We chose Garfield Ledges for a short afternoon hike on a beautifully sunny Saturday. The drive near the Mailbox Peak parking lot had been rather slow, having to squeeze past an almost unbroken chain of parked cars about half a mile long, starting at the Valley Camp junction (where the one-way road ends). However, once past that traffic jam the road to Garfield Ledges was clear and quiet.
The road is paved almost the entire way. It turns to gravel just after the Middle Fork Campground. There are some hefty potholes right where the paving ends, and again on either side of the bridge, but once you’ve made it to the gravel parking lot the worst is over. A Prius and Tesla had made it seemingly in one piece, but most cars had higher clearance.
At the trailhead there is a double pit toilet in excellent condition (by pit toilet standards). It appears clean, does not particularly smell, is reasonably well stocked, and the lock functions. What more could you ask for?
The trail begins behind the pit toilet. The actual wooden trailhead sign (with the informational posters) is a stone’s throw away up a little slope, and is clearly visible from the parking lot.
We began the hike at 2:30pm. It took us 45 minutes to reach the top, but we stopped a lot. The trail is mostly in the shade, under the cover of tall trees, though the sun bursts through in some gaps and there are a couple of sneak peek view points on the way up.
The view from the top was better than I expected, though the price you pay is a lack of shade. There is absolutely zero vegetation obscuring the view, so you get a wide panorama of the Middle Fork valley. There’s also a small board with some information about the area.
After spending about 15 minutes at the top baking in the sun, we retreated back into the trees and headed back down, which took about 30 minutes (still with several stops).
As a bonus, after reaching the parking lot, walk over the bridge and take a right through a gap in the fence. There is a seemingly maintained trail that leads to a small rocky “beach” on the river.