Dome Rock Climb


Season: May through November
Distance: 1/4 mile, round trip
Elevation: 7,221 feet
Difficulty: Easy – 30 minutes
Drinking water: None – bring your own

The view of the Kern Canyon, 3,000 feet below, from Dome Rock is topped only by the views from Slate Mountain and the Needles Lookout – and is considerably closer and easier. (One of the authors’ children was married here in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. It was the middle of May and at the end of the service the bride and groom were pelted with a snow flurry instead of the more traditional rice.)

Drive 1.9 miles south from the Ponderosa Lodge on the “Great Western Divide Highway” to the signed Dome Rock turn-off (left turn) (road 21S69). Follow this dirt road to the end, keeping to the left where it forks. You may find rock climber’s camped at the large cul-de-sac at the road’s end where there is a gate across the road leading to the top of the dome. This road is for access to the helicopter landing area on top where the choppers were stationed before the heliport was moved to the other side of the highway.

The roadbed provides a gently pathway to the top of the dome. The more adventuresome can cross-country it without fear of becoming lost. Be sure to notice and appreciate what a hard-scrabble life the trees must endure in order to get sustenance from this almost solid piece of granite. The granite bulges to the northeast are the “Needles”. Johnsondale and Lake Isabella are down-canyon to the right. To the west is Slate Mountain and the proposed Peppermint downhill ski area.

This rock as well as the Needles are world-class climbing challenges. Climbers are active all summer and fall so please do not throw or allow anything, including your own bods, to roll over the side. Several unfortunates have died by foolish mishaps at the edge.