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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!

 

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1 day ago

Truth is, we are still buried in smoke here in the Owens Valley, but we're not going to let it keep us from dreaming about the fall colors that soon will dazzle our eyes and warm our souls...!!!!

Photo by @travelforpictures from October 2019
#fallcolors #keepbishopsafe
... See MoreSee Less

Truth is, we are still buried in smoke here in the Owens Valley, but were not going to let it keep us from dreaming about the fall colors that soon will dazzle our eyes and warm our souls...!!!!

Photo by @travelforpictures from October 2019
#fallcolors #keepbishopsafe

Comment on Facebook

Sorry about all the smoke. Hope you can enjoy this beautiful scenery again soon.

Beautiful, I love coming up each year and seeing this in person

This was my waterfall. I used to hike and stand in it. Well, until someone built a house!

I look forward to visiting next year. Very disappointed that I couldn’t make it again this year.

Sorry your car show got canceled. We come every year.

Were coming 2nd week of Oct for 49th Birthday! Super excited😊

Just uproad from Bishop creek lodge.

Looks like the road to lake Lundy.

Beautiful season of the year.

So very beautiful, love the picture 🙂🙂❤❤

Wonderful vacation destination

Pretty time of year!

I hope they open up soon!!

Thank You. Cheered me up🍁🍁🍁🐈😷

Beautiful ❤

my view from my cabin window

Was this today?

Beautiful !!!!

Very pretty

Pretty

Beautiful

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4 days ago

What's your favorite season in the Eastern Sierra?

Beautiful photo by @robert_lachman from October 12, 2019
#keepbishopsafe
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Whats your favorite season in the Eastern Sierra? 

Beautiful photo by @robert_lachman from October 12, 2019
#keepbishopsafe

Comment on Facebook

All seasons but fall especially! Been going every October for the last 9 years... Also always stop at Mahogany Smoked Meats before going home.

I was raised on the Eastern side of the Sierras. When I was young it was Summers. When I got a little older it was Spring for the opening of trout season. Now at 73 it's Fall...😊

Fall when leaves change and late summer when tubing in cut off’s by day with jeans and flannel by the fire at night

I go every year! 2nd or 3rd week of October! Beautiful scenery and weather!

I have to say mid to late fall. Although mid spring is awesome as well. ✌️

We from Bishop

Fall🍁🍂🎃

Spring

Fall is the best...but the other 3 run a close 2nd!

Gorgeous

Fall

Nice One!

Fall

So pretty

Beautiful

Fall

Beautiful picture

Autumn and Winter

Fall by far! I love the colors. We try to go every year in October for my husband's birthday.

Fall for sure. Before the snow shuts the roads. And early summer. When it is just a little cooler. 🐈😷

Yes! 😅😁

Beautiful!

Anything but fire season 😭

In Bishop all of them. Bishop picture love this site 🙂🙂❤❤

Love the fall leave. We try to go every year in October

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6 days ago

With fires, poor air quality and COVID-19 all currently going on, who needs a little something to look forward to??
How about Wynonna for Labor Day Weekend of 2021!!
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With fires, poor air quality and COVID-19 all currently going on, who needs a little something to look forward to?? 
How about Wynonna for Labor Day Weekend of 2021!!

Comment on Facebook

Lol whatever floats your boat Bishop. With way things are we might be in a middle of some other bs that will shut it down. I’m done hoping and waiting for “better” times to come.

its sept 21??!!

Can’t wait!!

oh next yr ugh

Looks like she needs an enema !

Mary Allegra Nicol

Melissa Atkins... why not me?

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1 week ago

Wishing all of the firefighters and emergency support teams a safe weekend. Thank you for all that you are doing!!!

Sending love from Bishop to all who are being affected by the fires. ❤️

This photo by Instagram user @sammyzz17 and is from February of 2018 when we had the Pleasant Valley Reservior Fire. Hoping that he and his crew are safe!
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Wishing all of the firefighters and emergency support teams a safe weekend. Thank you for all that you are doing!!! 

Sending love from Bishop to all who are being affected by the fires. ❤️

This photo by Instagram user @sammyzz17 and is from February of 2018 when we had the Pleasant Valley Reservior Fire. Hoping that he and his crew are safe!

Comment on Facebook

🙏God Bless you all. I have been praying for rain to help put all the fires out and is in the forecast for some areas yeh!

God Bless all of you amazing men and women fighting these horrible fires. Stay safe!🙏❤️👩‍🚒👩‍🚒👍

Thanks guys!! Hope you all stay safe and return home to your families soon!!! Bless you all❤️

Wonderful pic.of these brave Firefighters! Prayers for their safety! 🙏🏻💕🙏🏻

Thank you to ALL FF's and Incident Command crews, Strike Teams busting butt out there. Love & prayers for All Your Safety from Santa Rosa 💜😷🐈

🙏 to all the first responders and thank you for your hard work.

Thank you Bishop firefighters for all of your extremely hard work!

A big Thank You To All Our Firefighters God Bless You And Your Families Stay Safe

Sending love and prayers from the Florida Panhandle. Be Safe! God Bless you and yours!

Thank you for your service. and God Bless You All .

God be with you all. Thank fort doing what you do

What a commitment! Thank you! Your work can never be repaid!!!

God bless you boys! Please stay safe!

Thank you God bless and stay safe

Thank you all for what you do for us everyday 💗

Stay safe 🚒😊👍🏼

Amen

Ty

👊👍🤙😎🙏

Thanks to all the firefighters out in California, Oregon & Washington who work tirelessly everyday ❗️❗️. You are true heroes❗️

This is a spectacular photo, a real prizewinner! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks never were more than a few brave people

THANK YOU ALL AND STAY SAFE GET SOME REST , GOD BLESS !

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