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“A necessary cautionary tale despite my love of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest”

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Ranked #1 of 21 things to do in Bishop
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
San Francisco, CA
Level Contributor
241 reviews
66 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 266 helpful votes
“A necessary cautionary tale despite my love of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 28, 2013

Seeing the pines was the highlight of my husband and my trip. We were so excited when we woke up that we were on the road by 9 am, just a 45 minute drive to the pines. We'd stayed in Big Pine the night before which is about 3,000-ish feet elevation.

Now, are the pines amazing and is it jaw-dropping to see the oldest living thing on earth? It depends. For the vast majority of people yes. And for them, I gave a five star rating. For the rest of us who 1.) get altitude sickness with headaches, vomiting, and mild mental looseness at these heights or who 2.) are afraid of heights to the point that the drive seems like Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" looking out at snow capped mountains from above on a series of hair-pin turns with 9,000-10,000 feet sheer drops down with a two foot gravel "shoulder" all the while (at some point, I froze during the ascent around the scenic view; my travel companion was lying still to not look at all).

For people like us, you drive up a mountain that is the most terrifying driving experience of your life given the heights and drops, and then you find yourself all mentally unhinged due to the altitude, and you spend an hour amongst these outstanding trees -- slightly disappointed to not have enough breath to make it 5 miles down the Methuselah Trail -- taking pictures you don't recall taking, only to experience the terror for a second time around, my passenger begging to lay on his belly on the ground if only I would pull over (there were no pull-offs).

This is a gorgeous park. You will love it.

Except if you have a fear of heights. I'd never had this until this drive, to be blunt. My car companion had it for life but didn't know we'd be going up so fast and quickly. It was a bad dynamic. I saw a few chipmunks, some pines, and felt the greatest possible relief getting to 4,000 feet, and then to town, where I immediately wished I were up the mountain again!

Visited May 2013
8 Thank Aqusite
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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361 reviews from our community

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English first
Fort Bragg, California
Level Contributor
272 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 223 helpful votes
“Have wanted to go here for years!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 27, 2013

I have been wanting to see the ancient Bristlecone Pines for years..And we finally made it this trip..What a thrill...It was one of the highlights of our whole 18 day trip to Utah and back...

The road up to the swell visitor center was open early this year, YEAH! (mid-May)....And what a steep, winding, and beautiful drive it is..We came from the east on highway 168 and boy was it remote, in a good way! The air was so cool and crisp at this high elevation....And I simply loved the dear pine trees....Their needles are very soft to the touch, not prickly like most pines...The patterns and color of the tree trunks, roots, and bark are spectacular! My husband and I are "tree lovers", we especially love the conifer family....We took the great little loop hike (huffing and puffing at 8,000 ft.)....Since it's a National Forest even our Yellow Lab got to join us.....Make sure and bring your own food and drinks cause there's nothing around for miles and miles...

You really have to have a desire to come here as it's so remote and not "on the way" to really any other destination..

Visited May 2013
2 Thank TwoTeaTotalers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
452 reviews
81 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 201 helpful votes
“Jeeped Up”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 21, 2013

There are lots of 4x roads in the area, some quite steep requiring low range, and these roads make for a great way to enter and explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest as an alternate to the normal paved entry road. However, take the signs about 4x, high clearance, and low range seriously where indicated. If you have a 4x with all those requirements, I also recommend taking the Cottonwood Road down to Cottonwood Creek. Part of the road is within the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and part is not. The drive on Cottonwood Road will expose you to aspens, pines, meadows and creeks with several creek crossings along the way.

Visited May 2013
3 Thank CacheOn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Borrego Springs, California
Level Contributor
173 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 74 helpful votes
“Above and beyond.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 13, 2013

On top of the world at around 10,000 feet are the tough guys of the tree kingdom. Some are over 4,000 years old; they look hunched over, cranky but they persevere. They grow without much bark left; they only shed their needles every 40 years and they need a hug. I loved the road trip, the views and the trees.

Visited May 2013
2 Thank Realtyhank
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Millville, New Jersey
Level Contributor
64 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Breathtaking views! Amazing drive!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 25, 2013

When we were there in April the visitor center was still closed for the season. We were a little intimidated driving the 10 miles up the winding and steep road, with many switchbacks, but the scenery was absolutely worth every turn. There was an overlook near the end of the road with a very "open-air" outhouse...which served the purpose. Unfortunately we could not learn much about the Ancient Bristlecone while there but could find lots of information online. It's most definitely worth the drive!!

Visited April 2013
Thank pasrts4046
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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