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Discovery Trail

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Discovery Trail

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  • Ancient Bristlecone Forest Visitor Center.- Discovery Trail
  • The Discovery Trail begins near the endpoint of the Methuselah Trail.- Discovery Trail
  • Informational signs line the trail as it climbs up into the trees.- Discovery Trail
  • Vistas across the Owens River Valley to the Eastern Sierra.- Discovery Trail
  • Bristlecone Pine.- Discovery Trail
  • Discovery Trail.- Discovery Trail
  • Bristlecone Pine along the Discovery Trail.- Discovery Trail
  • Overlooking a passing lightning storm from the forest.- Discovery Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Oldest living organisms in the world. Surreal and beautiful environment.
Cons: 
This trail can see crowds at the height of summer.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
275.00 ft (83.82 m)
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.00 mi (1.61 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
10,075.00 ft (3,070.86 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Discovery Trail is one of two loop trails originating at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center, and it climbs through Schulmen Grove into the extreme habitat of some of the world's oldest living trees.

A 1-mile loop trail with 275 feet of elevation change, the Discovery Trail is shorter than the adjacent Methuselah Trail and is geared more toward an introductory walk amidst the bristlecones, some of which are over 4,000 years old. Interpretive signs offer insight into the ecologic cycles and geologic conditions that allow the bristlecone pines to thrive at these fringe climates and conditions. Benches along the trail offer views to the Sierra across the Owens River Valley. 

The hike is a steady climb and then drop over a stone covered path that winds from the unique trees to a stone-covered slope made of compressed silt that was once the bottom of an ancient sea. Beginning at over 10,000 feet, the seclusion of Schulman grove from any of the populated towns that lie far beneath is noticeable in that the air holds a particular stillness up here. Because of its remote location, this bristlecone pine forest receives very few visitors, even in the height of the summer. 

The visitor center was recently rebuilt and now features exhibits, knowledgeable rangers, and a gift shop, and it is definitely worth a visit to learn more about this fascinating area. There are also picnic benches and a vault toilet located nearby.

Note that White Mountain Road is not maintained during the winter months and can be closed to car traffic. The visitor center is closed during the winter months.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(11 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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