CEDAR CITY — Often overlooked by hikers headed to nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument, a sacred grove of prehistoric trees named the “Twisted Forest” lies at the end of a family friendly, mile-long, out-and-back hike a few miles from the resort town of Brian Head. Within the cooler temps of Cedar Mountain, this short stroll takes you through a rare grove of Bristlecone Pines – a species thought to be among the oldest living organisms on the planet, often surviving for 3,000-4,000 years.
The Twisted Forest displays dozens of these gnarled pines, which grow out of a chalky gravel hill on Cedar Mountain. Bristlecones die out in portions, while the remainder of the tree continues to live, resulting in a twisted, tortured appearance.
The oldest known Bristlecone was a 4,900-year-old tree that was cut down in 1964 inside the boundaries of what is now Great Basin National Park. Public outcry over the loss of this tree was part of the reason Bristlecones are now a protected species on federal lands. The person responsible for cutting down the tree later became one of the strongest advocates for the creation of Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
Bristlecones range across the Great Basin through Nevada and California as well as through Utah and Colorado’s mountains. The oldest known living Bristlecone is named Methuselah – a 4,765-year -old growing in a secret location in the White Mountain range of eastern California. The human desire to collect anything from the wild that is unique has caused many land agencies that protect Bristlecones to keep their locations secret for fear these old-timer trees will continue to be damaged.
The Bristlecones in the Twisted Forest of Cedar Mountain are protected. This grove is part of the 6,750-acre Ashdown Gorge Wilderness area of Dixie National Forest and is managed by the Cedar City Ranger District.
The 1-mile hike to the top of this small Bristlecone pine grove is short, but since the trail meanders up a steep slope on gravelly ground, watch your footing. Aside from featuring the ancient trees, the hike offers several sweeping viewpoints of Cedar Mountain as well as groves of Aspens and meadows of flowers.
There are several extensions to this hike; one in particular connects to Cedar Breaks National Monument. These extensions are out of the scope of this article.
From Brian Head resort, drive approximately 1.5 miles south on Highway 143. Turn right at the Twisted Forest sign onto Forest Road 204. This well-maintained dirt road branches several times. At each fork stay left; each fork is marked by a Twisted Forest sign directing you to the trailhead. Once you’re off the pavement, you’ll be on the dirt road for approximately 2 miles until you reach the well-marked trailhead kiosk, which is equipped with a trail map and info on the area. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended but not necessary. This road is impassable when wet.
- For more info call the Cedar City Ranger District | 435-865-3200
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