The best part about Sawtooth is the grand view of the Great Western Divide. The view of Monarch Lakes and the diverse choices you can take after summiting. An easy Class 2 climb, especially for the Sierras. The Kaweahs stood out. To the north east was the Whitney group. Far below me was the summit tower of Mineral Peak, and to the south I had an impressive view of Tulare Peak and the north face of Florence Peak. Far off in the distance was Olancha Peak and further south were Owens and Siretta. 360 degrees of just beauty.
Take State Route 198 from Visalia to Sequoia National Park, turn right onto Mineral King Road about 3 miles outside of Three Rivers. Follow Mineral King Rd. 25 miles to Timber Gap trailhead, about half a mile before road end (and a short distance before reaching Mineral King Ranger Station). Mineral King Road is paved for approximately the first 10 miles, it is a very narrow, winding road on a steep hillside, mostly without any protection from the steep drop-off to East Fork Kaweah River on the right. This drive normally takes 1.5 - 2 hours. Trailhead elevation is 7800 feet. As a word of caution, the Mineral King area and the trailhead has severe marmot problem. Control of these critters has been limited by the Park Service. they recommend that you take protective measures for your vehicle (short of lacing food with poison!). There have been incidents in the past where marmots have chewed through radiator hoses and cables, thus disabling them! One lucky marmot was able to hitch a ride.....all the way to L.A.!!!
From Timber Gap trailhead take the trail up the east slopes of Mineral King Valley, then follow sign for Sawtooth Pass. One-way distance is 5 miles to Sawtooth Pass. From the pass, following the ridge to the south for an additional 1 mile of class 2 scrambling to reach the summit. According to scottyb for about 1/2 mile below Sawtooth Pass the trail climbs much steep sand, the main unpleasant part of the hike. It can possibly be avoided by going cross-country on the right, ascending the southwest ridge of Sawtooth Peak.
Entrance fee for Sequoia National Park is $20 per private vehicle for 7 days, or $5 per person walking in or on bus for 7 days. Back country camping requires a free wilderness permit. Obtain Trail Permit at Mineral King Ranger Station.
Mineral King Ranger Station: On Mineral King Road, 24 miles east of Hwy. 198. Maps, local wilderness permits, first aid, bear canisters. Daily 7am - 3:30pm June through early September. After that, wilderness permits are available on the porch of the station. Call Sequoia National Park at 559-565-3341 and ask for Mineral King Ranger Station.
When To Climb
Late Spring/early summer or Early Fall. Not the highest country so heat can beat down on ya if you do it in the prime of summer. Winter mountaineering requires long distance cross-country skiing for approach, as snow on Mineral King Road is not plowed.
Back country camping requires a wilderness permit ($15). You can camp at a number of Lakes from Columbine to Crystal Lake as well as upper and lower Monarch Lake. Bear cannisters required to protect your food from black bears. No campfires permitted in Mineral King area. See Red Tape section for ranger station information.
You can call Mineral Kings Ranger station for weather conditions and advice for your personal comfort. Call Sequoia National Park at 559-565-3341 and ask for Mineral King Ranger Station.
There is about 1/2 a mile of sand to climb below the pass. There is something like a trail meandering up the slope. If I were to do it again I would stay to the right side of the "gully" and try to climb on the easy class 2-3 rock to the pass. Or climb the south face from Monarch Lake, which I hear has less sand.
Don't know if this is still occuring, but in the 80's, marmots were eating fan belts and radiator hoses in cars parked at the trailheads in the MK valley. The Silver City store even sold emergency fan belts. A trick I was told about was to put mothballs under the car, and this would keep the marmots away. Might check with the rangers if this is still going on.
A different approach to the peak, and much better than approaching from Sawtooth Pass (to avoid the scree), approach via upper Monarch Lake and from the south side. Not any more technical but more scrambling. Went down the steep SW side (no trail and class 3/4) of the peak between the Monarch Lakes and would not recommend this due to scree on top of granite making it very treacherous. Did get down this but not without battle wounds.
""It's easy to grin......when your ship comes in. And you've got the stock market beat. But the man worthwhile, Is the man who can smile, when his shorts aren't too tight in the seat.""
--Judge Smails (Ted Knight)