sunrise Hill (Bottom) (3.79
Keep going and watch your body panels on the rock sticking out on the passenger side.
9. Water Crossing 1 (3.86
You're on your own here. You have to make the call if it's safe to cross or not. The creek flow can change without notice and is rarely at the same level. The typical line here is to curve far left, then straighten out as you cross, but the rushing waters can change the rocks on the bottom too, so you never know how this crossing is going be.
See the route description for more info on the water crossings.
10. Pool 1 (4.28
Continue on or stop here at Pool 1 for a break. This (and Pool 2 just ahead) is a great spot to stop for lunch or a cold swim.
11. Pool 2 (4.39
Continue on or stop here at Pool 2 for lunch, set up camp, or take a swim.
Note that if you choose to camp here, you are between water crossings which can change without notice. While it's not likely, there is a chance that you can become trapped between water crossings due to increased flow at the upstream dam.
12. Winch Hill 1/2 (5.54
Continue up Winch Hill 1/2 (one half). To the left is the easier line, to the right is the more difficult line.
Winch Hill 1/2 is an addition to the trail from a reroute that took place after the other winch hill numbers were established, hence the name; 1/2.
13. Unmarked Intersection - Keep Right (6.35
Keep right at this unmarked intersection.
14. Narrow and Jagged (6.55
Continue straight at this Narrow and Jagged section of rocks.
15. Winch Hill 1 Bypass Interesction - Keep Left (7.15
Keep left to stay on the trail and climb Winch Hill 1. Turn right to bypass Winch Hill 1.
16. Winch Hill 1 (7.2
Continue up the rock garden at the bottom and into the deep, steep notch that is Winch Hill 1. Most rigs will need to ride high on the driver side approaching the notch to make it up. Once up and over there is one one more dif grabber of a boulder to get past.
17. Winch Hill 1 Bypass (Top) - Keep Left (7.27
Keep left at the top of Winch Hill 1. The other trail on right is the other end of the Winch Hill 1 Bypass.
18. Water Crossing 2 (7.63
Another deep water crossing. Make the call if its safe and cross at your own risk.
See the route description for more info on the water crossings.
19. Winch Hill 2 (Lower) (7.89
Continue up this lower section of Winch Hill 2 where loose rocks scatter the climb and a deep hole sits on the left line fore those looking for more of a challenge.
20. Winch Hill 2 (Upper) (7.92
Continue up the upper section of Winch Hill 2. Straight up this steep notch is the more challenging route, where a wide right line, hugging the tree is typically the easier line.
21. Waterfall Camp Intersection - Keep Right (8.21
Keep right to continue on the trail. A left here leads down a short, but steep trail to a flat area next to another pool and small waterfall.
22. Water Crossing 3 (8.33
If you made it through Water Crossing 1 and 2, Water Crossing 3 shouldn't be a problem, but again, be aware that water levels can change with out notice.
See the route description for more info on the Water Crossings.
23. Creek Side (8.57
Continue straight or stop for a break. Creek Side is a large, somewhat flat section of the trail alongside of the creek, with room to park and makes for a great place to have lunch.
24. Committee/Squeeze/Walls (8.99
You have options here. Cut left into the squeeze, cut left up the Walls or cut left between the trees at the end of the Walls into Committee. All lead back into the trail at the top.
Committee is a large rocky area full of walls and notches. This a common gathering / spectating point along the trail and is also the intersection of the early exit /early entrance route cutting over to Fordyce Lake Road at the dam. To use the early exit route, turn right, cross the creek and climb the steep, rocky trail on the other side up to Fordyce Lake.
25. Steps after Comittee (9.07
Continue up these rock Steps after Committee.
26. Launna's Hill (9.43
Continue up Launna's Hill. The left line is tight and off camber with risk of body damage. The right line is rutted with rocks that love to grab differentials.
27. Steps After Launna's Hill (9.52
Continue up these steps after Launna's Hill.
28. Winch Hill 3 (10.05
On the right is Winch Hill 3, probably the hardest of the winch hills. Just left of that, in the center is the bypass. Even the bypass here is difficult.
Winch Hill 3 is another common place for gathering and spectating.
29. Winch Hill 4 (10.5
Continue straight and make your way up Winch Hill 4. There's not much choice of lines here and no bypass. Your options are to make it up, winch, or turn around.
30. Winch Hill 5 (10.86
Continue up to the left on the lower section of Winch Hill 5 and then to the right on the upper section of Winch Hill 5. The upper section has a bypass that snakes around the toughest part of Winch Hill 5, but if you've made it this far on Fordyce you shouldn't need the bypass.
Winch Hill 5 is the last obstacle on the trail. From here on its an easy trail into Meadow Lake.
32. 13E15/Beyers Lake Intersection - Continue Straight (12.07
Continue straight at the Beyers Lake Trailhead.
33. End/Meadow Lake Road (12.25
Fordyce Jeep Trail ends here at Meadow Lake and Meadow Lake Road.
From this point, your options are to stop and set up camp, head back down Fordyce and maybe exit at Committee, or continue northeast on Meadow Lake for about 11 miles to Jackson Meadow Road, head east for 9.5 miles to CA-89 and follow 89 south for 14.5 miles into Truckee.
Fordyce includes multiple great dispersed camping sites near Eagle Lakes, Driveline Hill, Winch Hill 1, at the Pools, near Water Crossing 3, and at Committee.
Improved camping can be found at the south end of this trail at Indian Springs and the north end of the trail, at Meadow Lake
There are no toilets and no garbage services beyond the improved campsites. Pack out everything you pack in.
Cisco Grove, California
Head northeast on Cisco Road and turn left to merge onto I-80 west. After 1.2 miles exit Eagle Lakes Road. Turn right onto Eagle Lakes Road and follow it for 0.8 miles before making a slight right onto Carlyle Road at the Indian Springs sign.
Beautiful day out on Fordyce. Only saw 2 other vehicles. We drove in to Pool 1 and back out to the start in a JK Rubicon on 38 Patagonia's. Water flow was very low and the river crossing was very easy.
Camping is currently restricted:
A closure of all National Forest System lands to camping outside designated, developed campgrounds. Camping outside of developed campgrounds, also called ‘dispersed camping,’ includes the temporary use of National Forest System lands for the purpose of overnight occupancy without a permanently-fixed structure.
This is a strange time for all California Forest Trails. Most forests in the state have closed all trails due to fire or risk of fire. So far Tahoe National Forest has not closed all trails, but has put restrictions on camping and any campfires and stoves.
Made it to mile marker 9.5 before we hit too much snow. With about 1,000 more feet in elevation to Meadow Lake, we turned around and went back out Eagle Lakes / Indian Springs.
We ran into another group that tried exiting Committee and Fordyce Lake Road, but they also hit too much snow at the hill before the bridge.
The snow seemed to be melting fast. Maybe another week or two before it’s clear to Meadow.
This trail is amazing and no joke... and I was just a passenger at the time of shooting the video. IF you have a built rig this a bucket list deal. I am glad someone finally mapped this out for the community here. It's amazing with use and weather this trail is always changing. My video from 2019 in some parts look different then compared to now. And by the way with freak warm weather we did this trip after turkey day in 2019!?! Again if you got the right rig then you gotta go full send on this trail!
Cold nights, but low water crossings. Had great time. Water flow was at 29 CFS.
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Mapping Crew - California
G. Martin, gm4x4 on Youtube , is a California native, born and raised in northern California and now living and wheeling in southern California. He enjoys exploring new trails and setting up camp in the remote outdoors.
You may come across him in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the mountains of Big Bear, in the central Sierras near Shaver Lake or any other dirty, rocky road in the southwest.
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