After hiking in the Alabama Hills, I packed up my camp and headed for Bishop, CA. About 15 miles before the town Bishop, Highway 169 E leads up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. A friend mentioned checking it out so I figured I’d venture up that way. The road twists and turns, so be careful driving! I drove 25-35 MPH the entire time (which is one of the reasons it felt like it took forever to get there). However it takes about an hour to get to the Visitor Center after turning off the 395 Hwy. The visitor center is only open Friday-Monday 10am-4pm. I misread their hours thinking they were open Monday-Friday, so I missed out on talking with them.
They have 3 different trails for you to explore the Bristlecone Pine Forest. One is called Bristlecone Cabin Trails (2 miles) which is an easy trail that leads to a cabin built from bristlecone pine. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the cabin. The second trail is called the Discovery Trail (1 mile) which is easy but more hilly with views of the Sierra Nevada range and the world’s first know 4,000 year old tree! Finally the last trail (the one I took) is called Methuselah Walk Trail (4.5 miles) is a moderately strenuous hike with views of Northern Death Valley and some of the oldest Bristlecone Pine Trees. There are also benches strategically set up along the trails to provide a resting place with shade (typically at the vista points).
Fun fact: Some of the trees in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest are a millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees you can find in Yosemite National Park or Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. Many are well over 2,000 years older!
In order to preserve these beautiful ancient trees, The Bristlecone Pine Forest asks for a $3 donation for recreation use of the park.
There is camping 5 miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. The campsite is called Grandview Campground and they ask for a $5 donation in order to maintain and keep the campground nice. There is no water but they do have vaulted toilets. There are 23 sites with shade and benches. I thought about staying here, however decided to make my way closer to June Lake to reduce my drive for the next morning.
Although I only explored the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, there are also two other groves with Bristlecone Pines (the Schulman Grove and the Patriarch Grove), however may require 4 wheel drive (I drive a Honda, so I wasn’t able to drive up there).
It was truly fascinating to learn about these ancient trees and how they have adapted to nature’s harsh conditions. I strongly encourage everyone to go check them out and learn more about these ancient trees. They are truly beautiful!