Ancient Bristlecone Scenic Byway

Ancient Bristlecone is south of Bishop in east-central California, near the Nevada state line. The byway begins in Big Pine off US 395 and travels northeast to the road's end at Patriarch Grove on the Inyo National Forest.

Ancient Bristlecone is 36 miles long and follows CA 168 and FSR 4S01, also known as White Mountain Road. The route is usually open year-round but sections may close in winter. The byway follows a paved road to Schulman Grove and then graded dirt to Patriarch Grove. Because of the grade and tight curves, motorhomes and vehicles pulling trailers are not recommended beyond the paved section. Travelers will need to retrace the route back to CA 168.

Ancient Bristlecone

The scenic drive begins at an elevation around 8,000 feet and climbs through the White Mountains to 11,200 feet at Patriarch Grove. Along the way, views of the Great Basin desert to the east and mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the west can be seen. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the highlight of the byway, contains the oldest-known living trees on earth. The trees were discovered by Doctor Edmund Schulman, a scientist from Arizona, while searching for old trees that would provide a record of climatic conditions.

Two self-guided nature trails at Schulman Grove give visitors an up-close look at these ancient trees. The oldest living tree, 4,700 year-old Methuselah, is seen along the Methuselah Trail. A trek on the Discovery Walk takes you to the first tree dated over 4,000 years by Doctor Schulman, the Pine Alpha. The area has a visitor center and picnic facilities.

Farther up the scenic byway is Patriarch Grove, which has picnic facilities and a nature trail. The self-guide trail takes you to Patriarch Tree, the largest Bristlecone Pine in the world.

Information: Inyo National Forest, 873 N Main St, Bishop CA 93514 / 760-873-2400. Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site, PO Box 363, Bishop CA 93514 / 760-873-5950