Ancient Bristlecone Pines at the Patriarch Grove

Distance: 0.3 - 0.8 miles (RT)

Inyo National Forest, near Bishop in California's Southeastern Sierra

Patriarch Tree in the Patriarch Grove

Patriarch Tree in the Patriarch Grove

 

Visit the world's largest Bristlecone Pine, the Patriarch Tree, in the Patriarch Grove high atop the White Mountains of Inyo National Forest. Two short, scenic trails traverse the grove visiting these amazing ancient trees.

 

Trail Description - Ancient Bristlecone Pines at the Patriarch Grove

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines, standing as ancient sentinels high atop the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest, rank among the oldest trees in the world. Some of the bristlecone pines are nearly 5,000 years old and still living. Over the years the wind has sculpted the trees into gnarled and twisted forms of living art.

Near the tree line, at over 11,300-ft., lies the Patriarch Grove, home of the world's largest Bristlecone Pine the Patriarch Tree. Its splendid remoteness and moonscape appearance gives the Patriarch Grove a surreal atmosphere. Bristlecone pines and limber pines dot the landscape with a background view of the Great Basin in Nevada. Patriarch Grove is a favorite location for filming and photography in the early morning light.

Two short trail travel through the area. The Timberline Ancients trail is a quarter mile long and loops through the grove containing the Patriarch Tree, the world’s oldest bristlecone pine. The grove is set within a large open bowl, well exposed to wind and weather that have molded the trees into abstract sculptures even more contorted than at Schulman Grove.

Interpretive panels along the trail tell the story of the bristlecones’ survival and adaptations to an environment marked by low temperatures, very low moisture and a growing season measured in weeks. The trail is relatively flat and suitable for everyone in your party.

The Cottonwood Basin Overlook trail is a half mile long and heads east from the parking lot to a vista point above Cottonwood Basin. The overlook also provides a view back at the Patriarch Grove and the surrounding landscape. To the east are great vistas of the basins and ranges of the Great Basin.

Picnic tables, restrooms (vault toilet) and a self-guided nature trail are available. A visit to Schulman Grove and Patriarch Grove is possible in the same day if you can get an early start.

Be sure to check out the other great hiking trails through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine near the Visitor Center at Schulman Grove, 13 miles back down the White Mountain Road. The Discovery Trail and the Methuselah Trail traverse this amazing area, taking you past bristlecone pines of all shapes, sizes and ages, some over 4,000 year old.

About the Great Bristlecone Pines

Originally classified as a foxtail pine because of the needle arrangement (like a cat or fox's tail), these trees were redesignated in the late 1800's and named bristlecone due to the long prickly "bristle" on the immature cone. In 1963, Dr. Dana K. Bailey determined that there were significant genetic and physical differences between the bristlecones in the Great Basin and those in the Rocky Mountains. His research efforts resulted in another redesignation into two separate species named bristlecone: the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine and the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine.

In the White Mountain the bristlecones show a preference for growing in white rocky soil, called Dolomite, that gives the mountain range its name. Dolomite is actually a type of limestone created under the warm, shallow, inland sea that once covered this area. Most species of plants find it very difficult to grow in Dolomite soil, which is very alkaline. The bristlecones, because they have adapted to this high alkalinity, have a chance to get established and grow in a near competition-free environment.

Driving Directions

From Bishop: Take US Highway 395 south for 14.7 miles to Big Pine and turn left (east) onto State Highway168 just north of Big Pine. Follow Highway 168 east for 13 miles to the White Mountain Road. Turn left (north) and drive 10 miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center at the end of the paved road. At the visitor center pickup trail maps and pay the entrance fee.

Note: The White Mountain Road to Schulman Grove is a paved narrow, winding mountain road. Travel time from Bishop to the Schulman Grove is approximately one hour each way. To continue to Patriarch Grove along the dirt road will take another 45 minutes each direction. Please note the dirt road is not recommended for light passenger cars.

To reach the Patriarch Grove, turn left as you leave the visitor center on the White Mountain Raod. Follow the good quality dirt road with spectacular views of the Sierra Crest across the Owens Valley for 12 miles and turn right at a signed junction for the Patriarch Gove. Follow this spur road for one mile to the parking area.

From Lone Pine: Take US Highway 395 north for 42.6 miles to Big Pine and turn right (east) onto State Highway168 just north of Big Pine. Follow Highway 168 east for 13 miles to the White Mountain Road. Turn left (north) and drive 10 miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center at the end of the paved road. At the visitor center pickup trail maps and pay the entrance fee.

Note: The White Mountain Road to Schulman Grove is a paved narrow, winding mountain road. Travel time from Lone Pine to the Schulman Grove is approximately 1.5 hours each way. . To continue to Patriarch Grove along the dirt road will take another 45 minutes each direction. Please note the dirt road is not recommended for light passenger cars.

To reach the Patriarch Grove, turn left as you leave the visitor center on the White Mountain Raod. Follow the good quality dirt road with spectacular views of the Sierra Crest across the Owens Valley for 12 miles and turn right at a signed junction for the Patriarch Gove. Follow this spur road for one mile to the parking area.

 

Trail Resources