Photo: Madi Taylor
“Miles weren’t things that blazed dully past. They were long, intimate straggles of weeds and clumps of dirt, blades of grass and flowers that bent in the wind, trees that lumbered and screeched. They were the sound of my breath and my feet hitting the trail one step at a time and the click of my ski pole. The PCT had taught me what a mile was. I was humble before each and every one.” ~Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
For those who walk all or some of the wild Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and John Muir Trail (JMT) that thread through the trees, over the rocks, around lakes, across streams, and surmount the high passes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains the journey always provides something special and wonderful for each person.
Bishop, California is the iconic, authentic western American town that provides a necessary and welcome respite to the long miles. Energetic adventurers can begin or end a high sierra adventure here. Weary hikers can pause along their journey of discovery to find refreshment in so many forms.
Located in the heart of the Eastern Sierra, Bishop’s proximity to numerous trailheads and extensive options for resupply make this the perfect high sierra haven. Whether through-hiking or section-hiking, on a shoestring budget or access to ready funds, going solo or in a group or in need of a guide – Bishop has a broad range of businesses that can accommodate all who tread these trails.
If you really want a comfortable bed in a room of your own and a soak in a bathtub, or you’re quite happy to pitch your tent in a town campground with access to clean ablutions, or something in between – well then take your pick. Enjoy the hubbub of the hostel or quiet calm of a well-appointed B&B. There really is something for everyone here.
Bishop boasts 21 fine lodging establishments with well-known brands like, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Best Western and Super 8 conveniently located on Main Street. The list includes boutique-style lodgings from the newly renovated Creekside Inn, which claims “#1 hotel in Bishop on TripAdvisor” and offers complimentary hot, buffet breakfast and free WiFi. Then there’s The Hostel California that declares itself to be “the most badass accommodation” for hikers and climbers.
You began this journey to hike and camp and experience the great outdoors. Well just because you need to make a brief foray into town to resupply doesn’t mean you have to have to remove yourself completely from the natural world. Bishop has an excellent range of camping options from dispersed camping and serviced campgrounds near trailheads to full service commercial campgrounds in town. Now, with daily shuttle service by Eastern Sierra Transit to South Lake, Lake Sabrina and points in between, there’s never been a better time to plan your trail exits and entry according to the daily shuttle schedule or to set your camp in the mountains and grab a ride to and from town for the day.
2. Food & Drink
Bishop locals are pretty proud of the culinary prowess of our local restaurateurs and guests of our lovely little town will find themselves spoiled for choice. A good many of the restaurants unique to Bishop are owned and operated by local residents who attempt to source as much organic and locally produced ingredients as possible. Dishes are often made from scratch with house-made sauces and freshly baked breads. Local eggs are a feature in some of the smaller locales.
Within the one mile of downtown Main Street, accessible and acceptable in flip-flops, there are cafés, bars, fast-food joints and restaurants that will satisfy an appetite even as hearty as a high sierra hiker’s. There are brewers and bakers and great burger makers. There is sushi and pizza and oodles of noodles. Check out this review of good food in Bishop.
Plus … where there’s food there’s drink. So eat, drink and be merry in your most responsible manner. After all – you do have to hit trail again. Beer, wine, and cocktails are served to adults 21 and over at these local bars: Bishop Country Club, McMurry’s Sports Bar, Mountain Rambler Brewery, Rusty’s Saloon, Whiskey Creek Pub, and Yamatani Restaurant Bar. Many restaurants serve a variety of alcohol with meals.
3. Groceries & Gear
Along the trail you consumed the consumables and it’s possible you might have lost or broken some gear. Perhaps you’ve discovered there’s something more you need or learned of something new that you just gotta have.
Bishop has a fantastic mix of retailers who supply all the latest gear, like Eastside Sports and Sage to Summit, where the folks who own and run these stores eat, sleep and breath these mountains. You won’t find more knowledgeable folks anywhere else. They also carry edibles made for trekking to fill your pack with the energy needed on the trail.
For a thrifty purchase peruse the used merchandise at the gear exchange and local thrift stores. Kmart is a great option for an inexpensive replacement. If you’re fishing in the high country and need to restock your tackle box pop into Reagan’s Sporting Goods.
Fresh and packaged food, drinks, cosmetics, supplements, and cleaning supplies for both on and off the trail are readily available at Joseph’s Bi-Rite Market, Manor Market, Smart & Final, and Vons. Each has its own flair and flavor and many excellent choices of fresh and prepared organic foods. Take a look at this list of retail stores on the Bishop Chamber of Commerce website.
4. Leisure & Entertainment
Now while you’re in the rest, refuel, and regroup (R, R, & R) mode why not recharge with a little off-trail entertainment?
It’s a long, hot summer in the Owens Valley and there’s no better place than in the water. The Bishop City Park Pool is the heart of Bishop Park. Public swim times are Tues – Fri: 1:00 – 4:45, and Sat & Sun: 1:00 – 5:00. Adult swim price is a sweet $6. There’s also Keough’s Hot Springs a few miles south of Bishop where a hot soak can ease the tensions of the trail and restore your aching muscles. The pools are naturally fed, flow-through mineral baths and other amenities include a snack bar, massage therapy, and picnic area.
More restorative activities available in town include yoga, Pilates, and spa treatments. Feature films and movie-house popcorn at Bishop Twin Theatre are another great cure for trail fatigue. If you’d a like a little more vigorous activity how about a session on the lanes? Back Alley Bowling is a cool place for great afternoon or evening indoors.
There’s often lots of lively music, a DJ or live band, at a local bar or brewery. Summertime in Bishop Park is regularly full of fun with arts and crafts fairs, and classical music evenings every Monday at 8pm by the Bishop Community Band. July 4th is the “Big Day in the Park” with free pool access and volleyball and Bocce fun. There’s free watermelon, and pie & ice cream, and DJ sounds to get ya groovin’. Fireworks at Bishop Airport are a community highlight and can be seen from just about everywhere in town.
If your R, R & R in Bishop has you here near the end of July you may be moved to pay it forward to our wounded warriors. The Eastern Sierra Music Festival is so much more than a weekend filled with fantastic music. It is a benefit festival for the National Wounded Warrior Center to be established right here in the Eastern Sierra. Check out this year’s line up and dates and perhaps plan your miles to hike here in time for this awesome event.
There are museums, galleries and a marvelous independent bookstore. As if you didn’t need any more inspiration to hike the range of light, go see Mountain Light Gallery, the home of the late Galen Rowell’s incredible images. If you don’t know Galen Rowell – you should. It behooves you, as a high sierra trekker, to see his work and know this man’s legacy. Then, just next door, pop into Spellbinder Books and pick up a used soft cover, trail guide or map to keep you on track and inspirit.
Okay, one other spot you may get a kick out of is the Laws Railroad Museum. This is not just another theme park – it’s the real deal. Many original buildings, train engines and cars, salvaged and restored structures, and thousands of artifacts celebrate the rich history of this railroad in the region. Summer train rides on the old Death Valley Brill Car No. 5 are quite a thrill for adults too. See the summer ride schedule here.
5. Services & Assistance
Most of what’s listed above is within the 2 square miles of downtown Bishop. A stroll up and down Main Street will take you past stores, restaurants, lodging facilities, the movie theatre, cafés, bakeries, wine bars and brewery and into the City Park. A short walk along a side street will get you to the Bishop Library – where computer access is free and a good read in a comfy chair is an afternoon luxury. Laundry services and showers are also available from local businesses in the downtown area.
What’s even better is that there’s no need to keep to a limited locale. Eastern Sierra Transit’s Dial-a-Ride bus is at your service to take you to just about anywhere in town and a few places out of town. Don’t forget that this year there’s daily shuttle service up Bishop Creek Canyon where many trailheads are located.
All those miles of hiking might have given you a desire to go biking. The Eastside Bike Share program is super way to get around and see some sights while keeping your fitness up for the miles of trail ahead. The program is managed through the Zagster app and it’s quick and easy to join and go.
First time hikers who want or need a little know-how, get a guide and let them show-how. You’ll have to do the leg work out there on the trail, but they can get you going and show you a world you might have only ever dreamed of. Sierra Mountain Center and Sierra Mountain Guides have superior reputations for great alpine guide services in the Eastern Sierra.
Hopefully you’ve stayed well and uninjured on the trail, but if you’re in need of medical care Northern Inyo Hospital has an excellent emergency unit with access to state-of-the-art equipment for everything from minor to serious conditions.
Talk to Us
Whether you’re planning a hike, through or section, or stopping for resupply in Bishop call or come into the Bishop Visitor Bureau at 690 N. Main St., (760) 873-8406, and chat with our knowledgeable staff. We have maps, guides, literature and connections 🙂 to make sure your high sierra trail adventure is all that you imaged and more.
Finally, please tread lightly along our wilderness trails. Stop in at the Ranger Station at 798 N. Main St. for permits, bear canisters, and loads of good advice. On the trail be bear aware, pack out waste, leave a clean campsite and never feed wild animals.
“Peace is in every step.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh