A few issues ago, we documented our trip through Central Nevada en route to last summer's Bonneville Speed Trials. The patch of asphalt that we chose to cross the border from the Golden State to the Silver State really stuck out. California 168 braches off of US-395 in Big Pine and heads east. In less than 15 miles it rises about 4,000 feet in elevation. It starts as a mostly straight incline and eventually becomes a twisty, flowing ribbon or "a drizzle of chocolate on an ice cream sundae," as I once heard it described.
You might picture a winter wonderland transformation like most western mountain ranges, but here in the White Mountains, it's a little different. The Whites (and their southern neighbors, the Inyos) are in the snow shadow of the Sierra Nevada and so are one of the driest places on the planet. So while there are pine trees as well as other vegetation up here, it's much more of a desolate desert vibe. These unique conditions are perfect to grow some of the most unique and ancient trees on the planet: the bristlecone pines.
There's a turnoff 13 miles up 168 (White Mountain Road) that leads to a campground and the bristlecones themselves. With some specimens over 4,000 years old, they are the oldest living things on the planet. Due to their hardy nature, even the dead ones stick around for a while, and walking among them is like walking in nature's museum. If you take the turnoff, beware that there are some sections of gravel on the way to the trees.
After passing the crest of the mountains, the road becomes straighter but still very scenic for the rest of the 37 miles to the end. Though technically still in California, both of the forks lead into Nevada. Left (north) leads to US-6, which can either take you east to Tonopah or west back over the mountains to California. Right (NV-266) will get you out to Lida Junction and the former site of the Cottontail Ranch, one of Nevada's legal brothels until it closed in 2004. Lida is the junction of US-95, which can take you down into Las Vegas or Death Valley via NV-374.
US-395 and CA-168 in Big Pine
GPS: Lat 3710'24"N, Long 11817'26"W
White Mountain Road turnoff
GPS: Lat 3716'56"N, Long 1189'05"W
End:CA-168 and Star Road
GPS: Lat 3729'12"N, Long 11754'45"W