Needles Lookout


Needles Lookout burned to the ground on Thursday, July 28, 2011

Season: Mid June through October
Distance: 5.0 miles, round trip
Elevation: Trail Head – 8,150 feet

Needles Lookout: 8,245 feet

Up & Down – 800 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate – 2-3 hours
Drinking water: None – bring your own


Take the needles Road (21S05) which leaves the east side of the Western Divide Highway about 1/2 mile south of the Quaking Aspen campground. Follow the road about 2.8 miles to the cul-de-sac at the very end. The trail head (32E22) is obvious.

The trail skirts the north flank of a hill using an old logging road for a few hundred yards, then narrows to a normal hiking trial. You pass through a forest of fir, ponderosa pine and some sugar pine. Shortly after leaving the logging road, you get a great view of your destination, the Needles Lookout, as well as the Freeman Creek Grove of Sequoias, Pyles Camp and Lloyd Meadows. The trails mounts a saddle and shirts the north flank of another hill. After dropping down to the last saddle, the trail climbs up the Needles Rock. The last portion of the trail consists of a series of stairs and catwalks that negotiate a knife edge ridge to the lookout.

With good visibility, the view can be spectacular. The lookout is surrounded by the Kern River Basin. Mt. Whitney lies to the northeast, Olancha Peak (the famous “Sleeping Beauty”) to the west, Dome Rock to the southwest, Kern Canyon the south and the ancient Kern Plateau to the southeast. In the distance above the smog and haze are the Tehachapi’s and the Coast Range.

Please respect the privacy of the lookout. Visiting hours are generally between 9 and 6. Not more than six visitors are allowed on the tower at once.