October 19, 2010

Hike Review: Ontario Peak via Middle Fork Trailhead

Location: Lytle Creek, CA
Distance: 16 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation change: 5700 feet
Time of year best to hike: Spring thru fall
Recommended maps: San Gabriel Mountains

Trail Head: From Lytle Creek, CA, the trail-head is three miles east on Middle Fork Road. Approaching Lytle Creek from the south Middle Fork Road the second left, the first being South Fork Road. If you see North Fork Road, you have gone too far. The approach to the trail-head is a rough and rocky dirt road. Trucks should have no problem and most cars can make the drive if done slowly and precariously. After the three miles there is a dirt parking area and a hole in the ground bathroom. Park here and begin. Because the trail head is remote, difficult to get to, and seldom patrolled, I have heard tell that cars parked here are sometimes vandalized; so be warned.

Summary: Begin at 3,000 feet. After 2.3 miles of hiking above and along the Lytle Creek, Third Stream Crossing is 5,000 feet. At the camp there is a lot of water year round and lots of shade. From here, the trail leaves Lytle Creek. After a mile and a half of very intense uphill grade and eroded trail, Comanche camp is located at 6,400 feet in a side canyon with limited water. In the latter part of summer there was patches of water in this canyon. Near the camp there is a rock spring on the wall of the canyon. Unsure if this spring is year round, play it safe and fill up with water before leaving Lytle Creek. Thus far into the hike there are dramatic rock canyon walls.

Leaving Commanche Camp, it is 1.7 miles of tough hiking to Icehouse Saddle (7,800 feet). Icehouse Saddle links up with four other trails, one of which leads 2.5 miles to a very popular trail-head; expect a crowd. From this junction there are a variety of choices:

North: Three T's Trail: Timber Mt. .9 | Telegraph Peak 2.9 | Thunder Mt. 3.9
Southeast: Cucamonga Peak Trail: Cucamonga Peak 2.4
West: Icehouse Saddle Trail: Trailhead 2.5
Southwest: Ontario Peak Trail: Kelly Camp 1.0 | Ontario Peak 2.8

Heading southwest, Ontario Peak Trail climbs past Kelly Camp onto a ridge line with great views both to the east and west. The last 2.8 miles are the easiest part of the entire hike. The peak (8,693 feet) offers wonderful views of the great Inland Empire.