A Hike to the Oldest Trees in the World

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When we picture the oldest trees in the world, we think of the giant redwoods. We’d be wrong. The rugged bristlecone forests of the high desert landscapes of the West make the redwoods look like teenagers. For thousands of years these gnarly trees have grown oblivious to the rise and fall of ancient civilizations.

The oldest individual tree in the world lies somewhere in California and is an ancient 5,000-years-old. This tree is located is in the White Mountains, but its exact location along with the location of Methuselah, the second oldest tree, is kept a secret by the Forest Service. Never fear, however, bristlecones of only a few thousand years can be accessed by hikes throughout California, Utah, and Nevada (the photos are from the Bristlecone Trail in the Great Basin National Park).

Some of the trees in Great Basin National Park are more than 3,000 years old.

These trees are rugged individualists that thrive in high elevations with very little water. Seeded in more friendly climates, they die. Put them above 10,000 feet and deprive them of water, they grow. Even after they die, these trees last for thousands more years, impervious to rot and decay.

Its ability to stand for centuries after death is directly related to the adversity of its life. —Interpretive Trail at Great Basin National Park

Some of these trees can be seen in Great Basin National Park in Nevada, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, Inyo National Forest in California’s White Mountains.


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5 thoughts on “A Hike to the Oldest Trees in the World

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  1. Woooah that is incredible! It is mad that they can grow above 10,000 feet with so little water…let alone lasting for thousands of years! That super old tree will have already been old when ancient Egypt was just getting started!

    I know that humans (and most animals) are meant to live longer is we sometimes fast/deprive our bodies, but this seems like a whole new level of that!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very cool! I didn’t know there were trees older than the Redwoods. I also didn’t realize there were more White Mountains in California (I always think of the ones in New Hampshire). Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These trees are so amazing. I’m so glad the Forest Service keeps them a secret. I saw some bristlecones in Bryce Canyon when I was there last fall. It was really cool to see them.

    Liked by 1 person

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