Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Standing as ancient sentinels high in the White Mountains of Inyo National Forest by Bishop, California at 10,000 feet above sea level, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees rank as the oldest living organisms in the world at about 5,000 years old and still growing.
The trees grow in the white, alkaline soil for which the White Mountains are named. The dolomite in the soil, makes it challenging for anything to grow, providing a solitary home for Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees.
The tree’s longevity is due in part to the bark’s extreme durability. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure, even after death, often still standing on their roots, for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood, on living and dead trees, erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing, which creates unusual forms and shapes.
The Bristlecone Pine is invaluable to dendroclimatologists, because it provides the longest continual climatically sensitive tree-ring chronologies on the planet. In wet years, the trees produce a new, lightly colored layer of wood just under the bark. In years of drought, the new wood is dark in color. The different colors of wood form a distinguishable tree ring, which scientists study to reconstruct precipitation changes in the past and climate change.
The area’s dry lunar-like landscape, altitude, and rugged remoteness make for an adventurous journey for the family, in addition to the scientific value of California’s amazing Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
Other Must-Do’s in Bishop, California
Bishop Creek Canyon
Fresh air, granite peaks, pristine lakes and summer wildflowers greet you at Bishop Creek Canyon. Hike, camp, fish or go boating in the crisp alpine air. And if you go in the autumn, an explosion of color awaits you.
The Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills are among the most photographed areas in California. Ambling among formations of weathered, golden granite, it’s easy to see why these dry hills and boulders, backed by the snowy Sierra, have attracted movie crews since the film industry’s earliest days. The Mobius Arch, the largest and most picturesque, perfectly frames Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous USA. The Alabama Hills are a one-hour drive south of Bishop. Go exploring, climbing or hiking.
Mount Whitney rises to 14,496 feet above sea level. The Mount Whitney Trail, one of the world’s most popular trails, sees thousands of visitors annually climb the strenuous 10.5 mile trail to the summit. Permits are required for ascending Mount Whitney.
The beautiful and calm waters of the Owens River has a mystique all its own. From the quietest sunrise to the noisy sunsets, full of wildlife sounds, the Owens River brings you serenity and year-round fishing. The Owens River is stocked with big trophy trout.
Erick Schat’s Bakkery
Erick Schat’s Bakkery is the home of the Original Sheepherder Bread® brought to California in 1938 by immigrant Basque sheepherders. Even today loaves are shaped by hand and baked in the finest European Stone Hearth Ovens. Enjoy other breads too such as the chili cheese bread, pastries, sandwiches, soups and pot pies at Erick Schat’s Bakkery.
Bishop has more than 30 eateries offering something for every taste and every budget, including American, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and more.
Stay at lovely Creekside Inn right in the heart of Bishop and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The sounds of the creek will lull you to sleep. Or, find one of 20 other lodging options in Bishop ranging from luxurious to quaint to budget-friendly.