Some of the oldest trees in the world grow inside a fascinating forest in the eastern part of California. It’s not easy to reach this remote natural wonder, but when you do, it’s worthwhile.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, a protected area and one of the most amazing places in the world for several reasons.
1. It’s located on the eastern flanks of a mountain range in California
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is one of the most amazing forests on the planet. It’s a protected area that is located in the utmost eastern part of California.
The first can be found in Inyo County in a majestic mountain range in the area called the White Mountains. The forest is situated on the eastern flank of this mountain range and in between the cities of Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Francisco, California.
Just west of the forest you can find Owens Valley, an arid region carved into the landscape by the Owens River. The highest peak of the range is White Mountain Peak which is situated just north of the forest. This amazing mountain reaches an elevation of 14,252 feet (4,344 meters) above sea level.
2. The forest borders the northern part of a famous desert in the area
It’s fair to conclude that this region features a large number of magnificent natural wonders. One of these is a natural park called Death Valley National Park, a park that straddles the California–Nevada border.
This national park features the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere called Badwater Basin, an area located at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level.
The contrast between the dunes of Death Valley National Park and the snow-covered peaks of the White Mountains couldn’t be bigger, which is quite intriguing.
3. It’s part of a much larger National Forest in California and Nevada
The forest is a protected area that covers an area of 43.75 square miles (113.3 square kilometers). It’s located in Inyo County which is home to both the Inyo Mountains and the Inyo National Forest.
This means that the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is part of this much larger national forest that covers an area of 2,974 square miles (7,703 square kilometers). This huge pristine piece of nature features 9 different wilderness areas.
The centerpiece of the Inyo National Forest is Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada, the highest peak in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 meters) above sea level.
4. It features a particular long-living species of bristlecone pine trees
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest features one of the most amazing tree species in the world. These are officially called the “Pinus longaeva” but are commonly referred to as either the “Great Basin bristlecone pine” or the “Western bristlecone pine.”
As both the scientific name of this tree and the name of the forest suggest, these trees are extremely old. Calling them ancient is no joke because these trees can grow thousands of years old.
Despite being so old, these are far from the tallest trees in the world which can also be found in California at the Redwood National Park.
These are medium-sized and gro to a height of between 5 and 15 meters (16 and 49 feet) and have an average trunk diameter of between 2.5 and 3.6 meters (8 and 12 feet).
5. The forest is situated at a very high elevation
You won’t find these trees anywhere else in the world except for extremely remote areas in the mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah. In California, you won’t find them anywhere else than in the White Mountains, the Inyo Mountains, and the Panamint Range.
Another remarkable fact about the Pinus longaeva is that they don’t form dense forests like some of the related pine trees such as the foxtail pine. Each tree is somewhat isolated which provides a remarkable sight from a distance.
The pine trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest grow at an elevation of anywhere between 9,800 and 11,000 feet (3,000 and 3,400 meters).
They also don’t grow anywhere else but in xeric alpine conditions, which means they don’t need a lot of moisture at all. This distinction is one of the reasons why it’s such a rare species of tree.
6. It’s home to the oldest living tree on the planet
The protected national forest is home to what is believed to be the oldest living tree on the planet. This tree is called “Methuselah” and is approximately over 4,850 years old, having emerged on Earth in the year 2833 B.C.
The tree was named in honor of Methuselah, a Biblical figure in Judaism who according to the belief lived up to 900 years old.
This particular tree is the oldest confirmed living non-clonal organism on the planet and isn’t marked inside the first to protect it. Despite this notion, most of the trees inside this forest are thousands of years and amazing attractions by themselves.
7. The forest is a protected area that features several hiking trails for visitors
The largest city in Inyo County is Bishop, situated at the northern end of Owens Valley. This town was named after Bishop Creek, a stream that flows through the valley.
The city is situated at a distance of approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of several hiking trails that allow you to explore the amazing forest.
Some of these trails are called the Schulman Grove, which features an educational center where you can learn about the first, and Patriarch Grove, which brings you right up to the world’s largest bristlecone pine called the “Patriarch Tree.”
The trails are open to visitors from May to November if the weather, which can be quite extreme in this region, allows it.
8. The most popular trail brings you right to the oldest tree on the planet
Although you won’t be able to find out which tree is the oldest on the planet, you can hike to the grove that it’s located in.
This trail is fittingly referred to as the Methuselah Grove trail and starts at the visitor center. The starting point of this trail is located at an elevation of exactly 9,846 feet (3,001 meters) above sea level and forms a loop with a distance of 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers).
The trail not only allows you to explore the oldest trees on the planet but also allows you to get stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, an amazing experience!