The Middle Fork Trail along Lytle Creek takes you through the rugged heart of the Cucamonga Wilderness. You’ll hike up along a dramatic canyon formed by Lytle Creek, through a landscape reminiscent of Yosemite. Along the way, we’ll visit a hidden waterfall, my favorite in Southern California, before reaching the end of the trail at Icehouse Saddle.
Where is Middle Fork Trail?
Getting to the trailhead can be a challenge. It’s a dirt road whose conditions change every year. The road gets periodic attention and grading, but it seems to be a little different every time I drive it. The challenge is rutting and loose sand. You can usually do this in a low-clearance vehicle if you go slow and pick your way through the ruts. The better option is a higher-clearance vehicle; with a 4×4, you can barrel through it all. I’ve seen a Honda Accord stuck in rutted sand along the way and an old Prius at the trailhead. It can be done.
Use this trailhead address:
13901 Middle Fork Rd, Lytle Creek, CA 92358
You need a National Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park here.
Middle Fork Trail Permit
You need a free permit to hike on this trail. It’s easy to get at the new permit site, permits.sgwa.org. Choose Cucamonga Wilderness and then Middle Fork. You can get a permit for a day hike or an overnight. I usually print a PDF and just keep it on my phone. You can also pick up a permit in the nearby Front Country Ranger Station.
Gear For the Hike
The mountains of Southern California can be a place of extremes, and the Middle Fork Trail is no exception. In the summer, it can be scorching on the lower slopes, and in the winter, there can be snow and ice. Lytle Creek usually flows year-round, and you can refill with water (filtered) along the way. I’d give the trail a skip in icy and winter conditions. There are very narrow sections on steep slopes that could be challenging.
- Insects can be bad along the creek.
- Trekking poles will help on the steep slopes.
- Bring layers during cooler temperatures. Icehouse Saddle can be windy and cold.
- There’s a mix of shade and exposure on the trail.
I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don’t have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There’s no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It’s just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I’m liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
My August 2022 Top Gear Picks
Middle Fork Trail Maps
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
How will you navigate this hike?
I use my Epix to record the hike, GaiaGPS to zoom around a map, and have a backup paper map.
Learn more about navigation tools that I use here.
The Middle Fork Trail is a popular spot for backcountry camping. You can hike a short distance, set up camp, and feel like you are miles away from civilization. There are three camps along the way, Stonehouse, Third Stream Crossing, and Commanche. For Stonehouse, you don’t technically need a permit since it’s outside of the Cucamonga Wilderness border. For the other two, pick up a free overnight permit at permits.sgwa.org. The campsites have flat areas for several tents; they’re not large. My favorite is Third Stream Crossing, which is next to Lytle Creek.
Middle Fork Trail Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Lytle Creek is named after Captain Andrew Lytle, who led a wagon train of Mormons from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to this valley in 1854.
Lytle Creek is home to a naturally reproducing rainbow trout population and is eligible for National Wild & Scenic River protection.
Keep your eyes open for Nelson Bighorn Sheep, which live on these slopes.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard
Hi, I’m Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, National Recreation Trails (NRT) Ambassador, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different in that it gives very detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I share the hiking tricks and tips that I’ve learned over the years to fast-track you into a hiking pro. And I tell you what hiking gear works and what gear doesn’t so you don’t waste your money.
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