The Middle Fork Trail is an 11.2 mile trail that starts at the Santa Barbara Campground and ends at a junction with the Skyline Trail – Trail #251 on the Santa Barbara Divide.
Trail Conditions: Good to Excellent
Santa Barbara Campground to East Fork Santa Barbara Trail – Trail #26
From the parking area, hike through the campground, staying on the lower side of the loop. At the top of the loop, the Middle Fork Trail – Trail #24 takes off following the Rio Santa Barbara upstream. The well-defined trail will start on the west side of the river and after a shortways pass the well-signed, but little used Centennial Trail – Trail #100. After about 1 mile, the trail crosses into the Pecos Wilderness and then crosses the creek to the east side and continues to follow it upstream.
At this point, the trail will climb significantly above the water, transitioning from riparian vegetation to fir and pine forest. After another 1/2 mile, you will come to a junction with the West Fork Trail – Trail #25. Stay left and high to remain on the Middle Fork Trail.
The trail will continue to climb gently at a very even grade contouring into the Middle Fork Canyon. You’ll pass a brief clearing with a view up the Middle Fork, and shortly after that, the trail will switchback. The even grade remains for 3 additional switchbacks as the trail enters a thick stand of aspens. In the fall, when the aspens turn gold, this should be magnificent.
After the fourth switchback, the trail continues to contour into the Middle Fork Canyon climbing at the same steady, civilized grade that it has since the beginning. You’ll eventually pass through a gate. Leave it as you found it.
Continue on. The trail may seem a bit monotonous at this point, but enjoy the beautiful aspen forest and occasional views of surrounding canyons.
In the final 3/4 mile before reaching the junction with the East Fork Trail – Trail #26, conifers join the aspens to create a mixed forest. Enjoy the additional shade. You’ll cross through a few meadows before entering one final large meadow where you’ll find a sign marking the trail junction.
This makes a good turnaround point for a long day hike. Return the same way you came.