Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest 

Story and photos by Sara Hall

Adventurers in search of the world’s oldest living tree need not look any further than the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in central California. The forest is located in the White Mountains within Inyo National Forest, just east of Bishop off of Highway 395.

Within the Schulman Grove is the oldest known tree, named Methuselah. It’s about 4,854 years old and still growing. Although Methuselah is unmarked for its protection, the entire grove along the high elevation trail is full of amazing prehistoric pines. It’s humbling to walk among the trees knowing they’ve been rooted in the soil for thousands of years. 

They make their home in some harsh conditions, too, including extreme cold and strong winds, which has shaped them into their trademark contorted figures. The trees feature twisted trunks and colorful wood. 

Hikers can explore several self-guided trails starting at the visitor’s center. Methuselah is in a small grove of the same name along a 4.5-mile loop with an elevation change of about 900 feet. Numbered posts and a brochure act as an informative guide along the way. 

An additional must-see are the bristlecone cabins, made from the ancient trees. From the parking area, it’s about 1.5 miles out-and-back. Hikers will also see the entrance to the old Mexican Mine.

Make Methuselah part of a Highway 395 road trip with many other interesting stops: Fossil Falls, Alabama Hills, Manzanar National Historical Site, Convict Lake, Crowley Lake columns, Mono Lake, Devil’s Postpile National Monument, upper and lower Rainbow Falls, Hot Creek Geologic Site, and the ghost town at Bodie State Historic Park.