“This short, high elevation loop features rare Bristlecone Pines and views of the Four Corners area.”
— Megan W
Birding · Views · Wildlife
A great loop with scenery, plants, wildlife, and views for the whole family to enjoy.
May be inaccessible during mid-winter due to deep snow.
From the Rainbow Point parking and picnic area, follow the Bristlecone Loop Trail as it initially heads east. Soon, arrive at a junction and pick a direction to complete the lollipop loop - either way works, but this description takes the clockwise direction. Descend atop the mesa through densely forested terrain, crossing other trail junctions.
Proceed along the loop passing many gnarled,1,800 year-old Bristlecone Pines. These trees are some of the oldest living beings on earth. By studying their tree rings, scientists can learn about past environmental conditions like glaciers and drought going back thousands of years. Unlike other pines which shed their needles every couple of years, Bristlecone Pines can keep their same needles for as long as 40 years - a strategy that saves energy and helps the trees endure harsh temperatures and drought. These trees also have very resinous wood which prevents the trees from drying out and being damaged by insects. These twisted trees only grow on certain rocky slopes at precise elevations in six US states and are under federal protection so don't collect cones or otherwise damage them!
The trail skirts the edge of picturesque cliffs with viewpoints along the way. You'll see deep canyons, hoodoos, and at the end of the point, enjoy sweeping vistas. Begin the undulating climb back up through forested slopes, keeping an eye out for the famous Bristlecone Pines. Rejoin the "stem" of the lollipop to head back to the parking area.
Flora & Fauna
Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, White Fir, Bristlecone Pines. Grouse, woodpeckers, owls, ravens, Steller's Jays, squirrels, and chipmunks.