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The Needles / Kern River

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Bald Eagle Peak 
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Kernville Rock (a.k.a. Kern Slabs) 
Lower Kern River Canyon Bouldering 
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Rest Day:
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From MP's sister site: MTB Project

The Needles / Kern River Rock Climbing 


Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Location: 36.1214, -118.5044 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 156,107
Administrators: Matthew Fienup, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006
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You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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The Needles, as viewed from Dome Rock

Description 

The upper Kern River Valley, in Sequoia National Forest, is a true outdoor paradise. The area is home to outstanding white water kayaking, fishing, mountain biking and hiking. Natural wonders include the "Grand Canyon of the Kern River" (a scenic waterway cut by the mighty Kern), the southern-most stand of old-growth Giant Sequoias and countless waterfalls, natural water slides, and plunge pools.

AND THEN THERE'S THE CLIMBING.

The area is home to the world famous Needles and several other truly outstanding formations, including Dome Rock and Elephant Knob. It has been said that the Needles themselves are home to the highest density of classic routes anywhere. This is not an overstatement. The overshadowed lesser formations are worthwhile destinations in their own right and should not be overlooked.


Getting There 

The Kern River Valley is quite large, so for directions see the description for the specific sub-area you wish to visit

Climbing Season



Weather station 10.8 miles from here

147 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',28],['3 Stars',60],['2 Stars',43],['1 Star',12],['Bomb',1]
['<=5.6',8],['5.7',10],['5.8',20],['5.9',18],['5.10',49],['5.11',26],['5.12',5],['5.13',1],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',1],['V4-5',5],['V6-7',4],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in The Needles / Kern River

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for The Needles / Kern River:
Tree Route   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 4 pitches, 500'   Dome Rock
The Lieback   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches   Kernville Rock (a.k.a. Kern...
White Punks on Dope   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, 6 pitches   The Needles : Voodoo Dome
Spooky   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 175'   The Needles : The Charlatan
Igor Unchained   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Airy Interlude   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Anti-Jello Crack   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 4 pitches, 550'   Dome Rock
Thin Ice   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Fancy Free   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 3 pitches   The Needles : The Charlatan
Spook Book   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R     Trad, 4 pitches   The Needles : The Witch
Tobin's Dihedral   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 3 pitches, 380'   Dome Rock
Lost at Sea   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Pinhead   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
The Don Juan Wall   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, 5 pitches   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Ankles Away   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 230'   The Needles : The Witch
The Emperor aka Pea Soup   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 105'   The Needles : Voodoo Dome
Atlantis   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13     Trad, 4 pitches, 500'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Scirocco   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Romantic Warrior   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 9 pitches   The Needles : The Warlock
Pyromania   5.13a/b 8a 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   The Needles : The Sorcerer
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in The Needles / Kern River

Featured Route For The Needles / Kern River
Rock Climbing Photo: The classic shot.

Airy Interlude 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a  CA : Southern Sierra : ... : The Witch
Airy Interlude is perhaps the best "moderate" route on the Witch. Not as continuous as Igor Unchained, but it shares some of Igor's coolest climbing, not to mention the classic Airy Interlude traverse pitch.P1: Ascend the first major crack system left of the start of Igor Unchained. This is directly below the start of the obvious traverse crack and really is the first major system on the wall. Stretch the rope all the way up to the huge, sloping ledge. 5.8 or 5.9.P2: The gem. Continue up ...[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of The Needles / Kern River Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Just past the crux. Anon.
Just past the crux. Anon.
Rock Climbing Photo: Josh and I standing atop the Charlatan, photo take...
Josh and I standing atop the Charlatan, photo take...
Rock Climbing Photo: Horned Lizard--another of the extraordinary creatu...
Horned Lizard--another of the extraordinary creatu...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Needles, pictured from the summit of dome rock...
The Needles, pictured from the summit of dome rock...
Rock Climbing Photo: The old fire lookout. It burned down a few years a...
The old fire lookout. It burned down a few years a...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dome Rock and the Needles...They don't look quite ...
Dome Rock and the Needles...They don't look quite ...
Rock Climbing Photo: secret swimming hole...
secret swimming hole...
Rock Climbing Photo: gone, but not forgotten, pt. 1
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 1
Rock Climbing Photo: The Needles and Kern drainage.
The Needles and Kern drainage.
Rock Climbing Photo: postcard view of the Needles from base of WPOD
postcard view of the Needles from base of WPOD
Rock Climbing Photo: Black Bears are a common sight throughout the Kern...
Black Bears are a common sight throughout the Kern...
Rock Climbing Photo: View from old lookout
View from old lookout
Rock Climbing Photo: Mother-daughter spring break lead climb "Dirt...
Mother-daughter spring break lead climb "Dirt...
Rock Climbing Photo: Kevin and Alec taking in the view
Kevin and Alec taking in the view
Rock Climbing Photo: The Needles at dawn as seen from Dome Rock.
The Needles at dawn as seen from Dome Rock.
Rock Climbing Photo: white punks on dope
white punks on dope
Rock Climbing Photo: My son Josh standing atop the Charlatan when he vi...
My son Josh standing atop the Charlatan when he vi...
Rock Climbing Photo: Needles lookout sign
Needles lookout sign
Rock Climbing Photo: Try the Kern "Just Outstanding IPA". Pho...
Try the Kern "Just Outstanding IPA". Pho...
Rock Climbing Photo: Try the Kern "Anniversary Ale". Photo by...
Try the Kern "Anniversary Ale". Photo by...
Rock Climbing Photo: gone, but not forgotten, pt. 2
gone, but not forgotten, pt. 2
Rock Climbing Photo: The Upper Kern River Valley is home to the souther...
The Upper Kern River Valley is home to the souther...
Rock Climbing Photo: Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, spotted near the Fir...
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, spotted near the Fir...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Needles
The Needles

Show All 29 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on The Needles / Kern River Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 19, 2016
By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From: London (sort of)
Sep 14, 2011
"There is a God, and, obviously, he climbs." - Sam Lightner Jr.

He said this about a route in Thailand, but I can't think of a better way to describe the Needles. I could give 4 stars to pretty much every route we did there. Far and away the best climbing area I hit on my CA road trip and in my top three locals of all time.

Igor Unchained
Airy Interlude
Fancy Free
Thin Ice
Spooky
The Howling
Lost at Sea
Atlantis

ALL CLASSIC!
By Eric T.
From: St. Augustine, Florida
Sep 21, 2011
How early in the spring can you start climbing here?
By Cunning Linguist
Oct 14, 2011
Elephant Knob is not worth the hike, for those who are considering it. The cliff got burnt up in a wildfire a few years back and it is DONE. Started up a couple of the "classics" but it's all kitty litter rock now and the hardware has been cooked and isn't trustworthy either.
By Ryan Kempf
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 3, 2012
Anyone know when the earliest the needles area is climbable in the spring? Trying to plan a mid May trip.
By ttriche
From: Altadena, CA
Apr 3, 2012
This year, with snow levels as low as they are, it is entirely possible that the trail could open in May or even later this month. Up-to-date conditions at the Ponderosa down the road can be found at ponderosaca.com/wx.htm if you want to try and time it.

The area itself is climbable year round, but the main approach is gated and the hike in becomes about twice as long when the road from 190 to the campground is blocked by snow. Expect 60-90 minutes then.

You could always camp at Peppermint Springs and climb on Voodoo Dome if nothing else seems to be workable. Unless it's pissing down rain, there's almost always *something* climbable up there.
By ryan albery
From: van world
Jun 18, 2012
I spent last week climbing at the Needles, and when I stopped at the Ponderosa Lodge for a few beers and asked to see the guidebook they used to have, they told me it was stolen a few years ago. I decided to leave my old copy there for all climbers to use, so they now have this hard to find book if you're needing some info on the area. Hopefully it stays put for many years to come.
By Salamanizer
Administrator
From: Vacaville Ca.
Jun 20, 2012
^^^^^^^^^^^^

Way super cool on you as I don't have the guide, won't pay out the ass for one and love to climb less traveled routes at the Needles.

Now I can draw topos on their napkins again. THANKS!!!
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jun 21, 2012
Agree with Sal. Thank you Ryan for leaving the guide at the Lodge. Very kind of you.
By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Jul 23, 2013
I was at the Ponderosa the last week of June and didn't see the guide hanging on the wall where it formerly was. Did they move it behind the counter?
By joedeltron
Dec 3, 2013
Guide is still there hanging on the wall, thanks for leaving it.
By Seth Finkelstein
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 4, 2014
Can anyone comment on whether two ropes are necessary for the needles? On that note, can i get by with just a 60m?
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Apr 7, 2014
Retreating from most routes would be exceedingly difficult without 2 ropes. Retreating from a few routes would be impossible without 2 ropes.

I once had to make a harrowing descent down the side of the Magician, using a single 60m rope. Since there are spots on the Magician where descending with a single rope is impossible, we had to do a long, improbable traversing pitch to gain a crack system that allowed for a single-rope descent. Everything worked out in the end, but life would have been vastly easier with a second rope.
By Jo Nathan
From: San Diego, CA
Jun 19, 2015
Possible new route on E-NE wall North of the Magician. Two pitch crack and flake system ending with a huge 5 inch wide 30 foot crack (P1: 5.7, P2: 5.8) Accessed via a 150 foot scrample down from huge boulder on ridge NW of the Lookout stairs. The summit of Magician is approx. 600 ft "as the crow flies" from the top of the route. It's a bit licheny with likely no traffic. First ascent?.

Anyone done this bad boy? Thanks!

Jonathan

P.S.-I promise there is a red line outlining the route. Best seen in full view.

Rock Climbing Photo: Aerial.
Aerial.


Rock Climbing Photo: P2. Following left flakes.
P2. Following left flakes.


Rock Climbing Photo: View from P1 belay. Route follows flake system dow...
View from P1 belay. Route follows flake system down from climber and across 15ft ledge down another 50 foot crack system. P1: 5.7. roughly 110ft.


Rock Climbing Photo: Second half of P1 (first half obscured). P1 belay ...
Second half of P1 (first half obscured). P1 belay (yellow). P2.


Rock Climbing Photo: P1.
P1.
By Matty Zane
From: Freedom
Sep 10, 2015
Anyone know if the fires are effecting the needles at all? Wondering if it's safe to climb there. Thanks!
By MIZ
May 19, 2016
Has anybody been up there yet this year? wondering about the approach/drive in. Thanks

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