Exploring the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Oct 15, 2020

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to some of the oldest trees in the world (some bristlecone pines are more than 4,500 years old). Standing like ancient sentinels dotting the sides of the lofty White Mountains, California’s majestic bristlecone pines thrive in one of North America’s most inhospitable, yet uniquely beautiful environments.

The forest’s one-of-a-kind landscape, complete with unbelievable views of the magnificent Sierra Nevada Crest to the west, is easily accessible from Mammoth Lakes and makes a great adventure for sightseers of all ages.  

What to Expect at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The U. S. Forest Service maintains the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and visitors may easily explore two groves of the legendary trees, the Schulman Grove and Patriarch Grove, during summer months when the road is accessible to cars. Stop by the visitor center to learn more about the area through interpretive displays and exhibits or browse the gift shop and bookstore. The visitor center also offers limited refreshments and educational programs.

Explore the Schulman Grove directly from the visitor center, where you’ll find trails ranging in length from one to five miles. Or drive another 12 mile north of the visitor center to the Patriarch Grove, where you’ll find the world’s largest bristlecone pine.

Both groves have restroom facilities and picnic tables. Guests are encouraged to bring plenty of water.

Getting to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest makes a great day trip from Mammoth Lakes. To reach the groves from Mammoth Lakes take Hwy. 395 south for about 55 miles, passing through the town of Bishop. Just before entering the town of Big Pine, turn left on S.R. 168 and travel east for 13 miles. At the marked junction for the White Mountain Road/Bristlecone Pine Forest, veer left and drive 10 miles to the end of the pavement, where you’ll find the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center.

The road into the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest generally remains open from the middle of May to the early weeks of November, although these dates are dependent on snowpack and weather. For current road conditions and visitor center hours of operation, call (760) 873-2400.