Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

“Methuselah,” which is more than 4,800 years old, is one of the oldest living trees on earth, and stands with its brethren in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest on the other side of California in Inyo County. "Methuselah" was 4,789 years old when sampled in 1957 by Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan, with an estimated germination date of 2832 BC. Methuselah is the oldest known living tree and non-clonal organism in the world—4,842 years old as of 2011.

Several walking trails depart from the Schulman Grove Visitor Center that allow the public to explore these ancient, living marvels. The Methuselah Loop trail is 4.5 miles long and climbs over 200 vertical feet and winds up and around a hillside of the ancient trees. Another longer trail takes you through another grove. Past the Shulman Grove, the road is dirt and leads to the Patriarch Grove.

This ancient grove of trees sits at 2,900–3,000 m (9,500–9,800 ft) above sea level in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains within the Inyo National Forest.

Directions:

Take U.S. 395 to Big Pine, and turn onto State Route 168 (Westgard Pass). After 13 miles of paved road, take Forest Road 01, which is paved and marked as the route to the Bristlecones, and leads to the Shulman Grove of trees. The road to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is closed during the winter, but is typically open from May through November.

Read more

Location

Collapse
Nearby
Latitude: 37.3841053 Longitude: -118.1773996 Elevation: 10100 ft

Recreational Opportunities

Camping, hiking, photography, and hands on science.

Seasons Accessible

Summer, early spring and early fall.

Fees

$5.00 / vehicle

ADA Accessibility Notes

Small sections of the trails are accessible.

Comments

This amazing place gives one a vastly different sense of time. It is very hard to make the transition from the shortness of human life to the longevity of these trees. But, once the transition is made the venture is wonderful! How fantastic that this forest is under strict protection!

Kirk and Karrie Lindsay, 9/26/2010

I visited the ancients this past Sept while camping down the mountain away from any possible bear interaction after having two bears visit my campsite the week before while at June Lake, Calif. Be forewarned the bristlecone pines are at 10,000 ft, and you have to drive along the edge of some pretty hairy roads to get there, so your car needs to be in excellent condition since you drive approx 8 miles at 15mph for the last leg of the trip. It is worth the harrowing drive to walk among trees that started growing while the pyramids were being built and were teenagers when Christ walked the earth. It is truly a sense of how little time our lives consume in the big picture of God’s wristwatch. I'm a disabled vet and was only able to see the small loop of trees and I was able to make good use of the bench's they have along the walk to rest while walking above 10,000' which in itself takes time to get used to. I was enlightened about these trees by the now late Huell Howser (RIP) but he never mentioned the drive it takes to get there. I actually didn't make it the first time and had to come back a week later once I figured out why my car was overheating above 10k level and the second time I unloaded all my camping equipment at the campsite so the lighter car also helped out. Bottom line, this is a must see adventure.

John L, 1/12/2013

In 2013 scientists identified a Bristlecone Pine in the Forest found to be older than the Methuselah Pine by about 100 years. Yet unnamed, the newest oldest tree is unnamed (as of August, 2013), and its location will likely not be revealed to the general public.

Dave Wiltsee, 8/8/2013

Truly worth the visit to step back in time. We spent 7 months hosting at June lake and with 2 days off a week we ventured all over the High Sierra. This was a great day trip and the views are superb . I recommend spending a good week around Bishop, Mammoth etc.

Merv lloyd, 2/25/2015

We made the trip to see the Bristlecone Pines a few days ago and it was well worth it. Contrary to what was posted on here previously, it is not that difficult a drive at all - drive responsibly and it won't be a problem. Air is very thin at 10,000 feet so walk slowly along the trails and take everything in at a leisurely pace.

Nan B., 8/28/2015

I have been to the Ancient Bristlecone area several times, and plan to visit again. I first saw the more remote Patriarch Grove over 40 years ago and recently drove my truck up the rough road for the second time. Comparing my old 35 mm slides from 1975 with my digital images from last summer was very interesting. Many trees were nearly identical in appearance but the barren areas with a few tiny seedlings from 1975 had become denser with vigorous saplings, with many more seedlings starting to establish themselves. It took me that long in human time to notice a very small change in their environment. On another trip, a 1982 hike on the Methuselah Trail, my wife and I met the late tree ring researcher Dr. Charles Ferguson, huffing and puffing as he hand cranked into a tree with his Swedish increment borer; the extremely hard wood making for hard labor in the thin air. Not another soul on the trail that cold April day. I have backpacked the Sierra, been to Yosemite many times, but am drawn to these trees and their extreme environment more than anything. Their fortunate remoteness from human activity has certainly been a factor in their current survival, in addition to their superb adaptation to elevation, aridity and hostile dolomitic soil. Their island in the sky keeps them pretty safe from direct human harm, but not from climate change. I wonder how they will survive and adapt, as they have over the past millennia.

Steve Mullany, Nipomo CA, 4/12/2016

Leave a Comment

Submit