Mountain Bike Rides in the Kern River Valley and Southern Sierra The Needles

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The Ultimate climbing location of the Southern Sierras.

The Needles in California as seen from Airplane on the Great Western Divide in the Sequoia National Monument
The Needles, standing in front of the great peaks of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide.

The cover of "Fifty Favorite Climbs: Ultimate North American Tick List" features Romantic Warrior in The Needles.

  • Trad, Sport, Multipitch
  • 5.7 to 5.13 +
  • Rising to 8,245 ft.

The Needles

Alex Honnold free soloing at The Needles in the Kern River Sierra
Alex Honnold on top of The Charlatan in 2015, photo by Renan Ozturk (Meru). National Geographic Photo of the Week.

The Needles are so much more than just another beautiful climbing spot. Elite climbers from across the globe come to experience the outstanding Yosemite-quality rock without the crowds.

Premier adventure author Jon Kraukauer says this about the place: "the Needles have the finest concentration of rock climbs in the U.S. There is nothing like Needles granite--the fineness of the grain, the ring of the immense flakes, the surreal color of the lichen."

Many of the sport's greatest have climbed and continue to climb here.

Alex Honnold (of the Valley Uprising documentary fame) trained at The Needles one week before making the 1st ever free solo of North Face Half Dome. In Fall 2014, he free soloed Romantic Warrior, 5.12b 1000 ft, and considers it among his greatest achievements (New York Times).

Dan Osmand at The Needles
One of the most striking and iconic ads in the world of rock climbing: Dan Osmand's free solo human flag on the crux 3rd pitch of Atlantis, 5.11c, at The Needles.

When Climb Magazine asked him what's the best route he's climbed in North America, Alex answers with "Romantic Warrior at the Needles is probably near the top of the list." Recently, he told Tim Ferris, "it's one of the most striking granite walls in the world, it's this totally beautiful route on this crazy spire, it's an amazing amazing route..."

Other legends escape to climb here: Peter Croft (see recent photo on Wicked Witch of the West) on Conrad Anker's (climbing superhero and star of Meru) instagram.

The Needles have help shaped many of the great climbers, like Tony Yaniro (who put up several routes and has recently been seen climbing them), Dean Potter (spent weeks at a time at The Needles: photo of Dean Potter on Thin Ice), Dan Osmand, Michael Reardon, John Bachar, Ron Kauk, and so many others.

While hard routes like Romantic Warrior get captured by National Geographic photographers, The Needles have some of the very best moderate routes as well.

Sierra Mountain Center, who guides The Needles, says "the climbing is some of the finest in the state with the classic White Punks on Dope reputed to be the best moderate climb in the state."

The Needles Rock Climbing Location in California, the Kern River Sierra
The magical Needles as seen from Lloyd Meadows Road near Johnsondale.

The Beta


Michael Reardon on one of his favorite solos, Airy Interlude 5.10b. (from Rock & Ice Magazine)

A highly anticipated, brand new guidebook by Kris Solem on The Needles, Dome Rock, and Hermit Spire is now available !

Most of the routes are described in the older guidebook: Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: The Needles.

The guidebook, California Road Trip: A Climber's Guide to Northern California, also has information on the Needles.

More information online:

Needles Mini Guide and Needles Information Page

Great photos/article from Climbing Magazine here and here.

And this article; Get Sandbagged! 7 Notoriously Tougher-than-Advertised Routes.

 

Pucker Factor

There seems to be a consensus that The Needles for experienced climbers only; most the climbs are very intimidating and challenging for the majority of climbers. Even Sierra Mountain Center has called it "spooky." Maybe it's something to do with all those sorcerers, witches, and warlocks...


California Climber Magazine's "Route of the Season" is Thin Ice. PDF of mag.
  • This area is remote.
  • Pack in everything you'll need, including water.
  • There is no cell service in the area.
  • Closest "town" is Ponderosa with some services and food.

The Needles
A climbing paradise.

 


Other Things to Do in the Area:

This is the land of adventure! Be sure to grab a map and enjoy world class mountain biking and hiking in the nearby Giant Sequoias. There are a ton of trail options.

Get wet! The Wilderness section of river below The Needles is called "Forks of the Kern" by the Kernville rafting companies, and is called "one of the finest stretches of expert whitewater on earth" by Western Whitewater.

Plenty of other climbing nearby as well: Hermit Rock, Dome Rock, McIntyre Rock....

 

Getting There:

UPPER ACCESS

Photo of The Needles in National GeographicAnother National Geographic Photo of the Week: Highlining The Needles by Jeremiah Watt.

The Needles are located near the southern end of the Great Western Divide far above the Wild and Scenic Kern River.

The primary access is off the Western Divide Highway, Hwy 107. Turn east on Needles Road, 21S05. The 3 mile dirt road ends at the trailhead. Hike 2+ miles to the Needles.

If coming from Porterville or Camp Nelson, the turnoff is about .5 miles past the Quaking Aspen Campground.

From Kernville, take M99 to Johnsondale, where the road becomes M50. Drive about 6 miles up to M107 and drive about 15 miles to Needles Road, 21S05. The turnoff is about 1hr 15min north of Kernville.

The Needles
The Needles from Schaefer Mountain.

LOWER ACCESS

VooDoo Dome is usually accessedfrom Lloyd Meadows Road, 22S82, near Johnsondale.

 

 

 

 

Needles Slot
In the notch, deciding the next route.
Don't Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

Trails and climbing locations are depicted on the local adventure map:

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