What Is It?
Find some of the world’s oldest trees in the High Sierras of California and Nevada. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest outside Bishop, California, is home to trees approaching 5,000 years old.
They Are Old
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is part of Inyo National Forest. Studies show that one of the trees—known as the Methuselah tree—germinated in 2833 BC, making it more than 4,800 years old. Visitors can see the grove where the Methuselah tree grows by taking the Methuselah trail, a 4.5-mile hike starting at Schulman Grove. To help protect it, the tree’s identity is kept secret and is not marked.
How Are They So Old?
Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest non-clonal organisms on Earth. That means they do not replicate as exact copies of a single parent. They are able to live so long in part because they are extremely dense, which helps protect them from insects, fungi and rot. Each section of a tree is fed by a few large roots directly underneath it. If that root dies, only the section it feeds dies.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is typically open May through October, making that the best time to visit. The center has exhibits and a film about the forest and the scientists who studied the trees. Rangers offer interpretive programs at
11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the summer.
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is open Thursday through Sunday during the summer. To plan your trip, visit www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo or call 760-873-2400. Be aware, there is no cell service in Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.