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.
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.
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)
This short hike just off Western Divide Highway provides a great view of the valley below.
|Trail of 100 Giants
This paved 0.5 to 1.3-mile loop explores a grove of giant sequoias alongside Western Divide Highway.
|Natural Water Slide
This 1.5-mile hike visits a refreshing natural water slide on the eastern side of the Great Western Divide.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Explore other destinations in the Sierra including Sequoia National Park.
|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.