Elevation: 11,503 ft to 12,152 ft
Elevation Gain: 649 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: On leash, wilderness
Date Hiked: 18 June 2009
The Pesman trail wanders through a Bristlecone Pine forest but also has stunning views of the open tundra.
The Pesman Trail, sometimes called the Mount Goliath Trail, is a fascinating walk amongst the oldest living trees on earth, the Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata). The trail starts at the Dos Chappell Nature Center located 3 miles up from the Mt. Evan's fee station. A Federal lands pass ($80.00/yr) will now get you in. There is plenty of parking, a bathroom, and an interpretive forest ranger on duty to answer all your questions. At noon the Ranger on duty leads a 45 minute interpretive walk through the alpine gardens adjacent to the Nature Center.
The beginning of the trail, while packed dirt, does ascend 500 or more feet in a short series of switch backs.
The trail gains most of its 642 ft in the first half mile. Since it starts above 11,000 ft, this means lung-sucking distress for most of us. The trail has the advantage, however, of being relatively smooth with only occasional rocky portions. Quite a rarity in Colorado.
Besides wandering through a square mile of Bristlecone Pines, the trail also traverses a broad ridge with distant views, tundra flowers, and towering boulders. It really is incredibly scenic. I kept expecting a herd of Mt. Evan's resident Mountain Goats to come trotting into view.
Looking west. The two peaks on the far right of the picture are Chief Mountain and Squaw Mountain.
The trail ends at a picnic area on Mt. Evan's Road. I almost did not go all the way because I had already climbed most of the way up Mt. Sniktau earlier that morning and was really feeling the altitude, but I am glad I did. From the terminus of the trail, there are incredible views of the Continental Divide to the west. There is also a short Alpine Garden Trail in the area, which later in the season is filled with low-lying but flowering tundra plants.
Near the upper trailhead is the intersection with the Alpine Garden Trail. There are also great views of the Continental Divide.
If one has two cars, then making the Pesman Trail a shuttle hike would be possible either heading up for maximum cardiovascular distress, or heading down for an easier outing. This trail is a great way to spend time above treeline without having to scale thousands of feet in elevation gain. The views are well worth the effort and seeing the Bristlecone Pines is a rare treat.