Old Man Mountain
Old Man Mountain

Place Name: Nevada County

Place Description: State: California
Date: 8/1/2021
Elevation: 7,789 Feet
Prominence: 789 Feet
Miles: 6.2
Elevation Gain: 2,174 Feet
Lists: Tahoe-Ogul

  • Difficulty
  • Solitude
  • Kid Friendly
  • Summit Views

That Big Granite Mountain You See On Interstate 80

While driving east on Interstate 80 towards Truckee, few mountains stick out like Old Man Mountain. Its rounded granite summit beckons peak baggers as they drive along the highway. That’s just where the adventure begins!



  • Nice walk on ridge once gained
  • Very nice summit views
  • Multiple lakes in area


  • Rough roads and possibly no access from 80
  • Bushwhacking
  • Creek crossing

Old Man Mountain is very easily recognized when driving east on Interstate 80. It’s a very distinctive looking rounded granite peak and sits to the left of Signal Peak and its reddish colors. Despite being so easily spotted from the freeway, Old Man Mountain offers some nice back country adventure.

Getting There

There are two approaches two Old Man Mountain. The easiest is from the Cisco Grove exit along Interstate 80. This is the way we came, however, Fordyce Lake Road was technically closed until 2024 for construction. We found an open gate and drove in 7 miles to the lake.

The other access is from the north coming in from Meadow Lake Road. I have not been up this way, so I can’t comment on access.

The Trail

After arriving at Fordyce Lake, the road quickly goes from a straight 4×4 road to a very nasty 4×4 road that would require some awesome tripped out vehicles to maneuver.

Start out by walking this road for about 1/2 mile all the way to Fordyce Creek. This is where it could be tricky. If they are releasing a lot of water from the lake, crossing this creek is not gonna happen. It would be very dangerous. Fortunately for us, we had 33 cfs flowing and we easily crossed in thigh deep water. Check out Dream Flows for current conditions on Fordyce Creek.

Old Man Mountain

Crossing Fordyce Creek.

After crossing the creek, the bushwhacking begins. Unfortunately, there are no good routes. You can bypass some of the brush with some class 3 granite slabs, however, you will be dealing with brush until you gain the ridge.

Once you are through beating manzanita, we finally found ourselves following a very nice trail along the ridge and through the granite. It eventually peters out into the granite 200 feet below the summit. The climb from here was easy enough.

Old Man Mountain

The summit of Old Man Mountain from the ridge.

The Summit

Once you arrive on the summit the first thing you will notice is a pole sticking out of the rock. This is not the true summit. Head over to the right a short distance a you will see one rock that is higher than the rest. The summit register is located there.

From here, take in the wonderful views that stretch out to the Central Valley and many of the Tahoe area peaks. Fordyce Lake can be seen to the northeast and Phoenix Lake is located right under the summit.

Old Man Mountain

Phoenix Lake

Just remember, you have to do all of that bushwhacking in reverse!

The Final Word

I’m not gonna say this is the greatest hike in the world, because it’s not. The brush is ridiculous at times. You also need to be on the lookout for rattle snakes. Also, the access issues from 80 are a problem, we actually almost got locked in behind the gate. If you are looking to knock this one out, I would explore the Meadow Lake approach and combine it with English Mountain.