Middle Fork Trail to Icehouse Saddle

HARD 20 reviews

Middle Fork Trail to Icehouse Saddle is a 9.8 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Lytle Creek, California that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
9.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3877 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

Wonderful strenuous hike up Lytle Creek canyon to icehouse saddle. If you are tired of the crowds on the icehouse canyon trail, then this one is for you. The price is an extra 1200 ft elevation gain and few extra miles. The trailhead too is down a rough road. High clearance vehicles recommended. The trail is a continuous climb up the canyon alternating between rock scree slopes and wooded trail. All in all, a pretty steep climb. Finish at the popular Icehouse Saddle where you can relax if the wind isn't too bad. The views coming down are continuous, dramatic and inspiring. The trail is sometimes small with loose rocks on the downhill side. Watch your step.

hiking
16 days ago

As planned, we summited Cucamonga Peak from the Middle Fork Trail in Lytle Creek on July 29th. Please see my previous comments for more details about hiking this trail.

The 1.7 miles from Commanche Camp to Icehouse Saddle were a little steep and strenuous. We took a good break at the saddle before pushing on to the peak 2.5 miles away. We ended the day with 16.17 miles and an total elevation gain of 5,121'.

There were a few trees and brushes blocking the trail, but they were easily negotiable. There is no water at Commanche Camp. However, just a short distance past the camp, as you are heading to the saddle, you can hear the water following on your left. I recommend walking past the first water source and go to the second one. It is easier to get to. Again, you'll know where it is, because you will hear it.

There was absolutely no one on this trail in the morning. The only time we encountered other hikers was at the saddle and along the final 2.5 miles to the peak. Of course, since it was a Saturday, the saddle, the trail and the peak were like mad houses. Coming down, once we turned back onto the Middle Fork Trail it was again peace and quite. We did see 4 young ladies hiking to Third Stream Crossing for an overnighter. I hope they had nets because the bugs were not kind at all.

So, if you are up for a good long challenge and would like to avoid the crowds for most of your hike, this one is for you.

hiking
24 days ago

My hiking buddy and I did this trail on Saturday. Two important things to know about it.

First, you need a wilderness permit and unlike Icehouse Canyon, the permits are not available at the trailhead. You have to go to www.cucamongawilderness.org. Fill out a permit, then either mail or FAX to the Front Country Ranger Station. The bottom of the form says to send to the Mill Creek Ranger Station at the FAX listed. This is not correct! The actual FAX number is 909-887-3989 and it goes directly to the Front Country Ranger Station in Lytle Creek. It takes 3 to 7 days to receive your permit in the mail. Or, if you are starting early (before 0800) like I did, call the Ranger Station to confirm approval and ask that they place the permit in their mail box. Which is located to the left side of their drive (it is not next to the building).

Second, the last two miles to the trailhead is on a dirt/rocky road. I do not recommend attempting this drive in a car. You should have a truck or other high profile vehicle. I drove my Chevy 3/4 ton, 2wd and had no problems. Lots of deep ruts and large rocks that can easily damage your vehicle. So, if you are hiking in a group, plan where to park or stage vehicles and carpool.

Some other things to note about this hike. Other than the trailhead, none of the trails or camps are marked, so know how to read a map and use a compass. It is less travelled, so there is some overgrowth on the trail. When you get to the fork that leads either down to Stonehouse Camp or up, take the up trail. We took Stonehouse to explore, but we aware there is a lot of poison oak that you cannot avoid hanging over the trail. And, the trace trail coming out of Stonehouse Camp is a little tricky to pick up, but after about .4 miles it does merge with the upper trail. When you arrive at the upper trail intersection take the sharp left heading west on Middle Fork Trail. In .8 miles you will come to Third Stream Crossing Camp. Lots of water here, so this would be a great place to top off your water supply both going up and coming down. I believe there is a waterfall somewhere near here but we didn't go looking for it. Next, you will travel 1.6 miles to Commanche Camp. This is where we stopped ate lunch and then headed back.

There are several areas the you will cross along the way where the trail is small and the rocks are very loose and prone to slides. My hiking partner, was walking in one such area and as she passed a huge amount of rocks began to slide and ended up covering the trail. So, hike with caution in these areas. There are stream crossings as well, but these are easily navigated. I believe there were about 4 small trees over the trail. Again easily navigated. On the way to Commanche Camp, the trail stops and there is a large amount of rubble and trees. It is difficult to tell which way you should go. We went up to the left and then around to the right. The trails picks right back up on the other side of the rubble and trees.

Next week our plan is to hike this trail to Icehouse Saddle and then continue on to Cucamonga Peak, so for us it was a good idea to hike the lower portion of the trail in advance.

hiking
2 months ago

backpacking
2 months ago

Best trail to get to icehouse saddle. Very remote. It's hard to keep the trail after the last river crossing, so use a GPS if you have it. There were tons of mosquitoes when I went, so bring bug juice or nets. My dog's paws were very sore the next days, so I don't recommend dogs over 40 lbs on the trail. There have been a decent amount of rockslides across the trail so watch your step.

2 months ago

backpacking
4 months ago

camping
5 months ago

7 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Saturday, July 09, 2016

I find this to be one of the best hikes in So Cal. A bit remote so it isn't ever crowded meaning if you see three other groups it is a busy day. Wonderful trees and running water year round. Past three stream crossing camp site it gets very steep for a mile or so but you are mostly walking through shaded forest. Go see the Whats in our backyard

hiking
Sunday, May 22, 2016

Amazing scenery, giant trees, fun stream to walk along. I would love to do it again, next time would be nice if I had a vehicle with a little more clearance, had to hike at least a mile to reach the trailhead because of road conditions

hiking
Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016

hiking
Saturday, February 20, 2016

Was excited to try this trail butwas unable to make the drive up middle fork road due to road conditions. definitely gonna try coming back when i have adequate transportation. but for now writing the review just to give you guys a heads up make sure you're in a durable vehicle that can handle some off-road conditions!

hiking
Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Wonderful views, scenery and very challenging but worth it. My little Boston terrier loved it!!

hiking
Sunday, January 25, 2015

hiking
Friday, August 22, 2014

This trail comes up the backside of Icehouse Saddle. To get to the Lytle Creek (Middle Fork) trailhead you have to drive on a dirt road for a few miles. It was a bit rough so it was nice having all wheel drive, though it wasn't mandatory. There is a port-o-potty at the trail head. We started at 730am. We first went to the falls, off-trail from Lytle Creek, which was 2.6 miles in. We should have followed a stream joining up with Lytle Creek on the left (or south side) and then taken that up until it dead ends with the falls. But we accidentally passed the stream and then just took a left (south) at an indeterminate point, you walk off-trail until you meet the smaller stream and then follow it up to the falls. The falls were three-tiered. It was very cool, the water level was extremely low. The low water level allowed us to get the falls much easier, if the water level is too high it might be near impossible to follow the stream up to the water falls (you would definitely be hiking in water shoes). At the bottom of the final water fall the pool was quite deep. Two guys were planning to rappel down the falls, unfortunately we didn't get to see them do it. We ate a snack there and left because we had much more trail to cover.
It was difficult to find the trail again which leads up to Icehouse Saddle. After wandering around a bit we finally found it going straight up a ridge. From here out it was quite a steep, rough trail. Not many people take this trail so it was quite difficult. It had a strong slope to it, not a nice flat cut in the slope so it hurt the outside tendon of my knee facing downhill. The last mile was very steep, and I was very tired by this point. This unkept trail exhausted me, I would not take this trail again to the saddle, only to the falls. We got to Icehouse Saddle at 6.6 strenuous miles in and had lunch. The way down hurt my other outside knee tendon, at least it balanced out. It took 4 hours up (including waterfalls) and 2.5 hours down, we stayed at the saddle for half an hour. Thunder and lightning started right as we were finishing the trail. It rained once we got off the dirt road and stopped when we got to the freeway.
I would have rated it a 1/5 stars if not for the waterfall we stopped at. I hate unkept trails. The saddle rules though, but I'll get to it from the Baldy side from now on.

hiking
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Strenuous is right! This hike is strenuous alright, but not difficult. The trail was great with only a few loose rocky parts. For the most part it was almost a constant incline, but really no steep parts. It was definitely less abusive to my poor tender feet than Ice House trail. It starts out exposed and has some more exposed sections higher up, but there is plenty of shade on the rest.
11 miles doesn't seem that far, but it feels far after you've done it. If you go in summer go early and bring plenty of fluids. I brought 4 liters and ran out 2 miles from the trailhead, so did 2 others of the 5 I hiked with.
The road to the trailhead is rough, but any 2WD with adequate ground clearance can make. Don't leave valuables in your car or truck, as is not uncommon, opportunistic thieves sometimes hit the parked vehicles at the trailhead.
I'll do this trail again when the memory of the climb fades and my feet are less sore.

hiking
Monday, June 09, 2014

A challenging climb particularly in hot conditions, you will need 3.5-4liters of water or alternatively bring tablets to use in the streams. Watch out for the occasional rattlesnake, though they give you plenty of warning! The course isnt well marked so keep an eye out for small rocks that define the route. The view at the top isnt particularly rewarding but the descent offers beautiful views from halfway down onwards. A good climb if you are looking to build stamina in preparation for bigger hikes.