Running Near Bishop
Whether it’s from spectacular scenery or high mountain altitude, running in—and around—Bishop offers a breath-taking experience! You’ll also marvel at your options. Within a short drive in any direction you’ll find a huge variety of terrain from arid high desert surroundings to forested trails high alpine meadows and granite wonderlands.
With up to 10,000 feet of relief on either side of Bishop and the Owens Valley, climate and terrain is as varied as it gets. In the winter months, snow covers the mountains, sometimes all the way down to 5,000 feet or lower. These cooler temps are great for runs on the Valley floor. The Fall and Spring shoulder seasons offer access to some trails at elevation, but timing is a little unpredictable based on weather. Summer months on the Valley floor are hot—runners usually start early for their runs down low. But the good news is that the mountains are accessible and a high country run is spectacular, offering fresh breezes, sparkling streams, and stunning views.
Be sure you have enough water for your run, or the ability to filter along the way. The Eastern Sierra’s arid climate might surprise you, necessitating more water than you think. Any drinking water obtained from sources on a trail may contain Giardia (which causes moderate to severe intestinal upset) and needs to be treated.
STAYING SAFE ON YOUR RUN
With the short 10 to 30-minute drive from town to most runs, it’s easy to think that amenities are nearby, but things like cell phone service are not available on many longer trails. Plan on being self-sufficient and don’t underestimate the power of nature: sudden afternoon thunderstorms are frequent, and temps can drop suddenly as a storm approaches. Know lightning safety and carry an extra layer or waterproof shell on your run. In the mountains, if clouds are building by noon, there is a good chance of rain in the afternoon. Despite all this talk of rain, conditions are sunny most of the time—therefore a sun hat and sunscreen are also high country musts.
Looking for a run? We’ve got you covered. Below are some suggestions ranging from a short outing on the valley floor, to an afternoon on the trails in the mountains and more.
3-10 MILE RUNS
Enjoy running on the flat valley floor with mountain views for days when you run alongside the canals around Bishop. Take Line Street east to the edge of town and you’ll see the small parking lot next to the canal. Make it a short or long run—Sage To Summit provides a helpful PDF of the canal distances. Alternatively, this run takes you on the dirt roads on either side of the Owens River for a run of 7+ miles. These runs on the valley floor are good for winter and shoulder seasons, or early morning in the hot summer temps.
The Druids overlook the town of Bishop from the Southwest. A lower section of Coyote Mountain, this is a steep but fun run about 10 minutes from town. You can make it a short loop or if you’ve got time and energy, make it into a longer run.
From the intersection of Hwy 395 and 168 (the intersection of Main St. and West Line St. in downtown Bishop) drive west 1.5 miles to Barlow Lane. At Barlow Lane turn left, and drive 1.6 miles to a fork in the road and veer right on to Chipmunk Canyon Road. Drive 1.75 miles and park on the side of the road. The run begins on a dirt road heading east. Turn right at the road junction and in a few meters the road end and a trail begins. Take the trail about 1.2 miles to the iconic Druid Stones and come back down, or keep going to explore the rest of the area.
Lower Rock Creek
Another local favorite for both running and mountain biking is Lower Rock Creek. Follow this run up to Tom’s Place for an 8-mile jaunt (with a car shuttle) or turn around and head back down the way you came. This is a multi-use trail, keep an eye out for mountain bikers.
Grass Lake Loop
Here’s a quick and beautiful 3 mile loop up in the mountains when it’s just too hot down lower or you want to get some altitude training in.
10-20 MILE RUNS
The Piute Pass trail out of North Lake in Bishop Creek offers a moderate, 10+ mile out and back run in the mountains. Take Highway 168 west up into the Bishop Creek Drainage. After the town of Aspendell, you’ll turn right at the sign for North Lake. Drive slowly, this is partly a one-lane road. The parking area for the trailhead is a right turn just after the Lake. The trail is a moderate incline for the first 2.5 miles, which then somewhat levels off at Loch Leven. Continue to the pass for another 2.5 miles, take in the views of the expansive Humphreys Basin below and the mighty Humphreys Peak up high.
Another option for when the high country is covered in snow, Fish Slough on the Volcanic Tablelands offers a variety of options for runs. Here’s a great one for a Half Marathon Loop.
20+ MILE RUNS
If you’re looking to really suffer, there are miles and miles of trails to seek out either on the Valley floor or in the mountains. Here are two:
For long runs in winter months, a run on the volcanic tablelands won’t disappoint. Coming in at around 20 miles, it’s great for views and winter months when the high country is covered in snow.
In summer months, the mountains are a runners playground. Most people take 5 or 6 days to hike this one, but if you’re a ultra-running mountain machine then get after this 100K in some of Bishop’s most scenic backyard: the Evolution Lakes Loop from North Lake to South Lake.
Sage To Summit has everything you need to hit your stride in and around Bishop. Check out their Eastside Runs for more options, and stop in for any last minute needs before your run. Fuel up before or after your run at any one of our local eateries and relax those tired muscles in some hot springs.
See you on the trails!