By Paul Armes
Needles Lookout Trail
4.5 miles roundtrip
1,220 foot elevation gain
Best time to hike — May through October
From the trailhead at the Ponderosa Lodge, head north a mile or so until you see FS Road 21S05 (marked Needles Lookout) and turn right.
It’s a dusty dirt road for a mile until you reach the campground and nearby trailhead. While it’s probably not best for a small car, it can make it. There’s a Forest Service bathroom here and signs marking the trail.
The initial trail is heavily used and an easy walk. You gain little elevation until you reach the actual Needles.
You can see Mt. Whitney on the way as well as tons of other points of interest. Be sure to take your time and look around.
A little after 2 miles in, you’ll start to see your destination and the switchbacks you’ll have to conquer to reach the top (easy peezy). You’ll drop into a little bowl before you start to head up the backside switchbacks.
Soon you’ll reach the top and the metal staircase that leads to where the lookout tower used to be. You can Google to find info of when that burned down. If you’re scared of heights, I’d avoid this part.
Again, no throwing stuff as there might be climbers down below.
Once you’re done, hike back to your car and you’re minutes from a McNally burger.
Also, I’ve forgotten before, but anytime you hike please leave no trace. It’s not hard to pack it in and out. Leave it the way you found it or cleaner.