Bristlecone Pine Trail – Great Basin National Park

Date of visit: Sunday November 6th, 2016

On this beautiful Sunday morning we embarked on a very long and moderately strenuous 11 mile hike, which would have been a much shorter 4.6 mile hike if it were not for a road closure due to weather conditions. We headed up to the ancient bristlecone pine forest where we were expecting something resembling an enchanted forest, only disappointed when we came across a few dozen bristlecone pines that were on average between 2-3,000 years old. While the history was impressive and they were visually very interesting with their warping and twisting shapes, my expectations were honestly not met after such a strenuous hike. In the end, we busted our butts to look at a couple of dead trees.

Great Basin National Park landscape blue sky with straw grass and hikers

If you have read at least a few of my previous posts about past hikes, you will know I do not hike for the pleasure of exercise or experiencing the great outdoors, but rather with the intention of capturing at least one stunning image on each excursion. If you have different goals and love to hike for the sake of hiking, by all means visit Great Basin National Park and take this reflection of my personal experience with a grain of salt. It is a great place to find solitude and enjoy nature since it is one of the least visited National Parks in the US and you will not be swarmed by tourists when comparing to more popular destinations like the Grand Canyon or Arches National Park. Unfortunately after this experience and the lack of a single mind blowing composition, I do not plan on returning and would recommend focusing your efforts elsewhere if your approach is the same as mine.

Great Basin National Park bristlecone pine with hikers backlit

When you finally arrive at the grove, there are many trees that look incredible however finding a composition that works well from a technical perspective is very difficult. Just when you see something that might work, it becomes very hard to frame with other adjacent elements of nature. As I did not find many compositions that work well to capture the essence of the forest, I focused primarily on wide angle shots showcasing individual trees. I think many of these photos came out great, but they are not killer images that belong in my portfolio among the best of the best.



bristlecone pine tree wide angle close up





Photo Gear:

If you do decide to try to photograph the bristlecone pines on this hike, I would recommend bringing nothing more than a wide angle lens. I had my Nikon D600 with Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 and Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, but looking back I would have been perfectly fine with only one or the other, leaning more towards the wider of the two. If I owned a lens in the 16-35mm range I would say it would be ideal. We did not encounter any wildlife therefore any telephoto lenses would be useless to carry.

For a full and up-to-date list of all the photo equipment I regularly use, visit the Photo Gear page.


For a full and up-to-date list of travel necessities and items that make your life easier while on the road whether it be hiking mountains or exploring cities, take a look at the Travel Essentials page.

Great Basin National Park mountain with snow landscape

Great Basin National Park Teresa Lake with hiker

Great Basin National Park Theresa Lake, frozen lake