If these ancient trees could talk, what questions would you ask them? This past weekend I visited the Ancient Bristolcone Forest located in the White Mountains of Inyo Valley. The home to the oldest living organism! These ancient trees withstand thousands of years in the harshest of elements at approximately 11,000 feet elevation.
To reach the Bristlecones, follow Highway 395 N to 168 E, White Mountain Road (expect about a 30 minute drive). The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is generally open from mid-May through the end of November, weather permitting. I attempted my first visit July 1st, but was forced to turn around and descend the mountain when a thunderous hail storm ensued! Check the weather before making the long journey up the mountain. Upon reaching the forest, there is a very nice visitors center with knowledgable rangers that will answer any of your questions. I suggest spending 2-3 hours hiking the 4.5 mile loop tail. Bring lots of water, snacks, and good hiking shoes. Much of the trail is pretty exposed with little shade. Although it’s a fairly easy hike, the trail is rocky and at 11,000 feet you might get a little short of breath if you’re not used to hiking at high elevation!
At the start of the trail you can pick up a small booklet with interesting facts about the trees and the environment they live in. There are 26 markers along the trail that correlate to facts in the booklet. Although these trees look gnarled and dead in appearance, it is only because they have sustained many years of harsh elements including fire and drought. I find it pretty amazing that these trees can withstand so much and survive off so little. The Schulman Grove is home to “Methuselah,” a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine that is 4,847 years old! That’s 2,000 years older than the Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierras. Although Methuselah lies somewhere along the trail, don’t expect to find it! Methuselah remains unmarked on the trail to ensure its protection from vandals.