When viewed from the northwest, Blacksmith displays one of the largest and most impressive faces in the Northern Sierra. The true summit requires climbing of up to 5.6, and to get anywhere near the top calls for sporty 3rd class, and if your route-finding isn't too good, maybe some 4th or 5th class.
The easiest access to the area is from US 395. From the north, as you arrive in the tiny town of Bridgeport, watch for the first right hand turn just after the Shell filling station (rip-off gas prices--see below). This is Twin Lakes Road. From the south, enter Bridgeport and proceed to the end of town and take the last left-hand turn, right across from Buster's Market. This is the same Twin Lakes Road. At the end of the road is Mono Village. If you are staying overnight, enter the Village and bear left, along the shoreline to the boat trailer parking and a large dirt turnaround. The trailhead parking is along the edge of the turnaround. Dayhiker parking is along the shoreline of the lake prior to the turnaround.
From either parking area (they are quite close together), to get to the Barney Lake Trailhead, enter the campground through the main entrance. There are 3 roads branching off to the west from here. Take the middle road, and watch for a meadow on your left after a couple hundred yards . If you see it, you are on the correct road. Otherwise, backtrack and try again, there are many roads running through the campground area. When you see the meadow, continue on and you will pass a cable stretched across the road, and this is the recognized trailhead. Follow the road to the sign indicating the turnoff to Barney Lake. This is the long way around, and offers access to the west and and southwest sides of the peak. The more direct alternative, offering access to the spectacular northwest side, is to ascend the trail-less Blacksmith Creek drainage, which you will want to avoid if at all possible. Ascending this drainage is a loose, steep, sandy bushwhack for the first couple miles, before it turns into a loose talus scramble with occasional stretches of deep sand. There is a lot of rockfall activity here as well, there is fresh debris everywhere. To get to this drainage, follow the directions above, but when you reach the sign indicating the Barney Lake Trail turnoff, continue straight ahead, across the bridge, past the Mono Village waterworks, and take any of the many use/game trails that ascend the drainage.
The Horse Creek Trail gives access to the Cleaver Notch, or alternatively, cross the crest via Matterhorn Pass to Burro Pass, or the East Couloir of Matterhorn Peak, and descend part-way down the south side and traverse west. The cross-country travel on the south side of the ridge is not too difficult, but this is a long alternative.
To get to the Horse Creek Trail, follow a well-worn path out of the south end of the turnaround, cross a wood-decked auto-sized bridge, continue southbound, and watch for a footbridge made of logs. On the south side of the footbridge, turn left (east) and you are on the trail.
If you wish to stay in the Hoover Wilderness, a wilderness permit is required. To get one, go to the Bridgeport Ranger Station , a USFS facility just southeast of Bridgeport along US 395.
The traverse is most commonly done from the southeast, beginning at Matterhorn Peak, to the northwest, ending at Blacksmith Peak. Peter Croft has lent the traverse some notoriety by free-soloing the entire long, knife-edge ridge from SE to NW. The difficulty doesn't exceed 5.8, and with a rope this seems pretty casual, but the exposure wears on you after a while. And then there are the rappels. Personally, I hate to rappel. I know, if done right, it's plenty safe. But I don't like to. Some of the rappels are nearly a full rope length, and free-hanging to boot. Makes it more of an adventure...
The traverse is tremendously exposed, especially along the section from The Dragtooth all the way to Blacksmith. Driving along Hwy 395 throught the Bridgeport Valley, it is easy to assume that the ridgeline is only steep on one side, like the ridgeline of the Whitney Massif, but this is not so. It is steeper and more exposed (well, maybe not more exposed, but still plenty enough) on the southeast side than the northwest side.
So if the Sierra Nevada is getting too boring and predictable for you, strap 'em on and try this traverse!Gasoline
Unreasonably high fuel prices in Bridgeport motivated me to add this section. There are 2 filling stations in Bridgeport, and both are owned by the same shyster. The fuel prices are often a dollar or more per gallon higher than surrounding areas. With this in mind, I want to recommend to everyone using a trailhead in the Bridgeport area to fill up well before you arrive.
If arriving from the north, fill up in Minden/Gardnerville, or next best, at Topaz Lake. Coming in over Tioga, Lee Vining is also expensive, but (slightly) less than Bridgeport. From the south, Bishop is the best bet, but Mammoth is 40 - 50 cents per gallon less than Bridgeport. Coming over Sonora Pass, I guess you're out of luck unless you buy enough in Sonora to get over and back.
If you for some reason do find yourself in need of fuel in the Bridgeport area, Mono Village (at Upper Twin Lake) has fuel for 20-30 cents cheaper than in town.
While the fuel prices are a rip-off, other merchants in town are more reasonable, especially restaurants.