The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the world's oldest living tree's. Some of these gnarled and twisted tree's are over 4,700 years old making them the OLDEST LIVING THINGS on the planet! To put that in perspective, these tree's started their life out back when stone axes were still being used in Europe.
Visiting The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is situated in the White Mountains of the Eastern Sierra's. The tree's only grow at an altitude between 9,800 and 11,00 feet. There is a visitor's center at Schulman Grove which is open generally from May through to October depending on snow conditions.
The White Mountains themselves are pretty spectacular as they are over 14,000 feet in elevation but are not as well-known as other mountain ranges of the same height in the United States. If you can plan your visit in the warmer months and not in late November like us, you will have a much more pleasant experience. It can get freezing up there because of the elevation.
Hiking at the Bristlecone Pine Forest
Two trails, the Methusela and Discovery, start from the Visitor Center at Schulman Grove taking you past tree's of many ages and sizes and to views overlooking the Owens Valley. Beyond Schulman Grove is Patriarch Grove which is home of the world's largest Bristlecone Pine, the Patriarch Tree.
Distance: 1.0 miles (loop)
Elevation: 10,350 ft
A short interpretive hike that loops around 3000-4000 year old tree's. It can be easily combined with the Methusela Trail.
Distance: 4.2 miles (loop)
Elevation: 10,198 ft
This trail takes you to Methusela Grove and to an overlook of Death Valley National Park. The world's oldest living tree is the Methusela and is located on this trail however it's identity is kept a secret for protection purposes. There are numbered posts along the way that are explained in an interpretive map available for a fee at the trail head.
Getting to Bristlecone Pine Forest
To visit the Bristlecone Pine Forest from Los Angeles, get on U.S. Highway 395 and head north until you reach Highway 168 at Big Pine. From there it is about 26 miles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest National Scenic Byway and then another 45 minute drive up a long, steep and windy road. There are spectacular views of the valley below and of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range (see photo's below). Be warned, those afraid of heights may be a little freaked out by this drive.