Elevation: 7,766 ft
GPS: 36.12, -118.508 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 514,066 total · 2,977/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Aug 21, 2006 · Updates
Admins: Matthew Fienup, Muscrat, M Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Access Issue: Fire Restrictions in Effect Details

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS!

  • Campfires, without a permit from the USFS, are ILLEGAL. You will be cited!
  • When driving to the campground, or passing it en route to the trailhead, please be courteous by SLOWING DOWN as you approach. Vehicles tend to kick up a lot of dust along the road here which blows onto those who are camping.
  • Be courteous with regards to space and noise when sharing the camping area with others. Camping can be tight on busy weekends - consider sharing your spot. If you're arriving late on a Friday evening, consider camping along the FS road that evening at any of a number of really nice pull-offs so as not to disturb those that are asleep at the main camp.
  • Use the PIT TOILET at the Trailhead. PACK OUT HUMAN WASTE OUT FROM THE NEEDLES THEMSELVES - BRING WAG BAGS! It is NOT OK to leave your waste anywhere near the Sorcerer-Witch Notch!

Description

Breathtaking and shrouded in mystery, the Needles are a series of enormous granite spires that stand watch atop a narrow ridge that sits high over the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest. This is a climber's paradise: perfect rock, beautiful scenery, minimal crowds, and adventure in abudance.

The area was originally explored in the early 70's by Fred Beckey and a handful of other Californian climbers, and in the late 70's more and more new routes, including many of the classics, were put up by climbers like Herb Laeger, E. C. Joe, and Dick Leversee. During this time then youngsters Randy Leavitt and Tony Yaniro got wind of the area and in a matter of months some of the hardest and most beautiful lines in the Needles were established. New route development continued into the 80's with these two and their partners, as well as guys like Mike Lechlinski and Tom Gilje. Even today new routes are going up, as well as the updating of aging hardware by Greg Barnes and the ASCA.

Climbs like Igor Unchained, Airy Interlude, Thin Ice, Spook Book, Don Juan, Atlantis, and The Romantic Warrior characterize Needles climbing -- long, steep, and sustained crack lines, but so do outstanding face climbs like White Punks on Dope, Magic Dragon, Love Potion #9, The Howling, and Scirocco. Yaniro also established some of the area's test pieces like Sea of Tranquility, Titantic, and Pyromania.

The current guide book as of 2016 is "The Needles Climbing, A Complete Guide" by Kristian Solem, available online from K. Daniels Publishing. An older guide to the area, "Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: The Needles Area," by Moser, Vernon, and Paul, has been out of print for some time now and is a hard to find item. Some details exist in various climbing magazines, as well as online resources such as this site, Clint Cumming's personal website, the Needles Mini Guide (google it), and on the Summit Post. You can also find beta specific to the Romantic Warrior and Scirocco in "Fifty Favorite Climbs."

Perhaps the lack of published information has kept the crowds at bay, but more likely it is the hour long approach hike from the trailhead and the steep and intimidating nature of the climbing. Either way, the Needles has a mystique and ambiance that is unlike any other area in the country, and that feel is augmented by the names of the features and routes themselves: The Magician, the Sorcerer, the Witch, the Warlock...

The Magician is the first and largest of the Needles, and when it first comes into view after hiking along the ridgeline it inspires awe. Perched at its top is a historic and beautiful USFS fire lookout tower that is usually staffed through the summer months by the aimiable Marge, who is known for baking cookies for climbers every Sunday morning (note that in an tragic, yet ironic, twist the lookout burned down and is no longer staffed). The central "cirque" of the Needles is the area situated between the Witch and the Sorcerer, and many of the most classic climbs are located here. The crowning tower of the ridge, however, is the Warlock. It is here that the big routes -- the Romantic Warrior and the Sea of Tranquility lie. There are many other smaller formations such as the Wizard, Djin, the Necromancer, and the Charlatan. Separate rock formations such as Dome Rock, the Hermit, and Voodoo Dome lie nearby and can provide a change of pace if needed.

The ideal climbing season at the Needles is May through November, but it can be very hot in the summer months. Early season FS-21S05 is closed due to snow. Call the Ranger Station at Kernville (760-376-3781) or Porterville (559-784-1500) for current conditions.

Camping

Campsites (Needles Spring area) exist a few hundred yards before the trailhead which is at the end of FS-21S05, a three mile dirt road. From camp it is a quick 3 mile hike along a beautiful ridge to the Needles themselves. Primitive camping can be had amongst the formations (you must obtain a fire permit from the Ranger Station), but it is more common to simply stash gear and hike back out to the main camp. There are also excellent, scenic (and more private) campsites located along FS-21S05.

Supplies, water, and even cooked meals can be had at the Ponderosa Lodge (559-542-2579), located by the Quaking Aspen Campground, 1/2 mile N of FS-21S05. Please don't dump your garbage in their dumpsters. There are pay sites at Quaking Aspen with pit toilets and water available.

Getting There

Directions to the Needles proper:

From Bakersfield, CA (and points S, SE, E):
Head NE on 178 (Kern River Road) towards Wolford Heights/Kernville/Lake Isabella. Continue N on 155 around the W side of the lake. This eventually turns into M-99 (Kern River Highway); follow this N through Fairview, then W through Johnsondale where it turns into M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Ducor, CA (all points S (possibly including Bakersfield), SW, W, NW, N): Head E on J-22 (Avenue 56/Sierra Avenue) past Fountain Springs and past the intersection with M-109. Continue past California Hot Springs; the road changes to Hot Springs Drive and then to M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Portersville, CA (all points N, NW -- probably slower than the Ducor directions but a great drive): Head E on 190 past Lake Success and then past Camp Nelson. Continue past the Quaking Aspen Campground for 0.5 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

From Ridgecrest, CA (all points E, SE, NE): Head W on 178 towards Wolford Heights/Kernville/Lake Isabella. Before reaching Lake Isabella, turn N on Sierra Way and head NW along the E side of the lake. This eventually merges into M-99 (Kern River Highway); follow this N through Fairview, then W through Johnsondale where it turns into M-50. After a few miles, turn N on CR-107 (Western Divide Highway). From this turn head 15 miles to NF-21S05. Turn E and follow this unpaved road 3 miles to the campsites/trailhead. A quick, scenic 3 mile hike along the ridge takes you into the formations.

Voodoo Dome and Dome Rock are two popular formations that are in close proximity to the Needles proper. Dome Rock has an entirely separate approach, trailhead, and camping, as does Voodoo Dome (while Voodoo Dome can be approached via a descent down past the Warlock, it is more expedient to use a different approach (the lower Needles approach). This approach may also be a good way to reach routes that begin on the lower flank of the Warlock.)

Directions to Dome Rock: Click Here

Directions to Voodoo Dome (the lower Needles approach): Click Here

98 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at The Needles

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 59
Charlatan Summit Spire (a.k.a. O…
Trad
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13
 204
White Punks on Dope
Trad 6 pitches
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
 79
Imaginary Voyage
Trad 4 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 78
Innersanctum
Trad 3 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 164
Spooky
Trad 2 pitches
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 371
Igor Unchained
Trad 3 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
 108
The Howling
Trad, Sport 2 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 285
Airy Interlude
Trad 3 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 259
Thin Ice
Trad 3 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
 145
Fancy Free
Trad 3 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R
 53
Spook Book
Trad 4 pitches
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
 99
The Don Juan Wall
Trad 5 pitches
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13
 102
Atlantis
Trad 4 pitches
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13
 41
Ankles Away
Trad 2 pitches
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 29
Romantic Warrior
Trad 9 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Charlatan Summit Spire (a.k… Charlatan
 59
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad
White Punks on Dope Voodoo Dome
 204
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c PG13 Trad 6 pitches
Imaginary Voyage Warlock
 79
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c Trad 4 pitches
Innersanctum Witch
 78
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 3 pitches
Spooky Charlatan
 164
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 2 pitches
Igor Unchained Witch
 371
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad 3 pitches
The Howling Warlock
 108
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13 Trad, Sport 2 pitches
Airy Interlude Witch
 285
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 3 pitches
Thin Ice Sorcerer
 259
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Fancy Free Charlatan
 145
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Spook Book Witch
 53
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b R Trad 4 pitches
The Don Juan Wall Sorcerer
 99
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Trad 5 pitches
Atlantis Sorcerer
 102
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a PG13 Trad 4 pitches
Ankles Away Witch
 41
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13 Trad 2 pitches
Romantic Warrior Warlock
 29
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Trad 9 pitches
More Classic Climbs in The Needles »

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