Hike the Bristlecone Trail At Great Basin National Park – See the Wheeler Bristlecone Grove!

by Adam on July 30, 2010

A Bristlecone Pine At the Wheeler Grove In Great Basin, Nevada - July 30, 2010

A Bristlecone Pine At the Wheeler Grove In Great Basin, Nevada - July 30, 2010

Unlike the Bristlecone forest in Big Pine California where you can drive all the way up to the Schulman Grove, hop out of your car and see the Bristlecone Pine trees, to see the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine grove at Great Basin National Park you’ve got to hike for the view after the 12 mile drive up the mountain.

The Entrance To the Bristlecone Trail At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

The Entrance To the Bristlecone Trail At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

It’s not a particularly strenuous hike but you’ll cover 2.4 miles and an elevation gain of 600 feet.  That doesn’t sound like a whole lot and it’s not but you’ll be starting out at 9,800 feet and hiking to 10,400 feet so the air will be a little bit thinner that you are probably used to especially if you’re visiting from the east coast!

A Scenic View Along the Road to the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

A Scenic View Along the Road to the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

To get to the trail head, you’ll need to drive up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to the Wheeler Peak Campground Area at an elevation of 9,886 feet.  It’s a 12 mile scenic drive up to the trail head along the Scenic Drive road.  Along the road you’ll find a few spots to pull over and take photos.  The best spot to pull over and take photos on your way to the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine trail head is the Mather Overlook.  Most other “overlook” spots have to many trees to be able to see much of anything down in the valley.

A Stream Near the Entrance To the Trail to the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

A Stream Near the Entrance To the Trail to the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

When you get to the parking area by the Wheeler Bristlecone trail head, you’ll find plenty of parking, a water fountain, faucet and bathroom to unload and hydrate before you head up the trail.  The trail starts out with a little bridge across a stream and is fairly gentle the whole way up to the Bristlecone pine forest in Wheeler grove.  It’s mix of dirt and rock with some stone steps that seem to make up most of the trails in the National Parks in the western US.

Roots From An Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

Roots From An Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

Just like the Schulman Bristlecone Pine Grove in Big Pine, California, the Bristlecone Pines in the Wheeler Grove at Great Basin National Park are ancient, full of color and just an amazing sight to look at and photograph!  Some of the Bristlecones here top 3,000 years old and all are in varying states of life and death.  Bristlecone Pine trees often look mostly dead but are clinging to life by just a hair as they manage to survive in some of the harshest conditions on earth!

A Bristlecone Pine At Wheeler Grove With Nice Colors - July 30, 2010

A Bristlecone Pine At Wheeler Grove With Nice Colors - July 30, 2010

Once you get up to the Wheeler Grove there is a self guided scenic trail that goes around the grove and calls out some specific trees and provide information about the trees, the environment and how they manage to survive and thrive in such harsh conditions.  Many of the Bristlecones in the Wheeler grove seem to be growing out of limestone with very little dirt around anywhere.

Teresa Lake At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

Teresa Lake At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

Along the way up to the Bristlecone Pine forest you can hang a right and go a tenth of a mile to see the Teresa Lake at an elevation of 10,230 feet.  It’s not a huge lake but with the massive mountain range in the background, it makes for quite a scenic picture spot along the way to the Bristlecone Pine forest.

The Trail to and From the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

The Trail to and From the Wheeler Bristlecone Pine Grove - July 30, 2010

Once you get to the Bristlecone Pine forest you can take the self guided tour loop through the forest, turn around and walk back down or continue on to Rock Glacier.  The trail to Rock Glacier will add another 1.8 miles to the hike and rise up another 500 feet along rocky switchback paths.  The second part of the hike to Rock Glacier feels a lot more strenuous than the hike to the Bristlecone grove, either because the trail is a bit more uneven or you are topping out at 10,900 feet!

A Bristelcone Pine In the Wheeler Grove At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

A Bristelcone Pine In the Wheeler Grove At Great Basin National Park - July 30, 2010

If you haven’t seen Bristelcone Pine trees before and you make the trip to Great Basin National Park be sure to hike this trail to the Bristlecone Pine Grove.  It is a very scenic drive up to the trail head, the trail is a relatively easy hike and the view of the pines, the valley and the mountains in the background are all to die for!

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