Needles Lookout Trail Giant Sequoia National Monument Hike California

For an overview of Giant Sequoia National Monument, hike the 5-mile round trip trail to Needles Lookout, where a watchtower built atop a formation of rocky spires provides an amazing view. A ranger is stationed in the lookout during the dry months to keep watch over the forest. You could spot a far-off fire from here, and the panoramic view from 8,254 feet is well worth the hike.

Needles Lookout
An early view

The trail to the Needles leads through a relaxing conifer forest. Breaks in the trees provide appetizer views of the surrounding Sierra, warming you up for the feast-for-the-eyes that the lookout provides.

The wide trail climbs over a hill before descending to the base of the Needles. After two miles, with the lookout in sight, the trail climbs several moderate switches up to a series of daunting staircases. The steps themselves can be a bit dizzying. Suppress that fear of heights and walk the catwalk up the Needles.

The location for the lookout was not chosen at random. It was selected for its excellent perspective over the entire region. The park’s strategic decision is a benefit to hikers, because the view from this prominent pinnacle are the best around.

Needles Lookout
Needles Lookout

Venture out to the building perched atop the Needles and scan the horizon. You can also look inside at a fire-spotter’s living quarters. A ranger lives in this house of glass throughout the summer, on the lookout for the inception of forest fires.

This is a great day hike in Giant Sequoia National Monument. For another view of the valley (and a side view of the Needles), take the short hike up Dome Rock. No fee or permit is required to visit Needles Lookout, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: From Quaking Aspen Campground, drive south for one mile on Western Divide Highway, and turn east on Forest Route 21S05. Drive 2.5 miles over this dirt road to the parking area at the trailhead.

Trailhead address: Forest Route 21S05, Sequoia National Forest, Springville, CA 93265
Trailhead coordinates: 36.1198, -118.5084 (36° 07′ 11.3″N 118° 30′ 30.2″W)

Elevation Profile
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Trail Map

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These photos were taken in August of 2008. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Sierra Western Divide View Dome Rock
This short hike just off Western Divide Highway provides a great view of the valley below.
hiking trails sequoia Trail of 100 Giants
This paved 0.5 to 1.3-mile loop explores a grove of giant sequoias alongside Western Divide Highway.
Sierra hikes Natural Water Slide
This 1.5-mile hike visits a refreshing natural water slide on the eastern side of the Great Western Divide.
hiking trails sequoia More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Explore other destinations in the Sierra including Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia Campgrounds Western Divide Ranger District Campgrounds
There are ten campgrounds in Giant Sequoia National Monument within the Western Divide Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest, including the 32-site Quaking Aspen Campground.

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20 Comments on Needles Lookout in Giant Sequoia National Monument

  1. Donna wrote:

    Is the new needles lookout open yet?

  2. Jake wrote:

    Bump. Is the new needles lookout open?

  3. john Bradbury wrote:

    Can you hike to the top? I was there on the day of the fire. The last time I did the hike was around 1958.

  4. Don Smith wrote:

    No – The new needles lookout is not open. I was just there in August 2013 and there is nothing left whatsoever except for the staircase and a concrete slab.

  5. David Magana wrote:

    Aug. 13, 2014
    Has the Needles Lookout been rebuilt and open for visits

  6. Cindy Dabney wrote:

    Hiked it this morning. Staircase is all that remains since the fire but the views from the top are still the same! #awesomehike

  7. thomas wrote:

    is the fire watch tower rebuilt yet and what is the future of the site to hold? can a 5 year old hike the trail up to it?

  8. Aaron Farr wrote:

    I visited Needles Lookout in late July 2015. The tower is not rebuilt, only the foundation remains. I did take two kids with me on the trip – a 10 year old and a 5 year old. While the stairway is safe, the lookout site itself doesn’t have full railings anymore. I recommend only taking them up the stairway but not out onto the foundation. And it’s not recommended unless the children are comfortable with heights.

  9. kevin green wrote:

    Does anyone know if there are plains to rebuild the lookout?

  10. Chris Sanchez wrote:

    Hey any cool places close to the needles like a river, another trail? Just wanna look around.

  11. Erin wrote:

    Still no new tower. Was just up there today and the stairs just end before reaching the granite slab where the tower was. Still amazing though! Someone unhinged the gate on the staircase.

  12. jon d rarrick wrote:

    is the trail to the lookout open now? snow?

  13. Andy Plein wrote:

    Anyone been there recently? Please advise.

    • Ericka wrote:

      No I want to go too but I’m interested in peppermint falls but the hike is too short I might go tomorrow let you know !

    • Patty Valdez wrote:

      Yes!!! It’s beautiful!!

  14. DeeDee Kooman wrote:

    Is Needles Lookout trail currently closed…was going to plan a father’s day hike?

  15. Tina wrote:

    Anybody know the stairs open now may 2022,let me know please