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The Needles Peak Fire Lookout

Located in the United States Forest Service's,

Sequoia National Forest, Tule River Ranger District

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The Needles Peak's GPS location is 36.0634°N / 118.2905 °W, Placed on the National Historic Lookout Register on 6/10/2001 as Lookout No. 382

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Are you interested in becoming a Volunteer or Volunteer Fire Lookout, then visit the  Buck Rock Foundation's Web-Site  for further information.

      The Needles Lookout is located on high granite pinnacle "The Needle". The lookout sits at elevation 8,245 feet and is in very good condition with only slight modifications. A favorite for Rock Climbers and is located in Township 21 S, Range 32 E, Section 13 of the Sequoia National Forest, Tule River District.

      Built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), this lookout is a 14x14 foot wooden C-3 style cab. The windows, siding, roof and tower remain as original. The cab has over-head shutter supports which became standard on C-3 and L-4 cabs in 1936. This type of construction lends to its historical importance. Access to the cab is along stairways and walkways that are suspended from the granite or across granite outcrops. According to Mark Swift, archaeologist who nominated The Needles to the National Historic Lookout Register, The Needles is "one of the most fantastic lookout locations in California rivaled by Buck Rock on the North end of the Forest".

      development of Region 5 lookout styles as a final form of the standard 14x14 wooden live-in cabs. Following the mid-1950's a variety of steel wall cabs became the primary lookouts built in California. On Mark Thornton's 1988 "Fire Lookout Evaluation" it is rated a 26 out of a possible 30 points. The Needles is staffed 5 days a week during fire season (closed on Monday and Tuesday) and is generally open to the public.

      Late News: A fire has destroyed the lookout building on July 28, 2011, and staffing has been terminated.

Click on Photo to View Enlarged!

Needles Update December 2012

       The Forest Service hired a HAZ-MAT team to remove hazardous materials remaining at the Needles site from the 2011 fire. The clean-up was completed in October 2012. Forest Service zone archaeologist and Needles Rebuild project lead Linn Gassaway submitted a proposal to the Kern and Tulare Counties Resource Advisory Committee for funding to jump-start the Needles rebuilding project. The project was awarded a portion of the requested funding, which will be used as seed money and to leverage donations and matching funds from outside sources. Some of the information is courtsey of Buck Rock Foundation.

The following is an information sheet used to give information out to the general public by the U.S.F.S..





      The Needles Fire Lookout is located off of Western Divide Highway, on the Tule River Ranger District within the Giant Sequoia National Monuinent on the Sequoia National Forest. This site is a unique monolith granite rock formation with several spires and faces, each being quite different than the other in size and shape. is accessible from May to October, depending on weather.

      Highlighting the features of The Needles, the word is SPECTACULAR! To reach The Needles, you off of Western Divide Highway just a mile from Quaking Aspen Campground on Forest Service Road 21S05 going east. After traveling 3.5 mile on a fairly good dirt road, you will reach the trailhead. Parking area is ample. The hike out to The Needles Lookout Tower is moderate, approximately 2.5 miles long, which includes a steep long staircase leading into the tower itself. Be sure to carry water with you as no water is available along the way, or at the Lookout.

      Upon reaching the tower, a gate with a sign may be posted that will inform you if the lookout is open for public visitation. A Forest Service employee resides at The Needles Lookout Tower is utilized as an office as well as the home for the summer months while the lookout is on duty. This person is responsible for detecting fires and relaying radio messages to a dispatcher, who then sends firefighters and support equipment to extinguish the reported fire. The employee is usually on-duty from a.m. to 6 p.m., Wed. thru Sun., but may have the lookout closed due to fires or repair work. If the gate is open, you are welcome to climb the 189 stairs to the Lookout Tower at the top, and enjoy a spectacular view of the Kern River Drainage, Mt. Whitney, Olancha Peak, Farewell Gap, and Dome Rock. The tip of The Needles is 8,245 feet in elevation, with a sheer drop off on three sides varying from 60 to over 400 feet.

      No more than 4 people at a time are recommended on the lookout, as there is very little room once you reach the top. Please sign the daily log so we know you have been there. The Lookout has just a couple of simple rules for safety; please do not sit on or lean against any part of the building, particularly the windows, and do not touch the windows or smudge them. The lookout needs a clean, unobstructed view at all times. The windows are very fragile and break easily.

      The rock formation that the lookout is perched upon is used for rock climbing and has become popular over the past 20 years. Several books and publications have been written on The Needles. Most rock climbers access the Needles from the top, off of Western Divide Highway. Rock climbers have given names to the various rock formations, such as Sorcerer, Wizard, and Witch. The Needles Fire Lookout is perched atop what is known as "The Magician". Rock formations known as Voodoo and Demon Dome are accessed for climbing from the east at the base of the rock formation, just off of Lloyd Meadow Road.

      The actual construction of the lookout began in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and all materials and equipment used were packed in over 5 miles from Quaking Aspen by Mule Train. The Needles Fire Lookout is certainly one of the "top" highlights of Sequoia National Forest.

FFLA (Forest Fire Lookout Association) Reports for the year:


      Historic Needles Lookout, Western Divide Ranger District, Sequoia National Forest succumbed to a structure fire July 28, 2010. The 1938 CCC-constructed tower and cab were completely destroyed. The forest would like to see the lookout rebuilt and is pursuing external partnerships to help with funding, planning and volunteer organizing.


      The Sequoia National Forest also recently announced receiving approximately $13,000 to begin the process of rebuilding well-known Needles Lookout and will soon begin the planning process. The hazardous material remaining from the devastating fire of 2011 was removed and the majority of NEPA was completed during 2012.

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This page last updated on March 1, 2013.

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