Fishmas is fabulous! We know you love fishing in the Eastern Sierra. So do we. We also know that we love to do lots of other fun, fantastic things out here and perhaps you do too.
If you’re a member of a fishing family, but you don’t fish, or you find that you need a change of pace or scenery – here are a few suggestions of alternative things to do during Fishmas.
Perhaps you only have a couple of hours to yourself (maybe with kids and dogs) or you have a whole day to yourself and you’re looking for a challenge. Here are a few things you might want to try out.
A springtime hike in the Owens Valley is pure joy. Daytime temperatures are pleasantly warm and the hours of daylight increase with each day. The trees and bushes are blossoming and wildflowers can be seen in the fields and alongside streams. There is a sense of rejuvenation and the breeze carries the sweet perfume of life in renewal.
The Owens Gorge
The river runs clear and deep and the gorge is a magnificent riparian habitat with an increasing biodiversity following rewatering and ongoing restoration by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP). Bird species are flourishing and a native fish, the Owens Tui Chub, once threatened and endangered, is now protected in this predator-free habitat.
From Bishop drive north for about 12.5 miles along Highway 395 to the Gorge Rd intersection (at the bottom of the Sherwin Grade) and turn right onto Gorge Rd. Head east for .7 miles then turn left at the T-junction. Follow Gorge Rd up the grade for 3.3 miles, turn right and park in the clearing to the right of the road. A chained gate restricts vehicle access and this is where the hike begins.
It’s a leisurely an out and back (or down and up) for as far as you wish to hike. The first 1.25 miles is paved to the LADWP power plant and just beyond that the track becomes dirt. Further upstream you’ll come across the skeletal ruins of a now derelict power plant and on either side of the river you’re likely to see climbers testing their skills on these vertical walls. Continue further and the track becomes a trail and scrambling and clambering become the order of the day. Take a picnic and find a sheltered spot to sit quietly and listen to the tumbling call of the canyon wren.
Return to your vehicle the way you came. You can’t get lost the canyon walls will guide you.
Hike the waterways of the Owens Valley
There are numerous footpaths and trails that parallel the many canals in and around Bishop and there are roads and tracks that run alongside the many miles of the sinuous Owens River. All of these offer the opportunity for either a short stroll or a long interesting hike.
A walk along the shores of Pleasant Valley reservoir is easy and quiet. The road is closed to vehicle traffic and it’s a great place for an early morning or late afternoon stroll. Birdlife is abundant and the fishing is fantastic.
The canals around the outskirts of town are a great place to let kids and dogs romp and dip in the cooling water. The recently restored Buckley ponds have access for the physically disabled to be at the waters edge to fish or just enjoy the view.
Between the Pleasant Valley dam and Tinemaha reservoir the Owens River twists and turns for 40 miles. The tracks and trails undulate alongside the river over grassy banks, between tall reeds and over sand dunes. The fauna and flora along this life-giving river is plentiful. I’ve counted a large number of bird species on any given day out here and been fortunate to see beaver and bobcat.
Hiking alongside the waterways of the valley floor provides little elevation change, but it has an almost limitless number of miles of diverse open terrain and solitude. It can be as adventurous and energetic as you make it.
Tungsten Hills Hike
Spring in Bishop! The air is warm and the sun is bright and hiking out across the sagebrush and up onto the rocky outcrops of the Tungsten Hills is especially lovely at this time of year. With easy access from the Horton Creek campground (closed for camping during winter) you can park your car here and take a short walk or long hike up and around this fascinating geological feature.
The hills are named for the tungsten that was mined here until the late 1940s and are composed primarily of granite and quartz diorite. It’s a favorite place for rock hounding and crystals of red garnet can still be found here.
Springtime brings the birdsong as large populations of breeding songbirds nest along the willow-lined streams that meander among the hills. It also brings the desert peach into bloom with its pink blossoms and jasmine-like scent giving soft color and sweet fragrance to this arid landscape.
The bitterbrush presents its yellow color and spicy perfume in late spring and you’re very likely to see mule deer, often in large herds, which have wintered in the foothills to feed on the tender shoots of the bitterbrush and sagebrush. You’ll probably see jackrabbits, ravens, red tailed hawks and, if you’re lucky, a chukkar. Towards dusk you may hear or see coyote as they begin their crepuscular activity of looking for a meal. Know too that there are mountain lion in these hills. Sightings of these big cats, which biologists call Puma concolor – literally ‘cat of one color’, are rare and no attack has ever been recorded in the region.
Whether you have an hour or a whole day to explore this region it’s well worth the time. The views are breathtaking with vistas in every direction from the numerous peaks. Survey markers can be found on many of the peaks and only two, the Tungsten Point and the unnamed Tungsten Hills highpoint, have summit registers. So if you’re a peak bagger, you should definitely add these to your list.
Remember to dress in layers. Bring the kids, the dogs, your friends, lots of water and perhaps even a picnic. Definitely bring your camera.
There are trails and tracks that challenge skill, fitness and even courage. There are leisurely rides and strenuous rides. Some are long and some are short. There are routes that need a shuttle ride and routes that loop you back to where you started.
Whenever I have a chance to go for a bike ride, I ask myself a couple of questions. How much time do I have? How hard do I want to work? Am I going alone or with a friend? And … you know what? The answers always point to the perfect ride for the moment. Then I grab the right bike for the ride; mountain bike, fat bike, road bike or touring bike. Yup, there are so many biking options around here, but for now let’s just focus two.
Road Bike Ride
On a super spring day in Bishop a road bike ride is just what the doctor ordered. A local favorite is the Pleasant Valley – Round Valley loop. It’s just over 16.5 miles of quiet country lanes and a pleasant (car free) ride along the shores of the reservoir. It has uphills and downhills, sharp corners and sweeping bends. It’s one of those rides that has a little of everything in just the right measure. You’ll work hard enough to stay warm, but not so hard that you can’t lift your head and admire the scenery. It really is a pleasant ride!
If you need help with your bike, gear or just have a great chat about biking in Bishop go visit the folks at Aerohead Cycles – click here for more info.
Mountain Bike Ride
With so many excellent and easily accessible trails near Bishop there is plenty of time to get in a quick mountain bike ride. The Starlite Loop is not too long and has super features that will get your body warm, your blood pumping and your legs working.
I love this trail for it’s twisting, undulating single track. It has commanding views of the Buttermilk Country, Mt Tom, the Tungsten Hills and the tablelands. The boulders are big, the sand is soft, and the Pinyons up here offer a hint of forest.
Take Highway 168 west out of Bishop and turn right onto Buttermilk road. Drive 1.7 miles to the intersection with Starlite drive, turn left and park just off the dirt road. Remember … don’t crush the brush!
Start the ride with a short, sweet climb (if you like a kicker to get you going) up the hill toward Starlite. In .4 miles, just as you crest the rise and see Starlite up to your left, you’ll see the single track veer off to your right. Take it! Follow this undulating trail for 1 mile then turn right at the junction with an obvious dual-track. Now you’re on your way down to where you started.
It’s a good go-it-alone loop that doesn’t take too long … just right to work up a little appetite for a fresh fish dinner.
We know the Eastern Sierra is well known for Fishmas! It’s also well known for the fabulous OHV roads and trails. Do you have your 4×4 vehicle? Did you bring your dirt bike? Do you know about the Poleta Open Area?
Dirt Biking & ATV riding
At the base of the White Mountains, 5 miles from the center of Bishop, is an exceptional off-road motorcycling area. Covering 2,500 acres, the Poleta Open Area is part of an extensive network of over 2,200 miles of OHV trails and roads leading though almost one million acres of the Inyo National Forest.
Most of this larger network comprises double track native surface road, but here on the eastern side of the Owens Valley about 50 miles consists of single-track and ATV trails interspersed within the system. All vehicles are required to stay on designated roads … except for the Poleta Open Area, which is designated for cross-country and open motorized vehicle travel.
Managed jointly by the Bishop area Forest Service and BLM authorities this open area with its excellent network of trails is linked to the bigger network making the opportunities for dirt bike riding seem almost endless.
The area provides for a wide variety of ATV riding including motorcycles, dune buggies, jeeps and SUVs. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced technical single-track trails as well as 4-wheeled driving routes.
Excellent maps have been produced by the California Trail Users Coalition and are available free of charge at many of the trailheads and, of course, the Bishop Visitor Center.
Please obey posted signage and make sure that all OHVs have a California green or red sticker or be street legal. All vehicles must be equipped with a Forest Service approved spark arrester. Tread Lightly! has an informative guide to responsible dirt biking.
Photography is a passion for many in the Eastern Sierra. For those who live here or visit regularly photography is often a daily activity. Sometimes it’s just a momentary opportunity to snap a quick image. Other times it’s a commitment to time and place to capture a specific scene.
First time visitors are, almost without fail, thoroughly awestruck by the grandeur of this landscape. Cameras and smartphones are ubiquitous in the hands of tourists and frequently pointed toward the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. It stands to reason then that this beautiful region is one of the most photographed in California.
Sunrise and sunset are favorite times of day to photograph the changing colors on the mountain ridges, in a sky of clouds, and in reflective pools. The bloom has begun this spring and just about everywhere you look is a picturesque landscape.
Witness the Wildflowers
Fishmas weekend looks set to be a little wet and windy, but we know fisherfolk are a hardy sort. This wonderful wetter weather we’ve had this winter and spring signals the potential for a big bloom in the Owens Valley and surrounding mountains. The occurrence of a big bloom does, however, require a specific pattern of precipitation and temperatures and by all accounts it appears to have been just right.
Many locals and visitors have already witnessed what has been termed the “superbloom” in Death Valley. Now at the higher elevation of the Owens Valley the flowers are beginning to bloom in abundance. Soon more bloom will begin to erupt in the foothills of the adjacent mountains and thereafter it will creep up the canyons into the valleys and meadows toward the crest of the ranges.
Take a drive to see the flowers that are already blooming in the meadows and nearby canyons.
Warm Springs Road
Three miles south of Bishop is Warm Springs road. Turn east and head toward the base of the White Mountains. At the junction of Eastside road continue straight onto the graded dirt road that cuts across the alluvial fans that have spread from the canyons above. This five-mile section of gravelly dirt road cuts a swath through an abundance of exquisite flowers currently in bloom. This is Black Canyon road and is best done with 4-wheel drive. Stop and take a walk and examine the small petals and soft color.
This is a riparian wetland and is one of the richest wetland floras in the Great Basin. With over 125 plant species, including eight rare species, Fish Slough will be an extravagant find for flower enthusiasts. The diversity of species will deliver a greater variety of color and size. Blossoms of cream, yellow and magenta will carpet the slopes bordering the slough.
This is a protected area designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). It can be accessed via Five Bridges road 2.5 miles north of Bishop on US Highway 6.
More information about Fish Slough can be found here.
Bishop’s Big Backyard
Let us help you celebrate Fishmas with all that our beautiful area has to offer. Find out more about best places to fish, what you need, how to find a fishing guide, where to party … oh just about anything you want to know we can probably tell you. We’ll also help you find other fun things to do and places to see.
Come on in to the Bishop Visitor Center at 690 N. Main Street.