Pike-San Isabel National Forests; Comanche and Cimarron Nati
Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area
Elevation: 11,714 Feet (3651.5 Meters) Windy Ridge
Other Maps: Pike National Forest
Time, Round Trip: 1 Hour
USGS Map: Alma 7.5
The Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area was established by the U.S. Forest Service in 1964. Bristlecone pines (Pinus aristata), the most durable living entities on this planet, are known to have achieved life spans of several thousand years. One specimen from Wheeler Peak in Humbolt National Forest, Nevada, has been dated by dendrochronology (the counting of tree rings) at an age of 4,900 years. The closest runner-up to be verified is a Sierra redwood of northern California dated at 2,300 years of age. A native of the American Rocky Mountains, these conifers are found at elevations which exceed 8,000' and are often found at timberline. Colorado contains the most easterly environments found for the Bristlecone pines in the United States.
Bristlecone Scenic Area, one of several stands of Bristlecone in Colorado, is located atop Windy Ridge at the eastern foot of Mt. Bross, the 22nd highest peak in the state at an elevation of 14,172'. The winds from which the ridge gets it's name have caused the trees to take on a tilted, windblown appearance. Windy Ridge also provides good views of South Park. The visitor may wish to estimate the age of these trees by observing the rings in stumps of trees cut for mining timbers long ago. Artists and photographers find this scenic area provides excellent opportunities for dramatic images of the pines.
Normally Open: Early June through September
Directions from Fairplay: From the junction of Colorado 9 and Highway 285 in Fairplay (0.0), follow Colorado 9 north to the Alma city limit (5.7). Turn left at the intersection in the middle of town that has a side road and is across from the gas station (6.0). Continue driving straight at the first intersection (one block from Colorado 9) and you'll pass a blue sign that marks Park County Road 8 on the right side of this well-maintained dirt road. Continue on this road until you reach Forest Developed Road 415 on the right(8.8). Turn right on to this road. You'll see a sign at this intersection that designates access to Mineral Park. Continue on 415 past Sawmill Creek (10.4) to a point where the road seems to empty into a mining area (11.8). Bear left and wind uphill through the remains of this Mineral Park Mine area. As the road curves to the right, ignore a side road (11.9) on the left marked as Forest Road 857. Immediately after 857 ford a small stream and continue up the hill on a slightly steeper portion of the road. The road then curves to the left around some concrete foundations and then to the right as it climbs to the rim of Windy Ridge. A small parking area (12.4) is provided on the right side for the Scenic Area. From the parking lot you can wander out on to the ridge amongst the Bristlecone.