The trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains 15 miles to the east of Bishop are the oldest recorded living thing on earth. A millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierra, many are well over 2,000 years old and the "Methuselah" tree in Schulman Grove is dated at more than 4,773 years old. These trees were young and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe, the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was being built, and cuneiform clay tablets were being used in northern Syria.
Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva & aristata) grow in the White Mountains at elevations 9,000 to over 11,000 feet. The oldest trees grow on outcrops of dolomite, an alkaline calcareous, low nutrient soil. Only on the alkaline dolomite will you find pure, relatively dense stands of bristlecone pine.
To reach the Bristlecones, from Bishop travel south for 14 miles on Hwy. 395 to Big Pine then follow Hwy. 168 west into the mountains for another 26 miles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest National Scenic Byway. Plan for a 45minute to 1 hour trip each way, as you will encounter a steep winding road with awe inspiring vistas of the Eastern High Sierra range you will want to stop and take in. The more adventurous with high clearance four wheel drive vehicles can take the rugged Silver Canyon Road out of Bishop (Laws area) 15 miles up to the Bristlecones.
The U.S. Forest Service has established a visitors center at the Schulman Grove. Closed during the winter, due to snow, the forest and visitors center are open generally from May through mid-November. Call the White Mountain Ranger station in Bishop for more information (760) 873-2500.
The history, science and unique location of the Bristlecone forest is a wonderful excursion and we encourage you to take this trip. Follow this link to another related site for more detailed information on visiting this area before you make your travel plans.
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