The Needle Trail is about 8 miles round trip, with close to 4,000' of climbing. The average time of group hikes up there is about 9 hours. The loose dirt trail and it's steepness always poses a challenge to a hiker. And this one spot of class 4 exposed climbing has intimidated plenty of hikers. But exactly because of the difficulty level, some hikers love the challenges, and keep coming back and sweating it out.
On this hike, it's not uncommon that hikers turn around halfway.
From parking lot to Yellow Rock is about 3 miles one way, the easiest part of this trail. Making to the Yellow Rock and back is something that almost all hikers can do, and can finish it somewhere around 4 hours.
Extend it one mile will take a hiker to Juniper Saddle. This one mile adds a lot of steepness and loose ground scrambling. Adding this mile often makes a hiker feel that it's doubling the effort of the first three miles. And it's not unusual to take a good hiker up to an hour to make this mile one way. And that means the round trip to Juniper Saddle takes about 6-7 hours.
From Juniper Saddle to the Needle is about another mile. I know that you have to torture "the last mile is always the most difficult mile" to fit in here to describe it, but it rings so true. Since people build all kinds of torture chamber to wring half truth out of language for unutterable reasons, there's almost a righteous feeling in using that sentence to describe the mile from Juniper Saddle to the Needle, because at least it's whole truth.
The whole trail is pretty beaten. But still, if you are not familiar with it, you could easily lose the track. For hikers wanting to come to this hike and turn around halfway, please pay attention to the general layout of the trail and the whole landscape of the hike.
Meet us at Milagro Coffee at 7:30 am for carpooling, or La Cueva picnic area parking lot at Dripping Springs State Park at 8:00am.
There's a $5 parking fee per car, unless you have a pass of sort (besides Dripping Springs annual pass, National Parks pass and Federal Land pass are recognized).