Elevation: 4,119 ft
GPS: 36.029, -118.47 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 512,461 total · 3,341/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Jun 18, 2006
Admins: Matthew Fienup, Muscrat, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Getting weather forecast...


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.


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

230 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: The Needles / Kern River Change
Type:  to 
Sort by:   then:

Classic Climbing Routes at The Needles / Kern River

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Tree Route
Trad 4 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
The Lieback
Trad 2 pitches
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13
White Punks on Dope
Trad 6 pitches
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
Imaginary Voyage
Trad 4 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Trad 2 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Trad 3 pitches
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Igor Unchained
Trad 3 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
The Howling
Trad, Sport 2 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Airy Interlude
Trad 3 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Anti-Jello Crack
Trad 4 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Thin Ice
Trad 3 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Fancy Free
Trad 3 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R
Spook Book
Trad 4 pitches
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
The Don Juan Wall
Trad 5 pitches
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13
Trad 4 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Tree Route Dome Rock
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad 4 pitches
The Lieback Kernville Rock (a.k.a…
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 2 pitches
White Punks on Dope Needles > Voodoo Dome
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13 Trad 6 pitches
Imaginary Voyage Needles > Warlock
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c Trad 4 pitches
Spooky Needles > Charlatan
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 2 pitches
Innersanctum Needles > Witch
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 3 pitches
Igor Unchained Needles > Witch
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad 3 pitches
The Howling Needles > Warlock
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13 Trad, Sport 2 pitches
Airy Interlude Needles > Witch
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 3 pitches
Anti-Jello Crack Dome Rock
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 4 pitches
Thin Ice Needles > Sorcerer
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Fancy Free Needles > Charlatan
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Spook Book Needles > Witch
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R Trad 4 pitches
The Don Juan Wall Needles > Sorcerer
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Trad 5 pitches
Atlantis Needles > Sorcerer
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13 Trad 4 pitches
More Classic Climbs in The Needles / Kern River »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season


Ryan Williams
London (sort of)
Ryan Williams   London (sort of)
"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
The Howling
Lost at Sea

ALL CLASSIC! Sep 14, 2011
Eric T.
St. Augustine, Florida
Eric T.   St. Augustine, Florida
How early in the spring can you start climbing here? Sep 21, 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. Oct 14, 2011
Ryan Kempf
Boulder, CO
Ryan Kempf   Boulder, CO
Anyone know when the earliest the needles area is climbable in the spring? Trying to plan a mid May trip. Apr 3, 2012
Grand Rapids, MI
ttriche   Grand Rapids, MI
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. Apr 3, 2012
ryan albery
van world
ryan albery   van world
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. Jun 18, 2012
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  

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!!! Jun 20, 2012
J. Albers
J. Albers   Colorado
Agree with Sal. Thank you Ryan for leaving the guide at the Lodge. Very kind of you. Jun 21, 2012
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
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? Jul 23, 2013
Guide is still there hanging on the wall, thanks for leaving it. Dec 3, 2013
Seth Finkelstein
Denver, CO
Seth Finkelstein   Denver, CO
Can anyone comment on whether two ropes are necessary for the needles? On that note, can i get by with just a 60m? Apr 4, 2014
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
Matthew Fienup   Ventura, CA  
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. Apr 7, 2014
Jo Nathan
San Diego, CA
Jo Nathan   San Diego, CA
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!


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

Jun 19, 2015
Ellicott City, Maryland
ErinK   Ellicott City, Maryland
Hey all! Looking to climb here mid-May... any recommendations on where to camp and climbs to jump on (solid 10a-c leader). Thanks! Apr 26, 2018
Atascadero, CA
FrankPS   Atascadero, CA
Get the guidebook for All Things Needles!

amazon.com/Needles-Climbing… Apr 27, 2018