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Bishop Visitor's Center

The small town of Bishop, California is nestled in the northern end of the Owens Valley, where the high desert meets rushing creeks and pine forests—all with the snow-capped Sierra Mountains in the background. Bishop is also located just hours away from two of the most iconic national parks in the country (Death Valley and Yosemite), which means that outdoor opportunities around here are pretty much endless. After all, there’s a reason that conservationists like John Muir and Ansel Adams spent so much time exploring the wild lands of Inyo County.

Whether you decide to use Bishop as a basecamp or as a destination on its own, you won’t be disappointed with your options. With so many choices to sort through, we created this list of eight of the best adventures in the area to help you plan your next adventure to the Sierra. But fair warning: once you start dreaming about the wilderness here, you might find it difficult to go anywhere else!

 

1. The Town of Bishop

Bishop is a fun, historic town to visit any time of year! Amy Leist
Bishop is a fun, historic town to visit any time of year!
Amy Leist

Even though the Sierra Mountains are right there, Bishop has surprisingly mild winters and fairly warm summers, making it the perfect year-round destination if you like to be outdoors. But if you’re coming to Bishop with a history buff or the kids (or a kid at heart), make sure you spend some time in town, too.

Just a few miles north off U.S. 6, head over to the Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site. You might be surprised to find that it’s not just a regular ol’ train museum—the spot was once a small town built around the Laws Railroad depot. Today, the site celebrates the importance of the railroad to the area, and you can actually ride a Death Valley Railroad car from 1927, ring the bell in Engine #9, and explore the original 1883 train depot.

Go even further back in time with a visit to the Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center and learn about the Nuumu (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone), descendants of the Nu-Mu, who were the first people to live in the valley. After taking in the cultural displays and artifacts, take a relaxing walk through the Native Garden and trek along the trail through the Conservation Open Space Area. Check out the gift shop before you leave and pick up a couple souvenirs made by local artisans.

2. John Muir Wilderness

Jump on the John Muir Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or spend some time exploring the expansive John Muir Wilderness itself.
Jump on the John Muir Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or spend some time exploring the expansive John Muir Wilderness itself.

Miguel Vieira

John Muir dedicated his life to protecting the wilderness in the Sierra Nevada. Lucky for us, not much has changed since the days that Mr. Muir himself wandered along the trails through deep canyons and wildflower-filled meadows. The 215-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) is one of the best ways to explore all this wilderness area has to offer, and is a wonderful opportunity to “enjoy every mile, every meal, and every vista” as the locals do. About 100 of these miles wind through the Sierra, with a handful of trailheads within 30 minutes of downtown Bishop. Have your camera ready to capture the views of the 13,000-foot peaks and turquoise-colored alpine lakes as you follow in Muir’s footsteps.

Note: The is the second most-visited wilderness in the United States, so make sure to get your permit for backcountry camping trips.

3. Ansel Adams Wilderness

If you’ve ever seen photos taken by Ansel Adams, you’ll understand why this natural area was renamed in his honor.
If you’ve ever seen photos taken by Ansel Adams, you’ll understand why this natural area was renamed in his honor.

Jeff P

If you go far enough north on the John Muir Trail, you’ll hit the Ansel Adams Wilderness, smack dab in-between Bishop and Yosemite. But don’t worry, you don’t have to hike your way in from Bishop—most people get to the 349 miles of trails here from the Devils Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes. This area has some of the most scenic sections along the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails, and if you have a couple of days, head to the Alger Lakes area. If you are one of the few hikers to take on this challenging trek, you’ll be rewarded with postcard-worthy High Sierra views of alpine lakes, mountains stretching on as far as the eye can see, and wide-open meadows filled with wildflowers.

Note: You’ll need a wilderness permit if you plan to spend the night out there.

4.Mount Whitney

The Supermoon behind Mt. Whitney. Mike Shaw
The Supermoon behind Mt. Whitney.
Mike Shaw

No trip to the Bishop region of California is complete without at least a glimpse of the tallest summit in the contiguous United States. Standing tall at 14,505 feet above sea level with 10,075 feet of prominence from the valley below, the trailhead for this majestic peak is an hour and 20 minutes south of Bishop, near the town of Lone Pine. It’s about a 20-mile round-trip hike to the top, with more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain along the way. This challenging trip is definitely worth it for the bragging rights of topping out the highest peak in the Lower 48 (and the views of the surrounding landscape are jsut as impressive as you’d imagine).

The best viewpoint for seeing Mount Whitney without having to hike is through the Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills, just west of Lone Pine.

Note: A permit is required to hike Mt. Whitney. To get one, you’ll need to apply through a lottery system, which accepts applications from February 1 through March 15.

5. Buttermilk Country

Climbers come from all around the world to go to the Buttermilk Boulders.
Climbers come from all around the world to go to the Buttermilk Boulders.

Mark Doliner

Known for its world-class bouldering, the rocks found in Buttermilk Country are home to some of the boldest and most technical routes in California. It’s just a short, seven-mile drive from the town of Bishop to get on some of the most aesthetic lines in the world, all in the shadow of the Sierra Mountains. With epic trail running loops, miles of mountain biking trails, and even a four-wheel drive roads past Buttermilk Road, this area is a playground for outdoor adventurers.

6. Bishop Creek Canyon

There is no shortage of beauty in and around Bishop, CA.
There is no shortage of beauty in and around Bishop, CA.

Scott.Keelin

Southwest of Bishop, the 18-mile drive along Highway 168 into Bishop Creek Canyon is one of the best ways to spot fall colors in the entire state of California. That being said, Bishop Creek is a great side trip no matter the season. Whether you head to North Lake, South Lake, or Lake Sabrina, the road itself is a scenic day trip, but we highly recommend getting out and hiking around to truly experience what the canyon has to offer. If you only have a couple hours, head to Lamarck Lakes from North Lake (about 4.5 miles round-trip to the Lower Lamarck Lake, or 5.8 miles roundtrip to the Upper Lamarck Lake). The lakes are surrounded by sheer cliffs and rugged peaks, and the trail includes some creek crossings and plenty of colorful wildflowers in the early season.

7. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a must-see, especially at sunset.
The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is a must-see, especially at sunset.

Chao Yen

It may come as a surprise to some, but the oldest trees in the world are found just 38 miles from the town of Bishop. All it takes is a short and easy hike up the slopes of the White Mountains to see the 4,000-year old ancient bristlecone pines. The road to get there is a bit windy and steep, but once you arrive at the parking area, the majesty of the region becomes evident as you see the first of these ancient trees. This is a must stop for amazing sunset photos, when the multi-millennia wood casts their unique and twisted shadows.

Note: White Mountain Road is closed in the winter. This area is also remote, with no water, fuel, or cell reception, so be sure to plan accordingly when you do visit in the summer or spring.

 

8. Treasure Lakes

This 5+ mile hike is a great way to get a taste of what Bishop has to offer.
This 5+ mile hike is a great way to get a taste of what Bishop has to offer.

Jeff P

Twenty-one miles from town, a 5.3-mile hike to Treasure Lakes is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. The trail to the lakes is well-maintained, a little steep, and worth every foot of elevation gained. Passing through fields full of granite boulders and weaving through forests and near streams, this trail is the perfect introduction to the wilderness in the Bishop area. In the spring, this is hands down one of the best backcountry ski routes in the Sierra. Amidst summer wildflowers and fall colors, this trail is absolutely breathtaking and will inspire you to explore even more of the greater Bishop region.

Originally written by RootsRated for Bishop Visitor Center.

Featured image provided by John and Jean Strother

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3 days ago

Heading into the weekend dreaming of backcountry lakes... which is your favorite?
#DreamNowVisitLater #KeepBishopSafe
Thank you Instagram user @kimonlhi for this spectacular shot!!
... See MoreSee Less

Heading into the weekend dreaming of backcountry lakes... which is your favorite? 
#DreamNowVisitLater #KeepBishopSafe
Thank you Instagram user @kimonlhi for this spectacular shot!!

Comment on Facebook Heading into the ...

Would have guessed Split Mtn, but have only flown over these mountains twice.

Too many to choose, the higher and more remote the better

Saddle Bag Lake. ❤️

Blue lake! The best, at least I know of~!!!

I need a good-looking tour guide(male) to show me around on my next visit. 😉🐈😷

So beautiful. I miss being up there.

Mt. Aggasisz? I probably butchered that spelling.

Blue Lake

Blue lake❣

Sabrina

Dorothy Lake

Horton Lake

Dorothy and Mildred

Beautiful

Beautiful

Upper Lamarck

Beautiful

That’s beautiful.

Nice 👍

Ruwau Lake, Tyee Lakes, upper Lamark lake, Blue lake, & Little Lakes Valley.

Terra Rankin

Lake.

Any part of Bishop is fine, I JUST WANT TO BE THERE TO ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE! 😀❤️😄💙

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4 days ago

Our friends at Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association welcome everyone to stop by for in-person visitor service plus a great selection of area maps, books and more. They do a great job of helping our guests recreate responsibly!Thanks ESIA for providing helpful information and advice to visitors on responsible recreation in our region! ... See MoreSee Less

Our friends at Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association welcome everyone to stop by for in-person visitor service plus a great selection of area maps, books and more.  They do a great job of helping our guests recreate responsibly!

5 days ago

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals (Oxford Dictionary)
We are grateful to our COMMUNITY locally and afar, for loving and supporting BISHOP and Inyo County. ❤️

Here is a little glimpse of how our community has pulled together over the past few months:
www.bishopvisitor.com/eastern-sierra-covid-stories/
... See MoreSee Less

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals (Oxford Dictionary)
We are grateful to our COMMUNITY locally and afar, for loving and supporting BISHOP and Inyo County.  ❤️

Here is a little glimpse of how our community has pulled together over the past few months:
https://www.bishopvisitor.com/eastern-sierra-covid-stories/

Comment on Facebook Community: a feeling...

The community stories are wonderful

The big deal when I was growing up was going to the Tri-County Fair rodeo, taking in a movie, and having dinner...all over Labor Day. Then there were the trips from Mammoth to Bishop to go to the grocery store, topped off by a stop at Schatz for sandwiches and to buy bread. What a wonderful place!!!

Used to watch movies at this theater back in the early 70's. Great memories wonderful town. I visit just about every year and enjoy the old school vibe. My parents started AYSO soccer in Bishop. I used to bicycle down the street as a kid, drop a fishing line and pull out lots of trout.

No Bishop does not need a Walmart mart or another supposed better grocery store. We do not have the people to work them. Plus we have new buildings that weren't supposed to be built and a whole mess of empty buildings. We want to keep it a small town feel.

I was sorry to hear that the JC Penny store closed there. I used to work there when I lived in Cali. I had the most wonderful coworkers and the best boss ever!!! Bishop will live on in my heart forever.

Remember Jill Kenmont👍👍

Great little town Bishop is, leave it alone. My mom graduated from Bishop High school, we went to Bishop many years for Christmas with my Grandparents

I was born in Bishop and moved out around 1990. I've moved all over California since then, and no matter where I moved to I always wanted to go back. Some day... Maybe when my kids are all grown and out of the house I'll take my wife and dogs and move back...

Great town. can't wait to come visit when things calm down. Missed Mule days and our family reunion at the lodge but we will be back

Looking forward to visiting as soon and we can! We love Bishop!

Love Bishop! Just passed thru Monday on the way back from Yosemite!

Bishop is in one of the most beautiful settings on Earth. The eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley will persevere.

I love that Bishop is a smaller town. It part id it s charm for visitors. Needed some items last trip , found them in town and what friendly people !! And you should fit your town , not always for the town to fit you.

3 yrs ago we just started driving , landed in Bishop, stayed several days, just loved that trip, no fish but who cares .... 😍🎣🚗💨💨

best town in California

We believe in Bishop. Stay well. <3

Between 1934 and 1939, I spent some Saturday afternoons watching movies at the theatre in Bishop - think the Hollands owned it then - one of the Holland boys was in my elementary school grade. Best wishes to all.

Bishop is fine the way it is.

Please don't change! I love you the way you are!!

We would like to keep it that way, but there are a lot of people coming into the area now who are leaving their trash on the ground & putting graffiti on any available surface. Do that S... at home, not in our town.

You have no idea how badly I need to visit You Bishop.

Saw it has been 100 degrees up there.

Play my brother Danny scene Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at that theater years and years ago

Lived here in the early 80’s

Soon as possible.

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6 days ago

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Comment on Facebook 1451682461820094_2725270674461260

Love Bishop been there a couple times I can’t wait till I go back to visit 😊👍

love bishop

Was there many times.

Live there and love it

Love Bishop!

Love Bishop.

wish I still lived there

I’m a Hoosier that loves to visit Bishop!

Love Bishop too!

Gateway to heaven or as close as you can get

Been in bishop twice. ❤️ both times

It's beautiful, clean, but, to darn hot 😎😎😎😎

Love Bishop. Born and raise there

My home town

Does anyone know if they are having the car show in October this year?

we just move out here and we need a store to buy home stuff like target or even walmart 😤😫

Be there on 22sd for a week of camping and fishing creekside RV park

Is the KMart there out of business?

Make this a sticker for purchase.

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1 week ago

Bishop’s beauty continues to amaze us. 😍

#keepbishopsafe!! Thank you!!

Photo by Sean B Plunkett
... See MoreSee Less

Bishop’s beauty continues to amaze us. 😍

#keepbishopsafe!! Thank you!!

Photo by Sean B Plunkett

Comment on Facebook Bishop’s beauty ...

So beautiful. Love Bishop and miss it so much.

Gorgeous photo! Stay safe my friends! We hope to see you in 2021!

So beautiful, love your site 🙂🙂❤❤

So beautiful. A field of Lupins.

Beautiful only 108 degrees

So Gorgeous! 😍

Beautiful!

Gorgeous!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Absolutely beautiful

Love the flowers...but need to get rid tourists...we have followed all the rules..NO TRAVELING..NOT YET...but are counties get more C-19..please leave and take your 🗑 with you

Awesome!!! Sean plunkett

Very beautiful picture

Pretty Hot right now but Beautiful ❣️

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful.

What plant is this?

Andrew Peterson

Eileen Stephens

So beautiful

Beautiful picture

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