8 Incredible Adventures Between Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks | Bishop Visitor Information Center
Bishop Visitor Logo

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

Archived Stories

Tell us:

How do you enjoy OUR BACKYARD?

Error: Access Token is not valid or has expired. Feed will not update.
This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

There's an issue with the Instagram Access Token that you are using. Please obtain a new Access Token on the plugin's Settings page.
If you continue to have an issue with your Access Token then please see this FAQ for more information.

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Us on Facebook!

2 days ago

We've been getting some inquiries about where you might find a hot meal on Christmas Day - and we've queried the local restaurants. As best we know, these are the establishments that will be serving on Christmas - if you know of any others, please let us know! ... See MoreSee Less

Weve been getting some inquiries about where you might find a hot meal on Christmas Day - and weve queried the local restaurants. As best we know, these are the establishments that will be serving on Christmas - if you know of any others, please let us know!

 

Comment on Facebook

(to be sung) - "Have yourself - a Denny's little Christmas ...... KFC's divine ....... From now on your hunger will be quenched in time ......... Have yourself - a Denny's little Christmas ...... Have a Subway day ....... Or McDonalds there you can go eat and play ....... Here we are - Perry's Italian Cafe ....... Share a pizza day - with your ........ Faithful friends - split the bill with us ....... Share the meal with us - once more ............ El Ranchito and El Pollo Loco ...... they both start with "El" ......... Shinning Star from Carl's will be lit as well ....... So have yourself - A Very Merry Christmas Meal ....."

Thai & Chinese restaurants are always open on American Holidays....life savers when you work in catering!

+ View more comments

7 days ago

Love these historic photos from Tales Along El Camino Sierra.Two great photos from the tallest peak in the lower 48. 1-Visitors enjoying trip to the Alabama Hills with majestic Mt. Whitney looming behind them. Photo 2-A group on horseback back when horses were allowed to go all the way to the summit. This Frasher photo postcard is from the 1930s. ... See MoreSee Less

Love these historic photos from Tales Along El Camino Sierra.

 

Comment on Facebook

We miss the inyo county! So much to see and experience!

Great book.

+ View more comments

7 days ago

We really like this concept - why limit yourself to just summer vacations? Bishop is a great destination year-round! Thanks for the shout-out, Visit USA Parks .Let's dismiss the idea of a "summer vacation", shall we? How about a "winter vacation"?! Bishop, California has so much to offer the off-season traveler: from great outdoor recreation, mild weather, unique shops and restaurants, and interesting attractions. Visit Bishop in the off-season and enjoy an inexpensive vacation, away from the crowds and packed with great experiences! #visitbishop #ThisIsMyRoute #VisitUSAParks ... See MoreSee Less

We really like this concept - why limit yourself to just summer vacations? Bishop is a great destination year-round! Thanks for the shout-out, Visit USA Parks .

 

Comment on Facebook

Having lived there for 10 years, totally agree! So much to do and explore!

I'm thinking of getting away in Bishop starting Christmas Day (Creekside Inn, of course!) but wondering what restaurants would be open Christmas Day in Bishop.

+ View more comments

Load more
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!