Needham Mountain is located just east of the Great Western Divide in Sequoia National Park. It is a class two peak with perhaps a few easy class three moves at the summit block. From the top it offers remarkable views of Sawtooth peak to the west, Amphitheater lake to the southwest, the Kaweah's to the north, the Whitney area far to the northeast, the impressive soda creek drainage to the south and Rainbow and Vandever mountains to the southwest. Compared to its far more popular neighbor, Sawtooth Peak, Needham mountain is rarely climbed, perhaps being summited by no more that ten parties a year. Most parties either undertake a class 2-3 traverse from Sawtooth peak or class 2-3 day hike from either Crystal or Upper Monarch Lake.
Needham Mountain is approached mainly from Mineral King in the southern portion of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. To get there take State Route 198 from Visalia towards Sequoia National Park. About 2 miles short of the park entrance turn right up the Mineral King Road. The road is 25 miles of windy and narrow mountain goodness and, depending on how fast you drive, can take from 1 to 2 hours. Once at Mineral King, 7800', find the Sawtooth Pass trail and hit the hillside, after obtaining a permit of course.
The trail forks a couple of times so following the signs to Sawtooth Pass . After about 3 miles the trail forks with one trail going to Crystal Lake and the other to Sawtooth Pass and Monarch Lakes. Climbing Needham is best if approached from Crystal Lake so taking the right fork would probably be best. Once at Crystal Lake head over the pass between Crystal and Amphitheatre lakes, down to and around the lake, and up the sandy slopes of Needham to obtain the summit.
There is an entrance fee to Sequoia National Park of $20 per private vehicle for 7 days or $5 per person walking in or on bus for 7 days. Back country camping requires a $15 wilderness permit. To get a permit just go to the Mineral King Ranger Station.
The Mineral King Ranger Station is located 24 miles east of Hwy. 198. It is open Daily 7am - 3:30pm June through early September. After that, wilderness permits are available on the porch of the station. Call Sequoia National Park at 559-565-3341 and ask for Mineral King Ranger Station for more information or to reserve a permit.
When To Climb
Mid-June to mid-October would be your best bet on when to climb Needham. Although it is techincally in the "high country" it can get quite hot in the summer months, especially in the valley. It is possible to climb this peak in wither although it requires long distance cross-country skiing approach as snow is not plowed on the last 7 miles of the Mineral King Road.
Back country camping requires a $15 wilderness permit. You can camp at a number of Lakes with the most convinient being Crystal Lake as well as upper and lower Monarch Lake. Bear cannisters are required to protect your food from black bears. It should also be noted that no campfires are permitted in the Mineral King area.
Temperatues in the summer time are generally warm with relatively mid nights. However like any mountain range weather in the sierras can be unpredicatable with snow and freezing temperatues capable of occuring any summer month. You can call Mineral Kings Ranger station for weather conditions and advice for your personal comfort at 559-565-3341 and ask for Mineral King Ranger Station.