Bishop for Kids
Treasures for Kids
Many newcomers who visit the Eastern Sierra are usually accompanied by their offspring and related cousins, buddies, etc. With this high level of energy in the travelers’ party, it is often wise to think ahead and plan your regional visit around activities youth can participate in, either with their family, or independently if they are mature enough to do so.
As most parents know, when the kids become bored, it leads to misery. And guess who suffers – that’s right – you the parent does! This article identifies some regional activities and attractions that will appeal to various youth while making it a fun and enjoyable experience for the parent(s) as well.
An Outdoor Museum
Because the Eastern Sierra is an outdoor museum of infinite recreation possibilities, the following activities are not exhaustive. Some activities, locations, ideas, and possibilities might not be mentioned or may be overlooked. Most emphasis is placed on outdoor-based activities with a group or as individuals depending on the person’s maturity. It does not include city park programs such as those in Bishop and Mammoth Lakes or special annual events. Those will be addressed in a future story.
Please send us any ideas or feedback you have and we will post them at the end of this article. Please give us activities or ideas you have tried so others may learn from your experience, or better yet, from your mistakes!
The following represents activities and attractions that appeal to youth. Features may note relevant age ranges, which generally run from about six years of age to late teens.
More information on Activities for Kids
The Museum exhibits include a variety of historic buildings saved from destruction and
preserved at this site. Each building contains exhibits of artifacts and collections as briefly
described below. The Museum buildings have been set up to represent a village surrounding
the railroad depot. With the exception of the original depot and the agent’s house, the
original village of Laws was gone by 1959, the year before the railroad shut down.
Programs for children at Inyo Council for the Arts are a high priority and activities include painting, drawing, sculpting, acting, collage and more. Teachers from the community offer classes in art and music, and special guests from outside the county make special appearances and host workshops, as well. For the latest on our upcoming children’s programs, visit our calendar page.
The City of Bishop offers many wonderful children’s activities. To find out when and where, click here.
Group and Individual Outdoor Activities
Swimming, River Floating, Paddle Boarding, Putt Putt Boating, Kayaking & Float Tubing
For water-based fun, the Eastern Sierra provides numerous opportunities for all ages to splash, wade, swim, boat and paddle around the lakes, rivers, and ponds that occupy the region. For swimmers, many alpine lakes invite summer visitors to play in their crystal clear waters. Note that the water is generally cold but it is quite common to see guests wading or swimming in the more appealing locations during the warmer summer months. June Lake Beach outside June Lake Village is an awesome place to wade or swim in and catch a “cool” vibe from the friendly folks who frequent this area. The sand’s warmth entices beachgoers to relax, build sand castles, play Frisbee, or catch a mountain tan–all within a mountain backdrop that drops your jaw to the ground!
At the base of Rainbow Falls outside Mammoth Lakes, you will find guests wading and playing in the cool waters below the falls. Note that it is 1.5 mile downhill hike to the Falls on a developed trail from Bus Stop 9 on the Devil’s Postpile Road. Guests are required to take a shuttle bus (June to September) from the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center to the Rainbow Falls Trailhead that starts at Stop 9.
A variety of self-propelled paddle boats, fishing motor boats, paddle boards, and kayaks are available to rent for adventurers looking to explore the many lakes in or around June Lake Village, Mammoth Lakes Basin, Convict Canyon, Bishop Creek Canyon, Rock Creek Canyon, Long Valley, and Diaz Lake near Lone Pine. Just outside Bishop, Buckley Ponds and the Owens River offers swimming, tubing, and kayaking options for those seeking waters a bit warmer than mountain lakes.
Hiking, Walking, Fishing, Climbing, & Frolicking
The region offers an abundance of foot based activities that generally appeals to all young ages depending on their maturity, physical stamina, and most importantly, patience.
Very easy hikes for the young ones include the historic Cardinal Mine Trail in Bishop Creek Canyon a 1 mile round trip trail through aspen groves and along Bishop Creek leads you to the famous historic Wilshire Mine (yes–Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles is his namesake). The nearby scenic South Lake Wildflower Trail is located above Parcher’s Resort adjacent the South Lake day parking lot.
Another easy hike is the historic Mill City Mill Site Trail–a short and easy ½ mile round trip hike (just outside Mammoth Lakes) to the 20 stamp mill site that churned out gold from ore dug out of Red Mountain in the late 1800’s. The trail to Devil’s Postpile Trail from Bus Stop 6 on the Postpile Road below the Mammoth Adventure Center is an easy ½ mile round trip to an unusual rock formation that inspired President Howard Taft to designate the area a national monument. Guests must take a bus to Devil’s Postpile (June to September).
As with nearby Rainbow Falls, mentioned above, guests are required to take a bus into the monument from the Adventure Center. Mono Lake’s South Tufa area offers some easy walks to shoreline limestone spires formed under the lake eons ago. The walks are on flat terrain and take a few minutes to access these lakeside sentinels from the parking area.
A trip up Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine is well worth the trip to dazzle young ones with an up close and personal view of Lone Pine Creek Waterfall. This cascading waterfall is located at the road’s end immediately above the parking area.
Fishing, an affordable family activity, provides abundant opportunities for would be anglers. Many kids of all ages may enjoy casting a line out onto a local waterway to try their luck catching a brookie, brown, rainbow, or golden. These trout species are found in many area lakes, ponds, creeks as well as the Owens River. The challenge, science, and art of this sport can intrigue youth and become a lifelong hobby. Virtually every road west of U.S. Highway 395 leads to several angling locations–clearly a lifetime of fishing opportunities. They include Lone Pine Creek/Whitney Portal, Independence and Pine Creek Drainages, Bishop and Rock Creek Drainages, Convict Lake, McGee Creek Drainage, Mammoth Lakes Basin, lakes along the June Lake Loop, and the Lundy/Virginia Lakes area north of Lee Vining.
Related fishing options for kids include Conway Ranch Fishery where kids can “Catch and Keep” Alpers Trout; Hot Creek Fish Hatchery, outside Mammoth Lakes, where visitors can learn how trout are raised and stocked in Sierra waters; and the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery (the region’s oldest!) near Independence where visitors are awed by the 1917 era English Tudor style facility originally designed to raise Golden Trout. Now primarily an educational facility, kids can feed large trout at the hatchery pond and get mesmerized as the fish frenetically compete for a free handout.
If you visit the Bishop area from fall through spring with children between 7 and 18 years of age, check out Happy Boulders–a ½ mile trail located 15 minutes outside town that leads to a world class bouldering location where older youth can try a simplified form of climbing without technical gear such as ropes and other hardware. A pad and climbing shoes are all they need to traverse or climb the hundreds of house-sized boulders that make up the area. For younger children, the boulders form a fun maze of arches, passages, and overhangs where they can explore, play hide and seek, or frolic to release some energy. It is an enchanting place that appeals young children.
With very young children, parents often look for a facility where the kids can frolic about safely without worrying about hazards that can spoil their day. The Old Schoolhouse Museum and Upside Down House in Lee Vining, the Hayden Cabin in Mammoth Lakes, the Laws Historic Site outside Bishop, and the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery and the Eastern California Museum in Independence are venues where young ones have room to roam in spacious and open outdoor settings. At the same time, parents can enjoy each location’s historic features and exhibits.
Additionally, along U.S. Highway 395, the communities of Lone Pine, Independence, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, and Lee Vining provides small community parks with playground equipment, spacious open grounds, picnic tables, and bathrooms. Have your children socially network to make some feathered friends by allowing them to feed the ducks in the Bishop City Park!
During summer, consider bringing the kids to Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center to give them (and you!) an unparalleled adrenaline rush. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has put together outdoor based recreation opportunities to focus on family friendly group adventures in their mountain bike park and around the Main Lodge. For mountain bike opportunities, see section on mountain biking below.
Additionally, the Adventure Center hosts numerous recreation facilities to expose young children to fun outdoor pursuits. A climbing wall, rising about 30 feet, gives the youngins (and even the adults!) the opportunity to strap on a harness and ropes and through an “eagle eye” guide, snake their way up the vertical monolith using various hand and foot holds. From the top, climbers can rappel down safely under the guide’s supervision. Then try the 300 ft. zip line where young children ride down a cable in a safety harness to a safe landing zone below. Your kids will be all smiles on their way down this short but exhilarating ride.
Lastly, take the kids to the top of Mammoth Mountain via the ski lift gondola. They will hold their breath as the gondola whisks you up 3,000 ft from Main Lodge to the 11,000 ft. summit where the views are mind-boggling. If the kids are mature and old enough, let them ride in their own gondola so they can be “big” kids. It is very safe and an experience they and you will not forget.
Mountain Biking, Horseback Riding, Skateboarding, & Roller Skating
Building kids’ confidence and self-assurance in outdoor pursuits is a healthy and richly rewarding experience. All too often, city youth suffer from a malady called Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Louv claims that causes for the phenomenon include parental fears, restricted access to natural areas, and the lure of the screen. Recent research has drawn a further contrast between the declining number of national park visits in the United States and increasing consumption of electronic media by children.
The Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center (mentioned above) is the nerve center for the 2,500-acre mountain bike park. Although much of the park is for intermediate and advanced riders, this past July they opened a handful of mountain bike trails around the Discovery Chair designed for all abilities. The design focus provides smooth and wide trails for families to ride mountain bikes together. It is a great way to ease into mountain biking with young or new riders! Alternatively, numerous and easy mountain bike trails are located throughout town and adjoining public lands. Bike rental shops are located in several locations throughout Mammoth Lakes. Additionally, the Owens River and public lands around Bishop provides many beginning to advanced mountain bike riding opportunities for youth and families.
In the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, excite your teens and mountain bike to locations where popular action movies such as Django Unchained, The Lone Ranger, Ironman and Transformers were filmed.
Perhaps one of the coolest Eastern Sierra activities to expose youth to is horseback riding. On top of a horse, youth can develop a sense of control and self-confidence in directing their steed along many beautiful mountain trails–all safely guided by an expert horse packer or guide. Riding a horse gives the rider a new perspective on nature that is a bit different from other self-propelled activities. You can gaze upon more stunning landscapes from a higher perch than on foot. It is a thrill worth experiencing. Safety helmets are available for youth and most pack stations require youth to be 6 years old and above in order to ride their pack stock. Pack station horses are accustomed to carrying people and with decades of handling pack horses, it is a safe and wonderful experience. Pack stations are located in most canyons west of U.S. Highway 395 between Lone Pine and June Lake Village, making them easy to reach by car. It is recommended that you call in advance to check availability. A handful of pack station operators conduct winter horseback rides in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, the Tungsten Hills outside Bishop, and on a private ranch in Round Valley.
For youth interested in skateboarding, tear it up in the twists, turns, bowls, and ramps at Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, and Lone Pine’s skateboard parks. These parks are state of the art facilities–designed by skateboard experts to give participants a fabulous time. Safety helmets and appropriate safety equipment are required.
Additionally, Mammoth Lakes has a 17,000 square foot roller rink for those interested in roller or inline skating at this hip outdoor venue. Safety equipment is strongly recommended. Contact the facility for further information.
Hunting Treasure! – Geocaching, Gem & Mineral Collecting, & Gold Panning
When you have seen the glam spots and are ready to deepen your game, consider exposing your kids and your “inner child” to treasure hunting sports such as geocaching, gold panning, and gem/mineral collecting. Fun, adventurous, and thrilling are only a few words to describe these outdoor pastimes. Imagine finding hidden treasures with the kids near creeks, along roads less traveled, or in semi-primitive spots along the Eastern Sierra. Once you try these sports, you and the kids will be drawn into these hobbies for the rest of your lives!
First, geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt where participants try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS unit and then share their experiences online. Years ago, you would use a map and compass to find items hidden in various locations. With today’s technology, electronic devices have replaced these common Boy Scout tools creating mass appeal unlike any other. Geocache containers contain small objects where you trade a personal item for something in the geocache box. Most times they are simple inexpensive items like key chains, magnets, toys, etc.
You can find many unique or unusual things in a geocache box–making each find a distinct surprise and experience. Believe it or not, the sport has gotten so popular that there are over 1.85 million hidden geocaches worldwide with over 5 million people who participate in the sport. There are hundreds if not thousands of hidden geocaches throughout the Eastern Sierra region including one at the Bishop Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center. Numerous geocache boxes are also located at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for those who want to check out this fabulous location. Look into www.geocaching.com for more information about the sport and geocache locations in the Eastern Sierra.
Secondly, gold panning has become increasingly popular over the years. Find out how miners in the mid-1800s eked out a living looking for gold nuggets. A simple outdoor sport, consisting of a gold pan and a shovel, some amateur prospectors have had some luck finding flecks of gold at Dog Creek south of Bridgeport and at Bodie Creek near the California-Nevada state border just east of Bodie State Park. You can purchase gold pans from Bishop’s sporting good stores. For further information, check out the gold panning instructional video at www.goldfeverprospecting.com.
Finally, a variety of gemstones and mineral specimens can be hunted down in numerous locations along the Eastern Sierra and White Mountains. Mineral specimens such as scheelite (aka tungsten) can be found outside Bishop; under a black light they cast a unique and ethereal glow. Obsidian, used by Native Americans to make weapons, is also readily available in select locales. Small quartz crystals, invertebrate fossils, and other interesting rock specimens are also popular collectors’ items and retrievable from the area’s public lands. Before collecting or gathering, check with the land agency to determine if it is legal to collect. Take only 1 or 2 samples of each piece instead of lugging out many specimens in order to leave some treasure for others to experience. For additional information about area opportunities and better yet, attend a club outing to look for specimens by contacting the Lone Pine Gem and Mineral Society through their website at lpgms.org. Note area mine shafts and tunnels contain numerous hazards that can lead to accidents and fatalities — so stay outside of them.
Winter Adventures – Skiing, Snowboarding, Sledding, Snow Tubing, Snowshoeing, & Ice Skating
Once winter sets into the Eastern Sierra, snow related delights await kids in several venues located at Mammoth Lakes and June Lake Village. Alpine skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and June Mountain provides a wide range of terrain and opportunity for children as young as 3 and 4 years old to get lessons from experienced ski instructors.
Cross-country skiing is a very easy and less expensive way to expose children to skiing. Rental gear can be obtained from numerous ski shops located in Mammoth Lakes and Bishop as well. Many locations in the East Sierra provide some easy and diverse opportunities and include Bishop Creek Canyon outside Bishop, Rock Creek Canyon near Crowley Lake, the Mammoth Lakes Basin and Shady Rest Campground outside Mammoth Lakes, and the Obsidian Dome Cross Country Ski Area near June Lake Village.
Other snow related adventures include sledding and snow tubing. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area operates a commercial sledding/snow tubing facility just below Main Lodge along the Minaret Road. A short rope tow will whisk participants up an easy slope to the top of the sled run to make your experience more enjoyable. The groomed runs below provide a safe and thrilling ride for kids.
Take your Flexible Flyer, tube, or snow saucer and find a hill to slide down at a handful of noncommercial sledding and tubing locations just outside Mammoth Lakes on national forest land. Just head out from Minaret Road to the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop Road for a handful of snow play locations. There is also a short hill commonly used by tubers and sledders a few miles below Obsidian Dome Cross Country Ski Area on the west side of U.S. Highway 395. When there is plentiful snowfall, Intake Two in Bishop Creek Canyon outside Bishop is another scenic winter spot to bring your toboggans, tubes, or sleds.
When you look for a place to sled, see if others are successfully sledding in the area, stay away from trees and roads, and avoid the steep stuff. Ice Skating, another popular winter sport, is a great alternative activity to supplement skiing and sledding. The Mammoth Ice Rink is an outdoor facility located in the Mammoth Lakes community. It offers public skating sessions, hockey clinics, pick-up hockey, lessons, and special events. Amenities include skate sharpening, skate rentals, snack and beverage services. Kids 4 and under must skate with an adult, and children 10 & under must be supervised by an adult at all times.
The Eastern Sierra contains many outdoor-based recreation activities that excite and fulfill kids’ needs to have fun and keep busy. From traditional sports such as hiking and alpine skiing to the technological such as geocaching, this range of opportunities will fulfill any deep-seated child’s need for adventure and excitement. This article gives parents diverse and abundant choices to consider in planning their Eastern Sierra trip. There are many other outdoor sport activities such as photography, dog sledding, snowmobiling and other motor touring possibilities for older and mature kids. For additional information when you plan your trip, contact each community’s chamber of commerce, welcome center, or tourism office. Please feel free to provide feedback about the article or your experiences with children during your travels.