- Home - Hiking Trails - Hikes Around Mt Whitney Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Hike
This Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest hike takes you through awe-inspiring groves of the oldest trees in the world, Bristlecone Pines. The hike is relatively easy, on a well marked trail, and includes a very cool visitor center and info. It's not close to much else, but if you're in the area, this hike through the Bristlecone Pine forest is your move.
4.4 miles (7.1 km)
5000 Year Old Living Trees
Only Open in Summer
Fee, Free with NPS Pass
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Hike Trail Maps
Google Maps trailhead:
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center, Bishop, CA, 93514, USA Hike Location To say the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is close to anything is tough. If you're doing the hike to White Mountain, it's on the way. Otherwise, the closest town is Bishop, an hour away. It's 90 minutes from the Mt Whitney staging town of Lone Pine. If you're coming from farther, it's 4.5 hours from LA, 4 hours from Las Vegas, and 8 hours from San Francisco. 3D Hike Map The hike does a loop after a short stretch from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center. You'll get great views into Death Valley on the first part of the hike, which follows the top part of the mountain. Hike Elevation Profile The climbing isn't too tough on this hike. There's a little steep climb to start, then you hikedown into a valley, and then have to hike back up to the start. Interactive Hike Map Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Hike Map Downloads View a Printable PDF Hike Map Download the Hike GPX File Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Hike Directions What to Expect The Great Basin bristlecone pine tree is very unique – it’s only found in California, Nevada, and Utah between 9,800 and 11,000 feet in xeric (aka alpine desert) conditions. The trees have a unique, gnarled look. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings. This is what the oldest trees in the world look like. You’ll be walking amongst them on this hike. Many of the trees that you will see on this hike are thousands of years old, with the oldest being 5,066 years old. That makes it the oldest living tree on earth. When that tree started growing, Stonehenge was just starting to be built. When Homer wrote the Odyssey, that tree was already 2000 years old. Crazy stuff to wrap your mind around. The oldest trees are unmarked to protect them. And some of the dead pine trees and wood that you see are up to 10,000 years old. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is in the middle of nowhere. In the winter the road is closed, so call the ranger station if you’re visiting on the shoulder seasons. If the hike is open, make sure your gas tank is full and you have snacks and food. The nearest services are far away. If you want to camp nearby, try the Grandview campground or the primitive camping at the White Mountain Peak trailhead. There’s some basic camping and fire pits to the right of the White Mountain Peak trailhead. Since you drove all the way to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, I recommend continuing your journey on the spectacular Bristlecone Pine Forest Scenic Byway. It’s 12 miles on an unpaved road from Schuman’s Grove Visitor Center to the Patriarch Grove, where there’s a self-guided nature trail and bathrooms. It’s a rough road but doable in cars. I had a nice layer of dust on the car after driving the Bristlecone Pine Forest Scenic Byway. That means it was tons of fun. If you leave very, very early (and maybe take a nap in between), you can do this hike and hike White Mountain Peak in the same day. At 14,252 feet, White Mountain Peak is only about 250 feet lower than Mt Whitney. It’s a long day, especially if you’re not used to the altitude, so tread carefully and respect the symptoms of altitude sickness. Read the altitude sickness section of my Mt Whitney hike guide if you’re not familiar with the symptoms. Turn by Turn Directions The hike starts at the Schulman’s Grove Visitor Center. It was recently rebuilt after some jerk burnt the old one down. There’s plenty of parking in the lots. There’s a small fee that you pay in the Visitor’s Center, or just use your National Parks pass. These were the opening hours when I did this hike guide. The center is named after Edmund Schulman, who was born in Brooklyn and made his way to this remote part of the world to discover the oldest living tree on earth. I recommend taking some time to read the interpretive signs around the visitor’s center. They’ll give you just enough information to know what you’re looking at as you do the hike. The hike starts on the edge of the parking lot. You’re hike is the Methuselah Walk, named after the Methuselah Tree, thought to be the world’s oldest tree at 4848 years old, until an older tree was discovered in 2013. That tree is 5066 years old. You’ll walk through the Methuselah Grove where all these trees live. Bring $1 for the excellent guided hike brochure. It’ll help you understand what you see along the way. The trail is easy to follow from the trailhead. After a few minutes a sign tells you that you’re in the right place. Overall, the hike is very well marked. Hike along the easy to follow trail. There are twenty or so posts along the hike that correspond to entries in the hike brochure. They point out everything from young Bristlecone Pines, growing conditions, and some old trees. Again, worth the cost. At the sign, hike to the right. The left trail is where you’ll emerge at the end of the hike. Now you start going up. The trail heads back and up the side of the hill. The views will make it worth it. The trail winds around and climbs up the side of the slope. Made it! At the top of the climb there’s a bench to catch your breath. For the next half mile or so, you’ll have incredible views into the north-west part Death Valley National Park. The mountains you see are the Last Chance Range. The climbing is over for a while, so enjoy hiking down a nice long downhill section of trail. At about 1 mile in, stay to the left and continue on the Methuselah Walk. To the right is the Bristlecone Cabin Trail, which leads back to the Visitor’s Center. If you need to bail out, you can do it here. Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction. The trail is well defined as it makes it’s way through young Bristlecone Pines.After a downhill stretch, you climb again. Another bench! One of the things I loved about this hike were the well placed benches. There weren’t many other people out, so it was nice to sit in solitude and take in the views. The trail continues to the right of the bench, but a few feet to the left is a little overlock that’s worth checking out. Here’s the view from the overlook to the left of the bench.. After soaking in the views, you continue hiking downhill past the bench. The numbered posts are a good way to track your progress on the hike. The brochure has a map with all the posts listed in it to give you some reference. When you get to the low bench, make the hard left and avoid the small trail to the right. You’ll notice that the fauna is different on this section of the hike. It’s interesting to note the different types of fauna that you see when the direction of the hillside changes. Some get rain and sun, some don’t. There are also handy mile markers along the way. As you make your way towards the Methuselah Grove you’ll start seeing more mature Bristlecone Pines, both alive and dead. At marker 12, keep hiking to the right, avoiding the trail to the left. At around marker 15, you’ll start entering the Methuselah Grove. You’ll notice a lot more old Bristlecone Pines as you descend into the grove. Take your time to soak in all the trees here at Methuselah Grove as the trail winds its way through. Is this the 5000 year old tree? No idea. But it’s least a few thousand years old. It’s fun to look around Methuselah Grove and speculate on which tree is the oldest one. There’s a lot of dead Bristlecone Pines too. Remember that the older, larger dead trees can be up to 10,000 years old. After Methuselah Grove, the trail starts to climb back towards the Visitor’s Center. As you hike back up the hill, another bench is a welcomed sight. The 3.5 mile marker lets you know that you’re almost done the climb. Remember, the hike is at 10,000 feet, so take your time. At 4 miles you’ll reach the spit in the trail where you started. Head right/straight back to the Visitor’s Center. A sign will point you in the right direction at the junction. And you’re done! If you want to explore the area some more, there are a few other short hikes from Schulman Grove Visitor’s Center. Happy trails! Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Hike Video Please subscribe to my YouTube channel here! Support This Site
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Read More A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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