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Icon of Great Basin National Park
The "Magic Grove", as a named place, does not appear on any National Park Service maps or in any park literature I found. The NPS simply refers to this as the Bristlecone Pine Natural Area on the side of Mount Washington. I found this name when searching for information on Mount Washington, and it was confirmed as being known to locals when Steve, a long time Great Basin National Park Ranger corrected me after I incorrectly called it the "Magnificent Grove". After doing so, Steve produced his phone and showed me a photo of the iconic bristlecone pine often seen in park maps, newspapers, and signs, confirming that this was the place I wanted to visit. Steve also gave me some valuable information on accessing the grove. Thank you, Steve.
The magic Grove is a bristlecone pine natural area on the ridge which extends east out from Mount Washington. I don't know where the name comes from, but this grove has many ancient and impressive windswept bristlecone pine trees in and near it. Sometime in the park's history, a photograph of one of these trees became a symbol of the park. Locating this tree may be reason enough to visit the grove, but be respectful of the tree if you visit it, and follow all park rules. There is no camping in this area, and no fires allowed over 10,000 feet in the park. Try to stay on whatever trail ends up being built through the grove, and do not trample the limited vegetation up here.
Visitation is allowed and is being encouraged to some extent, as a trail is being constructed to the grove, and possibly over the summit of Mount Washington, so those who wish to visit this place can do so. If you do, you will probably want to come with a late day or evening light, to capture some spectacular images of the trees growing in the grove. While best to visit when pleasant to get here, I wouldn't want to do this on a day with high storm risk, and starting early just to beat some storms, doesn't seem to do this location justice, not for photos, at least.
The hike leaves from the trailhead at the end of Snake Creek Road on the Shoshone Trail and climbs steeply on a well built and gravelly trail towards a saddle. At the saddle, you will find the sign for the Snake Divide Trail. As of 2017, the Snake Divide Trail does not appear on the park map, but it is in the newspaper. This is because it is currently under construction. However, I am calling this hike on-trail, as once completed the hike will be 100% trail hiking, and at present even in the small part where there is either no trail, ridge or road to follow, the small section of off-trail hiking is easy to follow with red flagging, and if that is a problem, simply ascend to the ridge to continue on your way to the Magic Grove.
The route of the built trail ascends the ridge using steep switchbacks for the steep east side and then levels out slightly to follow on top of or just below the ridge on some old mining roads, before following the ridge into the grove. The trail passes through granite boulders, limestone cliffs, and varying forest cover ranging from mixed conifer to an interesting mix of large forest sized Douglas-fir and Bristlecone Pines growing on a steep north slope, and eventually Limber Pine, Engelmann Spruce, and finally the ancient Bristlecone Pines you came to see.
The Snake Divide Trail will reach the grove, and per park maps at the trailhead, will link with either a route, or built trail to access Mount Washington, and other park summits and trails, with a potential exit on the east-west trending ridge off the south slope of Mount Washington, on the south side of the North Fork Big Wash. If you are only going to the Magic Grove, enter and leave via the Snake Divide Trail. If you access Mount Washington, add in some AEG, mileage, and time to your trip.
Enjoy your time in the Magic Grove. Some of the trees here may be in the extreme age range, perhaps 5000 or more years, possibly, as one other famous park tree once was. The exposed roots of the magic grove's most famous specimen testify to the length of time some have been here, with soil and rock eroding over time. You will be passing through, like a blip in time to these trees.
Check out the Triplog.
This is a moderately difficult hike.