(8886 feet) Canyon Creek Trailhead, Stuart Fork Trailhead. This is one of the finest hike/climbs in the Trinity Alps. Sawtooth Peak can be seen from almost any place in the Alps. Likewise, from the top of Sawtooth, a major portion of the wilderness area is visible. But the peak experience here is more that just climbing to the top of an 8,000 foot mountain; the approaches lead through some of the best country the Alps have to offer. By the time you reach the summit some gorgeous real estate has passed beneath your boot heels.
Coming up Canyon Creek, bushwhacking to Smith or Morris Lake, spending the night and summiting as the sun rises over Gibson Peak to the east may have been your choice. Spectacular is a word that may have crossed your mind. This is the shortest approach. Study the face of Sawtooth from the lake, there are several possible ways to attack. The easiest way is to get up on the east ridge and follow it on the north side to the summit block. Don’t be tempted by the narrow coulior that appears to lead to the summit. It’s jammed by a couple of imposing monster boulders. Even if you do manage to bypass them, loose rock could turn it into a lethal bowling alley. Avoid the couloir and walk on up to the divide and look down into Ell Lake. At this point begin the scramble to the summit block. It takes a little route finding, but shouldn’t require any ropes even though I have found pitons driven in the cracks here.
The summit is a jagged splintered collection of granite spires. The north is a bit lower than the south. Both wear brass caps from the U.S. Geological Survey. The summit register is on the slightly higher south peak. As recent as October 1995, there were only a dozen names in the summit register for the season. Such a spectacular peak and so little traffic.
It’s a little longer hike, but the approach is brush-free from Ell Lake. Starting at the lake, it is clear and clean boulder-hopping to the north summit. Pick your route.
Perhaps the worst way to tackle Sawtooth Peak is from Morris Meadow on Stuart Fork. It is possible to get to Smith Lake via Bear Gulch, but involves several hours of nerve-racking bushwhacking. Descending Bear Gulch is reasonable.
If you are only going to climb one peak in the Alps, Sawtooth is the one.
From Redding on I-5, head west to Junction City (8miles west of Weaverville). Turn north in Junction City (it's an easy turn to miss, so slow down) and drive about 13 miles to the trailhead whichis also the end of the road.
Wilderness permit is free from any U.S. Forest Service Agency. There's one in Weaverville. The permit also includes the required fire permit.
USFS Ripstein Campground a mile from the Canyon Creek trailhead is free. Many campsites along the trail to Lower Canyon Creek Lake. Excellent campsites at Ell Lake, a logical base camp for climbing Sawtooth Peak from the north. Campsites at Morris Lake if climbing Sawtooth from the south.,