Sawtooth Pass Trail

HARD 41 reviews
#25 of 93 trails in

Sawtooth Pass Trail is a 12.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Three Rivers, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 12.7 miles Elevation Gain: 4,314 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

bird watching

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

snow

no dogs

Sawtooth Pass has a brilliant perspective of Mineral King Valley, Lost Canyon, Monarch Lakes, and Columbine Lake. Sawtooth Pass in Mineral King Valley strafes the serrated edge of Sawtooth Peak, the largest prominence in the area at 12,343 ft. Climbing to the top of the pass reveals views of alpine glacial gems like Columbine Lake, Monarch Lakes, Mineral Peak and Mineral King Valley. Overnight backpacking or camping is a must when visiting Mineral King. Reaching Sawtooth Pass can be achieved in a day. Getting to the top of Sawtooth Peak is a tough scramble, and the trail does not go to the top. Wildlife is abundant and the landscape is massive, about 12,600 acres. A vast range of attributes including the geology, forest, and glacial lakes make this hike unique.

hiking
no shade
scramble
2 months ago

The trail to Lower Monarch lake is gradual and pleasant. From Lower Monarch lake to Sawtooth Pass, trail conditions are difficult hiking through sand/gravel with steep grade. The views are totally worth it. Started at 9:30am and returned at 6:30pm.

hiking
3 months ago

Finished the hike in 1 day in about 10 hours with roughly 45min total of break time. A super fun hike with amazing views! The first 0.6 miles to timber gap junction is tough but levels out after that into a gradual/easy climb until reaching lower lower monarch lake. The views of the surrounding mountains during this section are epic. Lower monarch lake is also a stunning site on its own. We stopped there for a quick snack before continuing up sawtooth pass. The ascent up the pass is grueling. It feels like you're going two steps forward and one step back because you're hiking on sand. I would recommend hiking as far to the left as possible where there are more rocks and better traction. The views from the top of the pass are amazing. You see a clear view of lower monarch, upper monarch, and columbine lake, as well as all of the surrounding mountains as far as the eye can see! The final ascent to sawtooth peak should not be taken lightly. The trail is unmarked, technical, and slow because of loose rocks and sand. Give yourself over 1.5 hours to go out and back from the end of sawtooth pass. Even though the trail is unmarked, there are small rock towers once you get closer to the peak which offer helpful guidance toward the best route. Once you get to the summit, you'll totally forget the grueling journey it took to get there! It was one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen hiking. You can see so much of the park and are at the highest peak for miles, so feel like you're onto of the world! I would recommend bringing a windbreaker/down jacket to the summit as it is very exposed and blustery up there. The descent is slow to start and just as technical as the ascent. Once you can, I would recommend angling your descent down toward monarch lake at a sharper angle than you climbed up. By doing this, you can basically ski (seriously) through the loose sand, making your descent super fast and a lot more fun. We stopped again at lower monarch for a late lunch and to empty all the sand out of our boots. From there, we welcomed the gradual descent down to the trailhead. Keep and eye out for deer! We saw 6! They are relatively tame and unafraid of human onlookers, so it was a cool up-close experience to watch them! We slept at the trailhead the night before and experienced little to no issues with altitude. The only thing was, as we got close to the summit, we did get out of breath faster, so had to take more frequent breaks. Other than that, we didn't experience any extreme altitude effects.

hiking
bugs
off trail
rocky
scramble
3 months ago

My favorite part of this hike was sitting on a rock at the lake with my feet in the water. It's definitely a workout.

hiking
10 months ago

I actually completed this one in October. It’s beautiful. I took a short 15 nap when I summited and the view was amazing with the two lakes below. Definitely will do it again and take a longer nap lol

Tue Oct 23 2018

It was another awesome trek to the top the scree is perfect and seeing both monarch lake and the entire Sierra mountains are so wonderful Mineral King is a fantastic valley and mountain getaway thank you to all that make the Sierra mountains the perfect place to call our home mountain range

hiking
Tue Jun 26 2018

I truly enjoyed this trail it was fabulous and anytime you get to spend time in The magic of the Sierra Mountains that is where it’s at.. the shale to the top of the pass is the best it’s a wonderful workout and the view is amazing I will have to say the undefined trail in the shale makes sense once you have climbed to the top.. I really loved this hike

hiking
Wed May 30 2018

We backpacked at Monarch Lake the night before climbing Sawtooth Pass. At this season seems the weather is clear in morning but gets foggy in the afternoon. The trail to Lower Monarch Lake is obvious, even about the last mile and mile half is covered in snow. We brought crampons and ice axes, which made the trekking much easier. But still, the steep snow slope looks pretty dangerous and have proper equipment will give you peace in mind and tool to self arrest if anything happens. Even though the Lower Monarch Lake is largely covered with ice, the temperature is not too low, I'd say 30 degree at night, and we are able to get water at the lake. The trail to Sawtooth Pass mostly has no snow, but really hard to find human track at this early in the season, I ended up using ice axe to cross patches of ice when climbing totally off trail to the pass. Take extra caution when moving on the slope. It's like 50 degree or above incline and with sandy terrain, the sand is extremely slippery on rocks. The west side of the Sawtooth Pass is mostly clear of snow, but as soon as you reach the pass you can see the other side of it is covered in completely white. Snow is couple feet high over the pass. View at the pass is breath taking. Getting downhill is mandatory hill and can be very challenging. My buddy with crampon on felt it's easier as the traction on sandy slope helps. Me, I mostly slide one foot in careful position, moving sideways, sometimes sit down or hunch down to help stabilize the sliding. Be super careful where you step on! Pure sand has more traction than sand on rock. Also notice some part, even no snow/ice, but the small pebbles are frozen together made it hard and slippery. We took 2 hrs to ascent from Lower Monarch Lake to the Pass.

Tue May 29 2018

Went there end of May backpacking. Last mile to the lake was on a slope covered with snow, we passed it with ice axe and crampons easily. I saw people walked by with trekking boots and poles but you might want to think twice and takes extreme caution. Heading towards sawtooth pass was very hard for me cause I failed to find the right route and struggled a lot along sandy mountain. Weather was cool not cold, afternoon fog brought bad condition to the trail. Breathtaking view when sunset and sunrise. Lots of marmots around the lake.

backpacking
Sat Sep 09 2017

Now this my friends is a true hike! Beautiful views and a hell of a lot of work. My buddy and I did the upper saw tooth loop. About 45 miles. Tons of wild life and vegetation. We'd be hiking on rocks then be in fern forests. Read your map carefully because there is a lot of elevation drops to 8k then climbing back up to 11k. Tons of work. Plan your days accordingly and it will be such a great trip.

backpacking
Fri Aug 25 2017

Amazing hike with a few options to continue on and connect to other trails. Sawtooth peak is also a great peak to be claimed by any peakbagger

hiking
Mon Jun 12 2017

Still very snowy (6/11/2017), picked out an old route on the north side (climber's left) of Monarch Creek to avoid the sketchy river crossing, rangers suggested this alternative despite the harder route-finding. Almost entirely snow past the first meadow where you'd normally cross the river. Made it to monarch lakes, and up to the pass in the AM (~1 hr from lakes). I'd recommend crampons & ice axe for the pass! It's all snow up to the ridge. Marmots are active! found one trying to get at my car when I hiked back down.

Thu May 04 2017

the lakes blew my mind!! towards the end of 2016. i cant wait to go back..

hiking
Mon Aug 15 2016

Great view. Difficult climb, but the way down was not as bad as I was expecting at all. The scree catches your feet in a similar way to going down sand, so while slipping is a concern, it is not as bad as many other steep trails I have had to climb down.

hiking
Fri Dec 07 2012

Awesome. we reached it on the back side after doing some pretty intense cross country hiking.

hiking
Thu Sep 13 2012

Took a route around Upper Monarch past Mineral King on the way in, and back down Sawtooth Pass on the way out. The panoramic views from the summit are awesome, and it turned out to be a great place to spend an hour taking pictures and laying in the sun. The rain and lightning rolled in around 2, but by noon we had made it back down to Lower Monarch and set up some shelter. Absolutely worth the effort.

hiking
Thu Jun 21 2012

A very long day no matter how you cut it, I recommend climbing via Glacier Pass to avoid much of the sand that makes up the regular trail. Leaving Mineral King at the Sawtooth parking area, go one mile to Groundhog Meadow. Instead of following the trail straight ahead to the stream crossing, skirt the meadow around to the left. (A secondary footpath should be discernible.) This footpath will circumnavigate the meadow as it climbs across a talus slope. As you follow this lightly traveled trail you see a relatively steep valley toward your left. This is your route. This will take you to Glacier Pass. Do not go over the pass. Instead, traverse in a southerly direction toward Sawtooth where the view is "edge of the world" dramatic! The return is much more direct. Running down the sand is actually fun.

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2 months ago

recorded Sawtooth Pass Trail

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