Located along the Sierra Crest in the Owens Peak Wilderness, a couple of miles north of the wilderness' namesake peak, Spanish Needle is one of the more interesting scrambles to be found in the Southern Sierra. The peak is quite prominent when viewed from Highway 395, as well as from a number of the peaks around the Chimney Peak Recreation area. It is easily recognised by its distinctive twin summits, which are separated by a broad saddle. The rounded, northern summit is the highpoint. (There is still a third, lower summit even further to the north, as shown in this picture
, but this is less prominent from most vantage points. Like the true summit, this lower, northernmost summit is class 3).
Although located only a short distance from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the peak is climbed infrequently, receiving only a couple of visits a year. Part of the reason may lie in the intimidating appearance of the climbing. By its easiest route, the north ridge
, the peak is an exposed third class scramble. Besides being a fine climb, the peak has excellent views of the surrounding Chimney Peak area, nearby Owens Peak and Olancha Peak
, as well as expansive views over Owens Valley towards Telescope Peak
in the distance.
Spanish Needle is unnamed on USGS maps, and is identified only as Peak 7841 on the 7.5'. However, a creek flowing to the west from the vicinity of the peak is named on the maps as Spanish Needle Creek. Given the peak's rounded summit hump, the origin of the informal name is a bit of a mystery.
Spanish Needle is typically climbed from the PCT, from the saddle 0.6 mi north of the summit. This saddle can be reached most easily out of Lamont Meadow. Two main options exist. From the south end of the meadow, an old 4WD road and use trail meets the PCT a short way to the west of the saddle; this is the most direct route (a little over 10 miles round trip, and roughly 2,500 feet elevation gain). Alternatively, a slightly longer route from the north end of the meadow follows the PCT around past Lamont Point to the saddle (roughly 14-15 miles round trip). Lamont Meadow is located along Canebrake Road
in the Chimney Peak Recreation Area. Canebrake Road is reached off Highway 178, a couple of miles east of Canebrake and a few miles west of Walker Pass. The road is graded dirt, and should be passable to all passenger cars. Because of the low elevation and generally arid climate, the road is open year-round.
An alternative approach to the peak is found on the east side, via Rodecker Flat
. From Highway 395, roughly seven miles north of Indian Wells, follow unsigned Sand Canyon Road to the road's end. (The turnoff for Sand Canyon is located immediately opposite Brown Road). Hike along the old road up to Rodecker Flat, and from there along a use trail to the base of the peak. Round trip stats for this approach are roughly 10 miles round trip, and 4,500 feet elevation gain.
Very little. The usual wilderness common sense
applies. This is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, so permits are not required.
When To Climb
Because of its low elevation and the generally hot, arid climate of the area, Spanish Needle is best avoided during the summer months. The peak has been climbed during the winter, but snow and ice can make the crux moves on the summit block tricky at best, dangerous at worst, so ascents are typically made during fall (October/November) or spring (April/May).
Camping is found around Lamont Meadow at the Chimney Creek campground, as well as along Highway 178 at Walker Pass campground. Approaches from the east may utilise campsites at Rodecker Flat (no water).
Given its proximity to the trailhead, Spanish Needle is easily dayhiked, so a better option may be to "camp" instead at nearby Ridgecrest. The town features cheap lodging, abundant fast food, and even a Starbucks.
The NWS Forecast
is the most reliable source of weather information for the Sierra.