Bishop Visitor Logo

Bishop Visitor's Center

Can you keep a secret?  We can’t either; one of the best ways to get up close and personal with fall colors is from the back of a horse and that season is coming up fast. Hints of change are already starting to appear up high, and although the aspen peak won’t arrive until late September or October you can’t go wrong with the vivid blue skies of late summer coupled with the early yellow / golds of the willows and other shrubs. One of the most asked questions in the Bishop Visitors Center is when to plan a fall color trip and one of our biggest challenges is getting it just right.

Leaves begin to change color when they stop producing chlorophyll in preparation for winter. The process for doing this is triggered by shorter days, longer nights and cooler weather – so we know that it’ll be happening in autumn, but it is still up to Mother Nature to decide when day length and temperatures are just right – so we can’t predict it to the day or even the week.

Where to go:

Luckily, we have the California Fall Color website with weekly, daily, and regional updates. And if you look back into the archives, you can begin to see where the color hot spots are month by month. This can be a huge help when planning a fall color trip. We’ll call research the first step – when and where do you want to go?

The next step is finding the right pack outfit to get you there. Most of the big color canyons in the Sierra have a pack station right there; beginning way up north at Sonora Pass and continuing all the way down to Whitney Portal. We keep a list of nearby pack stations on our website; right here: https://www.bishopvisitor.com/activities/horseback/

We always recommend calling the pack station you are interested in to find specific information on when and how long the rides are, where they go, what they cost, and what to bring. Listed below is some general information that will get you started in the right direction (listed north to south).

image of fall color on hillside

Convict Lake Resort Horseback Rides

Convict Canyon and Convict Lake are an iconic fall color must-see destination, and you can take it all in from the back of a horse! Rides go to the back of the lake and include time off the horse for lunch / snacks. Convict Lake is at 7850′, the mountains around it rise dramatically, and color starts in Convict Canyon in late September; usually peaking by mid-October. Be sure to call ahead for times and availability.

image of fall color and lake

Photo: @beautymajic on IG

McGee Creek Pack Station

image of two people riding horses

Photo: Vickie Taton

Rising up above Long Valley, you can spot the color along McGee Creek from U.S. 395; but you really haven’t seen anything until you drive up the road and either hike or ride into McGee Canyon. McGee Creek Pack Station offers rides from one hour to all day – we suggest at least half a day to really soak in the color and beauty of this canyon. Call for details: 760.935.4324

image of fall color in McGee Creek Canyon

Photo: Vickie Taton

Rock Creek Pack Station

Take a morning 2 hour ride around the lake, or an afternoon ride towards Mono Pass. Better yet, book a longer ride, see more and perhaps even get some fishing in! Rock Creek Pack Station also operates also operate as Cottonwood Pack Station and Virginia Lakes Pack Outfit; visit their websites to book a ride farther north or south!

image of fall color and mountains

Photo: @4ndy_girard on IG

Rainbow Pack Outfitters

Right in Bishop’s back yard is the spectacular Bishop Creek Canyon.  Rainbow Pack Outfitters is located in South Fork canyon behind Parchers Resort. Offering rides as short as 30 minutes and as long as all day – they’ll help with just the right option for you and your family. Make a day of it with dinner at Bishop Creek Lodge, breakfast at Parcher’s Resort, or catch pizza night at Cardinal Village Resort.

image of horseback riders riding down a trail in the fall

Photo: Allison Furman, Braveheart Trails

There are pack stations and fall color further north, and further south than we’ve listed here – check our listing for horseback riding and the Eastern Sierra Packers Association for a full listing and links, phone numbers, locations.

What to take:

Finally, a few tips for making your day horseback as comfortable as possible.

  • Dress in layers. Days can start out chilly, warm up quickly, then turn cool again with the afternoon breeze. Carry a lightweight wind shell (you can tie it around your waist when you don’t need it) and check the weather before setting out. Jeans are what wranglers wear, and you’ll appreciate the sun and scratch protection if you wear them as well.
  • Wear sturdy footwear – no flip flops on a horse! Smooth soles are the best, but hiking and running shoes will do double duty on and off the horse.
  • Bring sunscreen & lip balm and use it liberally. We’re close to the sun in the eastern Sierra and you’ll be riding in even higher elevations. Because it is cooler, it is easy to forget to reapply, but your skin will thank you.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat with a string that goes around your chin (known in the horse world as a stampede string) or, better yet, a helmet with a brim. At the very least, wear a ball cap.
  • Bring water and a snack. Most places provide you with small horn bags that you can put a few things into, or you can carry a small daypack. Check ahead with longer rides to find out if you’ll be lunching in the saddle or if you’ll have a break for eating.
  • Take a small camera. Leave the tripod and heavier equipment behind; try some ‘through the ears’ photos and enjoy the vantage point of being at least several feet taller! If you are using your cell phone as a camera, put it on airplane mode: since there probably won’t be any cell service anyway your battery will last a lot longer.
  • Love your horse or mule. These animals work hard all summer and appreciate a kind word, a soft pat, and (if permitted) a carrot or apple treat after the ride. Be an active rider; try not to slouch or tug on the reins if you aren’t turning or stopping. Listen to the wranglers and respect the animal carrying you many miles.
  • Tip your wrangler. They also work hard all season and appreciate your thoughts, thanks, and tips.
See you on the trails!

 

Check out the Digital Bishop Visitor Guide!

Archived Stories

Tell us:

How do you enjoy OUR BACKYARD?

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Us on Facebook!

19 hours ago

Don’t forget to visit the Bishop Mule Days Celebration official souvenir shop located on the fairgrounds for 50th anniversary commemorative t-shirts, belt buckles, coffee mugs and more! Open now through Sunday, May 26th. ... See MoreSee Less

Don’t forget to visit the Bishop Mule Days Celebration official souvenir shop located on the fairgrounds for 50th anniversary commemorative t-shirts, belt buckles, coffee mugs and more! Open now through Sunday, May 26th.

 

Comment on Facebook

Can we purchase items online when we can’t attend in person??

Teresa Nunez

Are you online?

+ View more comments

3 days ago

Mule Days is open to the public; no charge to enter the fairgrounds and there is a lot to see and do all weekend! Bring the kids and enjoy all the fun activities Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Junior Packer Corral. Happening this coming weekend, Friday May 24 - Sunday May 26th. ... See MoreSee Less

Mule Days is open to the public; no charge to enter the fairgrounds and there is a lot to see and do all weekend! Bring the kids and enjoy all the fun activities Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Junior Packer Corral. Happening this coming weekend, Friday May 24 - Sunday May 26th.

 

Comment on Facebook

Gary Dutter

Silly Question I guess... But What Month???

+ View more comments

4 days ago

Winter just doesn’t want to leave!The winter that wouldn’t end! ... See MoreSee Less

Winter just doesn’t want to leave!

 

Comment on Facebook

What's with the snow??

Still wintery here right now in May!!

Down here at the very beginning of the PCT we are very wet and cold and wondering how all those PCT hikers in just tennis shoes are doing right now. Some of them look so ill prepared when they finish the first 22 miles and stop here at our Malt Shop for a pizza and hot breakfast before starting up into the Laguna Mts.

Great place to stay

I guess it must be the Sierra answer to that surfing movie, "The Endless Summer." And even here in Berkeley, CA on this side we turned on our heater today. Well, we needed to dry out the interior of the house. Pretty pictures, though. Thanks.

We had snow in Mc Cloud last night.

No snow but rainy and chilly on the Central Coast . We feel the same....😁

I like cardinal village

Geeeezzz!!! R-2 conditions over Donner Pass today, which is my home territory.

Oh no!❄️☃️

Can't wait to go up in August.....back in the early 1970's, there would be patches of snow on the mountain across from Camp Sabrina around Memorial day!

Well WE are raining, cold with thunder and lightning here in the Sonoma County area.

+ View more comments

1 week ago

Fishing and conditions report from Lake Sabrina Boat Landing: Mother Nature definitely didn’t want us to forget her this week – lots of fun weather. Beautiful sunny days, then rain, slush, snowball snow, lightening, thunder, big flake snow and lots of it and then back to beautiful sunny days. And it looks like we’ve got the same instore for us this coming week. We woke to 14” to 16” of snow on Friday, it was a pretty quiet Friday. We stayed hunkered down by the woodstove that day. Pretty much by Sunday that snow was gone.

The Lake was icing off fairly well prior to last week’s storm. The manmade part of the Lake is totally ice-free, but may have some skim ice in the early morning. We’ve got open water behind the Island in the first natural Lake. There’s open water showing in the back natural Lake over by Little George Inlet, but is still iced-over where the Lake narrows down by Cookie’s Point. With the cooler temps, the run-off has shut down a bit and the Lake is not rising. We’re hoping that will change and we’ll have boats on the Lake by Memorial Weekend – just need 6’.

If you’re fishing, might want to try back behind what is normally the Island – can’t really tell you what’s working cuz haven’t had many fisherpeople out there yet.
... See MoreSee Less

Fishing and conditions report from Lake Sabrina Boat Landing: Mother Nature definitely didn’t want us to forget her this week – lots of fun weather. Beautiful sunny days, then rain, slush, snowball snow, lightening, thunder, big flake snow and lots of it and then back to beautiful sunny days. And it looks like we’ve got the same instore for us this coming week. We woke to 14” to 16” of snow on Friday, it was a pretty quiet Friday. We stayed hunkered down by the woodstove that day. Pretty much by Sunday that snow was gone.

The Lake was icing off fairly well prior to last week’s storm. The manmade part of the Lake is totally ice-free, but may have some skim ice in the early morning. We’ve got open water behind the Island in the first natural Lake. There’s open water showing in the back natural Lake over by Little George Inlet, but is still iced-over where the Lake narrows down by Cookie’s Point. With the cooler temps, the run-off has shut down a bit and the Lake is not rising. We’re hoping that will change and we’ll have boats on the Lake by Memorial Weekend – just need 6’.

If you’re fishing, might want to try back behind what is normally the Island – can’t really tell you what’s working cuz haven’t had many fisherpeople out there yet.

 

Comment on Facebook

Would really like to go up there and fish.

Jessica Caballero Yolanda Wren Joseph Caballero

We are coming up early June! Staying in Lone Pine but plan on driving up to visit. Hope we can see Sabrina

Luv it there caught my share

Filling up, can’t wait

JJ Garcia

Joe Powell

Scott L Barnes

Jo Nathan let’s goooo!

Roberto Villegas look familiar?

+ View more comments

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