Ersatz antiquities are big draws in Vegas. You can hardly toss a poker chip without hitting an Egyptian pyramid, an 18th-century pirate ship, or a medieval castle. But if faux history leaves you hankering for a look at something truly venerable, head out of town to 11,918-foot Mount Charleston, the recreation area 45 minutes northwest of the Strip.
High above the Mojave Desert floor, amid limestone cliffs, lives a stand of fantastically gnarled bristlecone pines that rank among the world's oldest beings. "They've seen lots of weather, so they're twisted from the wind and the bark is stripped off," says Branch Whitney, a Las Vegas outdoorsman and author. "They're really dramatic looking and photogenic."
The most ancient bristlecone here, Raintree, is about 1,500 years old. It is easy to find on the North Loop Trail, 2.7 miles from the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area parking lot. The park has 51 miles of hiking trails, but a driving tour on the Mount Charleston Scenic Byway makes a fine day trip. (702) 515-5400, www.fs.fed.us/r4/htnf/districts/smnra .
Photography by Las Vegas News Bureau
This article was first published in September 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.