The Middle & South Forks of Lytle Creek
The Middle Fork offers a popular access trail to the Cucamonga Wilderness. As you hike up the canyon, the ubiquitous chaparral quickly gives way to steep slopes clothed in big cone Douglas fir and incense cedar. Streamside sycamores, maple, and willow offer a scenic display of Autumn color and shade tranquil camp sites. As they hike up-canyon, hikers and backpackers can enjoy the creek's numerous cascades and waterfalls on their way to the rocky precipice of Cucamonga Peak.
The lesser known South Fork offers a true wilderness experience. Hundreds of people hike up the South Fork's typically dry lower gravel wash to visit scenic Bonita Falls (located on a South Fork tributary). But few people continue further up the trail-less South Fork canyon, which sustains a year round stream. Those who do, enjoy an incredibly scenic experience, as the rugged canyon widens and narrows, changing at every turn and climb. Here, scenic cascades framed by naked rock give way to languid creek meanders shaded by sycamore groves, only to tumble once again into narrow gorges smoothed by the flow of water over the eons.
People seeking a wild experience are not the only visitors to the canyons of Lytle Creek. Here too, critters find refuge from the giant Southern California megalopolis. On one late Indian Summer day, I observed a colorful and somewhat rare mountain king snake sinuously gliding across the trail. Further on, the tell-tale rattle of rocks directed my attention to a small herd of bighorn sheep, perched precariously on a perpendicular cliff across the canyon. On my way back to the trailhead, a pile of fresh bear scat and an ambling trail of large paw prints reminded me that I wasn't the only trail user.
Lytle Creek offers a truly wild outdoor experience within a few minutes drive of one of the nation's largest urban areas. Although much of the upper Lytle Creek watershed was protected by designation of the Cucamonga Wilderness in 1964 and 1984, the lower portion of the Middle Fork canyon and most of the South Fork remain unprotected. The Forest Service considers both the Middle and the South Forks to be eligible for National Wild & Scenic Rivers status in recognition of their outstanding scenic, fish and wildlife values.
How To Get There
From Interstate 15 near San Bernardino, take the Lytle Creek Road exit and head northwest to the town of Lytle Creek. Turn left on Forest Road 2N58 and proceed to the Middle Fork trailhead.
Recreation And Visitor Information
For visitor information about Lytle Creek and the Cucamonga Wilderness, contact the San Bernardino National Forest, Cajon Ranger Station, 1209 Lytle Creek Road, Fontana, CA 92336, (909) 887-2576.