Date: April 29th, 2016 Distance: 11.6 Miles (Out & Back) Elevation: 7,600 Feet Elevation Gain: 3,694 Feet Difficulty: Strenuous Parking: Adventure Pass Required (High Clearance Vehicle Recommended) Location: Lytle Creek, CA
Every time Luke and I hike the Ice House Canyon Trail we always make it to the saddle and look over at the Middle Fork trail wondering what it would be like to start our hike from there. I have done part of it years ago with my older brother, but we went primarily to fish. Well, we finally decided to do it! We hiked the entire Middle Fork Trail to the Saddle. Boy where we surprised by how difficult it ended up being and how desolate it was. This is definitely a trail to hike if you are someone who wants to get away from it all.
The day started out bumpy as we drove towards the trail head on a dirt road. We suggest only taking high clearance vehicles due to the road condition. There was a few times when even we got a bit nervous in our 2015 Subaru Forester. Even being nervous we still managed to have a few laughs and made it safely to the parking lot. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn't be sharing the trail with many people that day as there was only two other cars parked. We gathered our gear and began our trek up the trail. The first 2 miles are exposed so make sure you bring lots of water and sunscreen but once you hit the tree line it becomes very shaded and green. We were shocked at how green everything was! To our surprise we found big Redwoods which were gorgeous! It was definitely a much different hike then we had expected.
Before we made it to the Third Stream Crossing (which is actually the only stream crossing), we passed up a couple of guys who were heading up to camp by the creek and another man heading back down the trail with his dog. We said a quick hello, asked how the trail was up ahead and continued on. Once we made it to the creek and crossed it we lost the trail. On the other side of the creek was an area for camping that had plenty of prime spots. We decided to head right and see where that would take us. Fortunately that was the right direction because it lead us to some rocks that shaped a "trail" leading to the actual trail. After that, the trail heads straight up!
It was quit a climb after that point. Leading us through more rocky terrain, then more forestry terrain, and back to rocky terrain. At a couple spots we lost the trail under all the foliage but with a couple helpful Red Ribbon markers we were able to stay on track. There were a few points where you couldn't see the trail through all the rock slides, but once you get close enough there it was! Small and thin but it was a trail. It was obvious that not a lot of people take this trail all the way to the saddle. We were having to push our way through bushes to stay on trail. It made it all the more adventurous for us! There were a few times where we had to just stop and admire everything that was around us. It was a beautiful sight... and quiet! We hadn't seen anyone since the Third Stream Crossing. Which was a nice change from our usual hikes on the Ice House Canyon Trail where you can run into 20 different hikers.
The last few switchbacks where tough. The trail goes back to being exposed and there were a couple of fallen trees we had to climb over. We finally got a glimpse of the last bit of snow from winter. It was a great view when we could finally see the saddle! We had made it! The feeling of accomplishment swarmed over us! After all this time of looking over at this trail, wondering what it would be like to hike it, we finally did! We love this trail and suggest it to anyone who is looking for a challenge, a change of scenery, and some solitude. Next time we go back we are bring our fishing poles and heading towards the creek!