When there is an average snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, Signal Peak is worth a visit. With the summit sitting at 7,641 feet, the low elevation of the peak often leaves it overlooked by backcountry users who focus their efforts higher up on the Sierra Crest. But don't let the elevation fool you: Signal Peak offers great south and north facing backcountry access.
Signal Peak's southeast face can be reached by skinning up Fordyce Road. Skin up the cedar-lined road that follows Rattlesnake Creek for about 0.5 miles and begin ascending the southeast face. A summer jeep trail provides a great skinning route up to the south ridge. Once on the ridge, continue up to the abandoned Central Pacific Railroad Fire Lookout Station that was in use from 1909 to 1934. The stone lookout is a great place to relax or take shelter from the weather. To access out the north bowls, continue skinning past the radio towers on the summit ridge.
The southeast face of Signal Peak is broad and offers many descent options. The longest run is from the summit near the radio towers. The descent is steep with scattered trees, allowing for some great high speed turns. Continue down to Rattlesnake Creek and ride Fordyce Road back out to the car.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.