Matterhorn Peak is the highest peak in the Sawtooth Ridge group, a series of sharp granite peaks and spires on Sierra Nevada crest, located on the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. Sawtooth Ridge is the northernmost group of Sierra peaks to exceed 12,000 feet elevation; its sharp relief contrasts dramatically with the generally rounded Sierra crestline to the north, thus Sawtooth Ridge is commonly considered the beginning of "High Sierra".
The entire Sawtooth Ridge area is a paradise for technical rock climbing and ski mountaineering, having a short approach from the year-round Twin Lakes resort. Matterhorn Peak also has the distinction of being the mountain Jack Kerouac attempted to climb in a spiritual quest. His unsuccessful ascent of Matterhorn Peak was dramatized in his novel "Dharma Bums".
Matterhorn Peak only resembles the original Matterhorn of Switzerland when viewed from below its north face. Matterhorn Peak has class 2 routes on its SW and SE slopes, yet its north side offers class 5 technical rock routes and steep snow couloirs. (Info by John) The classic ski descent of this peak is along the East Couloir. The West Couloir is also a possibility as is a route called Ski Dreams just a little east of the peak. Moynier's Backcountry Skiing California's High Sierra has a 1 page description and 2 photos.
The nearest trailhead to Matterhorn Peak is Twin Lakes, elevation 7000 feet. To get there take Twin Lakes Road off Highway 395 in the town of Bridgeport. At the end of 13 mile long Twin Lakes Road is the Mono Village resort, where there is a fee for overnight parking. From Mono Village the shortest route to the summit of Matterhorn is approx. 5 miles, elevation difference is 5280 feet (1 mile).
Several other trailheads require longer approaches than Twin Lakes trailhead, but you will also lose the crowds. South of Bridgeport on US-395 one can take the Green Lakes or Virginia Lakes trailhead, both of which have trails that lead into Virginia Canyon in Yosemite National Park. One must then cross the class 3 ridge between Virginia and Stanton Peaks in order to reach Spiller Canyon, which leads to the south side of Matterhorn Peak. The approach from Green Lakes is described in the Stanton Peak page. The Whorl Mountain page also describes the alternative approach route from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite national Park.
The trailhead is privately owned by the Mono Village resort, which charges an overnight parking fee ($10 for up to 7 days as of March 2009).
If backcountry camping, a free permit is required for Hoover Wilderness (north of Horse Creek Pass) or Yosemite National Park. The ranger office for this part of Toiyabe National Forest is on Highway 395 1 mile south of Bridgeport. Maximum party size is 8 in the Sawtooth Ridge zone, including Horse Creek canyon. Since the permits are on a quota system from the last Friday in June through September 15, it can be difficult to obtain during popular summer weekends. Advance reservation of wilderness permits is a good idea (fee charged).
When To Climb
Although summer (June to September) offers the best weather for climbing, Matterhorn Peak is one of the most popular ski-mountaineering peaks in California.
A free permit is required for backcountry camping. See Red Tape section for the location of ranger office. No campfires are allowed. Bear boxes are required for food storage to deter black bears.
Roadside camping is generally prohibited except in the fee campgrounds along Twin Lakes Road. There is a coin-operated shower facility a short ways east of Twin Lakes. Near the Green Lakes and Virginia Lakes trailheads there are also fee campgrounds.
Commercial lodging can be found in the Mono Village resort at the Twin Lakes trailhead, or in the town of Bridgeport.