The Indian Truck Trail offers an alternate way to hike Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain). It’s not a rustic single-track trail like the Santiago Peak hike from Lower Holy Jim Trail, but instead includes some wider Forest Service dirt roads (Indian Truck Trail is also known as forest road 5S01). You might see a few 4x4s or mountain bikes, but otherwise it’s very mellow. It’s a beautiful hike, so don’t let this stop you.
If you’re training for the Mt Whitney hike, Indian Truck Trail is a good training option. It’s roughly the same distance and climbing. The hike is a good way to get the miles in and get your body and gear prepped for a long day. What it doesn’t have is the thin air and high altitude.
Getting to the Indian Truck Trail
Thank you to my friend Sam whose updated me on the parking situation. It looks like they’ve started building a housing development where the old trailhead was, but there’s still plenty of free parking. The new streets are not on some maps services yet, but the trailhead address here should get you close enough on Google Maps, and the following update from Sam should fill in the rest.
Trailhead starts from 1 street south of Towhee, and NOT from Towhee as indicated by the Google Map. There’s construction activity for new houses in the area and trail now starts from Peony Dr, specifically at Peony Dr / Kingbird Dr intersection . According to Google Maps, the builder extended Kingbird west a few blocks. Peony runs parallel 1 block west of Towhee. There’re ample street parking at the intersection.
In the summer this hike has very little shade and can be very hot. One time I did this in summer and the temperature at 2pm as 106F. Be prepared and leave before dawn if you want to beat the heat. And if it’s cool out, expect the temperature to drop significantly as you climb.
It’s a long hike, so be prepared. Here’s what I would bring:
Daypack with at least 3L of water. In the summer, you might need up to 6L if it’s very hot.
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
If you’re considering descending down Coldwater Canyon, which is on some topo maps, know that most of the trail disappears at some point and you end up bushwhacking. This hike guide has you going donw the same way you came up, avoiding Coldwater Canyon.
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