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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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7 days ago

We are buried in smoke again today, so we thought it would be fun to share a little about how the names of some of the towns in the Eastern Sierra came about. Thank you, California High Sierra for the article!
californiahighsierra.com/trips/california-high-sierra-towns-the-origin-of-their-names/
Photo by Amy Leist
... See MoreSee Less

We are buried in smoke again today, so we thought it would be fun to share a little about how the names of some of the towns in the Eastern Sierra came about. Thank you, California High Sierra for the article!
https://californiahighsierra.com/trips/california-high-sierra-towns-the-origin-of-their-names/
Photo by Amy Leist

Comment on Facebook

Wow... been a good long while since I’ve been to Bishop. Their high school team was in our league (I went to Tehachapi High) and we traveled there for some football games — something like a 5-6 hour drive each way if I recall correctly. A tough team to beat also. I’m betting it hasn’t changed all that much over all these years (circa late ‘60s).

I'm so sorry the smoke is bad there still. I missed my annual visit this year. It's on my to do list for next year.

We can see it over the Spring Mountains to the West/NW here in Las Vegas. Fortunately, not much of it made it into the LV valley.

Would LOVE to move there if my hubby can find a job nearby!

We left this morning. Not only is it very smokey the smell of smoke is incredible. I don't smoke and I was ready to light up.

Nice photo. That's the real West.

Miss Bishop, Lone Pine, Big Pine, Tinnamaha campground!!!!

No, that is where the theater and Joseph’s used to be. Joseph’s has been gone for some time now. Penny’s is now Dollar General. Unfortunately a lot of vacant stores. Hi Kent!❤️

Hello and good morning. I am planning to drive up to Bishop from Southern California. The main purpose is to see fall colors. May I know if the fall colors are still at peak this coming next two weeks or is it past peak? Thank you for your advice/suggestions.

We were just there.😔

We have to leave too, I almost threw up it was so bad, got to Lee Vining and blue fresh air..take care of yourselves

so sorry for the smoke crazy time for all this year.

I spent a week here and didn't get to see the beauty through the smoke 😏

When was this picture taken, Sunday at 6 am ? never seen it this quiet.

Awesome pic! I wish a Main Street business had a rooftop deck so you can eat with that exact same view!

No smoke in the photo. ??

Is this an old photo? Joseph’s market was the only market back when we lived in Bishop in 1969.

It’s still Smokey? Where is the smoke coming from ?

Beautiful town

I always love to go threw Bishop.

Went thru Bishop yesterday, it was terribly Smokey 😪💚

I wish it was still small !

Does bishop still have a jack in the box

My favorite place ❤️

Isnt that the Old JC Penney store?

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1 week ago

Wonder if this little sheep was as grateful as we were for a view of the mountains this morning??!! Happy Friday! From Bishop, with love ❤️
#keepbishopsafe #mttom
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Wonder if this little sheep was as grateful as we were for a view of the mountains this morning??!! Happy Friday! From Bishop, with love ❤️
#keepbishopsafe #mttom

Comment on Facebook

Wonderful vacation destination

And a free thinker! This is Good!

🙏praying that it stays like this 💖

I miss Bishop so much and living there too 😢😉❤️

This is one of my favorite places to take pictures when I lived in Bishop. There’s many more.

Sigh. Bishop. Love it.

See you next week little sheep

We loved our visit to Bishop

Miss bishop fun times there

Nice!!!

Oh how I love that view

It was beautiful

Love Bishop

👍

Need snow on them things!

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2 weeks ago

In case you are wondering what roads and campgrounds are open, here is the latest, as of yesterday, October 14th:
www.sierrawave.net/state-of-inyo-roads-and-campgrounds-whats-open-closed-oct-14
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In case you are wondering what roads and campgrounds are open, here is the latest, as of yesterday, October 14th:
https://www.sierrawave.net/state-of-inyo-roads-and-campgrounds-whats-open-closed-oct-14

Comment on Facebook

I've been on that same road every year at this time...

It sure was smoky today.

Still hazy there.😥

I love the West.

Beautiful picture thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

We always used to stay at Brown’s Millpond Campground just north of Bishop. Very nice private campground with a stream running through it. So many wonderful memories from Mule Days!

Up her for 4 day little smoke but really nice trees turning colors

It's the hunting and fishing Road 🏞️🎣🏕️🌌🤠🥰

Love Bishop and the surrounding mountains !!!

Hwy 168 going to Lake Sabrina, North and South lakes?

With I was there.

maybe next weekend any hotel suggestions?

Johanna Atwell

GOD HOW I WISH I WAS ON THAT ROAD... CAREFREE HIWAY...

Lots of nice smoke.....

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2 weeks ago

The Eastern Sierra Cancer Alliance is hosting a virtual 5K walk and fun run this year!!! Going on NOW!! You can do it from WHEREVER you are!!!Hello Friends!☺️
💥 ESCA 20th Annual 5K Walk & Fun Run! 💥October 11-17th! Virtual Edition!
Please LIKE and SHARE this flyer with your friends and family!
Thank you for your continued support! ☺️
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The Eastern Sierra Cancer Alliance is hosting a virtual 5K walk and fun run this year!!! Going on NOW!! You can do it from WHEREVER you are!!!

2 weeks ago

Dog days of summer or fall??!!
Last weekend we had warm temps and blue skies again. Fingers crossed we get some more blue skies this weekend!

Photo by Amanda Zhang
#NorthLake #fallcolors #keepbishopsafe
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Dog days of summer or fall??!! 
Last weekend we had warm temps and blue skies again. Fingers crossed we get some more blue skies this weekend!

Photo by Amanda Zhang
#NorthLake #fallcolors #keepbishopsafe

Comment on Facebook

I heard the colors have peaked in this area. Is it still worth visiting or are there other good spots to hit up?

Beautiful picture.

Wonderful vacation destination

Beautiful

Beautiful picture! Cute dog!

North Lake?

Looking good

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