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Bishop Visitor's Center

Photo: @hatchetthejeep

It may seem obvious to drive, run, walk, hike or ride in the Eastern Sierra. But do you know how much land there is to cover and how many ways there are to do it?

Here’s an overview of the region to give you a sense of how much adventure awaits you in and around Bishop.

WHERE

The Eastern Sierra

Broadly speaking it is a region of eastern California that covers a vast area on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is a sparsely populated, high desert region that spreads across two counties, incorporates only a handful of towns, and has lots and lots of open and accessible terrain. The topography and geography of the region encompasses the deep Owens Valley, the tall and rugged Sierra Nevada to the west, the gentle giants of the White and Inyo mountains to the east, and the magnificent Mono Basin on the northern plateau. US Highway 395 is the main thoroughfare that takes travelers through this beautiful region that stretches from Lone Pine in the south to Bridgeport in the north.

Bishop is located pretty much right in the middle of the Eastern Sierra at the northern end of the Owens Valley in Inyo County.

Inyo County and The Owens Valley

Inyo County has a total land area of about 10,200 square miles and a population of just over 18,500 persons (according to Census 2010). All, but about 1,000 Inyo County residents, live in the Owens Valley, which covers an area of about 3,330 square miles. Even so it remains one of the least populated regions in the country with a population density of 5.25 persons per square mile. Ranked by population density it falls between lowest ranked state, Alaska, with just 1.3 people per square mile, and the wide-open spaces of Wyoming that has an average of 6 people per square mile. All that means … there’s a lot of space to explore in the Owens Valley.

The Owens Valley is considered one of the deepest valleys in the United States. It’s about 100 miles long by 6 to 18 miles wide. The Owens River is a verdant, riparian area that weaves its way along the valley floor, which sits at about 4,000 feet above sea level (ASL). The open fields of the valley and foothills are covered in wildflowers every spring and the canyons higher up are bathed in fall colors every autumn. The mountains rise suddenly and dramatically on both sides with peaks reaching over 14,000 feet ASL.

Sierra Nevada

This mountain range is long (400 miles north to south), wide (70 miles east to west), tall (numerous peaks above 10,000 feet and some over 14,000 feet) and immensely rugged. It boasts the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney, at 14,505 feet above sea level. Climbing this mountain is an adventure that people come from all over the world to accomplish. And two of the world’s greatest hiking trails, the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails, are easily accessed from the Eastern Sierra. The range is wild and craggy, and conditions can be harsh at times. It requires experience and planning to venture into the heart of the wilderness. But the foothills and outer edges of the range provide opportunities for all kinds of exploration.

View of the Sierra Nevada from the White Mountains

White and Inyo Mountains

These gentle giants to our east cover about 130 miles together from north to south. The narrow tip of the Whites rises to just over 13,000 feet at Boundary Peak like the prow of a ship sailing north. A little south of that and just northeast of Bishop is White Mountain Peak. At 14,252 feet, it is the highest peak in Mono County, the third highest peak in California after Mt. Whitney and Mt. Williamson, and the 14th most topographically prominent peak in the contiguous United States.

Further south the range expands to about 20 miles wide where it meets its counterpart, the Inyo Mountains. These two ranges form part of one giant fault block separated by a narrow gap through which State Route 168 runs, just east of the community of Big Pine. From this road it’s an easy drive to visit the planet’s oldest living things, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines, which live at 10,000 feet near White Mountain Peak.

The highest peak in the Inyos is Waucoba Mountain at 11,128 feet above sea level. From there the range narrows and descends to the high desert floor that sits at 4,800 feet. It is at this point that travelers have access, along State Route 190, to the lowest point in the contiguous United States, Badwater Basin (at 282 feet below sea level) in Death Valley.

We have a lot of significant stuff here.

This is the eastside. The other side of California. The wild side of California.

WHAT

Whatever moves you – and we mean that literally – there’s a place for it here.

On Four Wheels

There are excellent roads, with light traffic and magnificent views, for a family road trip. Take an afternoon drive up Bishop Creek Canyon and visit the sparkling blue lakes and alpine forests. There are wonderful campgrounds, streams for fishing, lakes for swimming, boating, and paddling, cafés and resorts for fine food and drink, and trailhead access to explore more on foot. Go for a drive up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest and learn about the history of these trees and what they’re teaching us about the history of our planet. The Sierra View Overlook on White Mountain Road is an awesome vista over the valley and across to the Sierra Nevada.

A longer trip loops around the tablelands or up past Mono Lake. From Bishop head north to Benton on US Highway 6. Then take SR 120 west and cut across the Benton Crossing road to Crowley Lake, or stay on 120 to loop past Mono Lake. Head back to Bishop south on US 395. There are all kinds of great sights to see along the way.

Got a 4 wheel drive off-highway vehicle? Bring it!

A legal system of roads and trails for motorized vehicles was designated here in 2009 following many years of inventory and analysis. Now an extensive network of 2,200 miles of off highway vehicle (OHV) trails and roads provides access through almost one million acres of the Inyo National Forest. In less than 30 minutes’ drive from Bishop there are many excellent routes that will take you up into the mountains where the air is cool and the scenery spectacular. The rugged terrain is a superb test for driver and vehicle.

Get the low down on the high up Coyote Flat 4×4 track for a really rugged OHV adventure. Or take it up to Papoose Flat for a little rock crawling and a look at a landscape that looks like a moonscape. Both these routes will take you to overlooks where you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Owens Valley below – one from the west and one from the east.

On Two Wheels

Of these legal OHV routes most are double-track, native surface roads, but at the base of the White Mountains, 5 miles east of the center of Bishop, is an exceptional off-road motorcycling and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) area. Whereas most of the larger network requires that drivers keep their vehicles on designated roads, the Poleta Open Area, is approved for cross-country and open motorized vehicle travel. In addition to this system, many of these routes link to adjacent routes managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Eastside is a fantastic area for a motorcycle road trip. There are long stretches of quiet roads with sweeping vistas for easy cruising, and many twisting, turning mountain roads for a nimble sport bike, tourer, dual sport or cruiser. The road surface on these routes is excellent and the curves will keep your mind focused and your adrenalin flowing.

Is a bicycle your favorite two-wheeler? We have roads and trails for you!

Mountain Biking on Lower Rock Creek trail in Fall.

Road cycling on the Eastside is second to none. We think so. You can ride easy or train hard for hundreds of miles along roads that carry a very low volume of traffic. Practice your hill climbing or downhill cornering, go flat out sprinting or find your rhythm for the long haul. We have roads on lower, level ground where it’s warm in winter or up at altitude where it’s cool and green in summer. There really is no end to the roads you can ride. Join our local cycle club, Eastside Velo Cycling Club, and participate in some of the best road bike rides around.

And we have mountains. So we have mountain biking. Some of the best trails in the country. You can spend as little as a couple of hours or as long as … well, a lifetime … and experience mountain biking that is fun and family-friendly, and challenging and thrilling. There’s always somewhere to ride a bike down a sweeping, technical trail or out across a high desert landscape, where there’s always one thing that will surely take your breath away – the view!

On Foot

Hike, run, walk, ski, snowboard or snowshoe. Not all at the same time of course, but pick your season and move yourself through these mountains, over meadows, across streams, and down canyons on foot. In fact, you can move yourself over boulders and up cliff faces with hands and fingers too. Bouldering and rock climbing is world class and the options are almost limitless.

Hiking in the Sierra Nevada. Summer. Wildflowers. Dogs. Love!

Many trails are multi-use but the higher up you go the more suited they are for foot travel. Once you’re into the wilderness, where vehicular travel is prohibited, you’ll be in wild, wonderful territory where you will be moved – even when you’re standing still.

Lots of great trailheads are easily accessible by car. Within a 20-minute drive from Bishop you can be standing at a trailhead garbed and geared for a run, hike, walk, boulder circuit or snow tour.

On Horseback

Roads, tracks and trails, even in the wilderness, are open to horseback riding. There’s muleback too. Load your horse trailer or book a mule pack trip and experience the Eastern Sierra the way it was – way back when. It’s all still here just like it was then. You just need to get in the saddle and let the beast of burden carry your body forward and thoughts back to history.

One of the loveliest areas for an equestrian campout is up in the High Sierra at the aptly named Horseshoe Meadow Equestrian Campground. This is where you can bring your own equines, beat the heat of summer, and experience a high-altitude camp-and-ride experience that is unequalled.

WHEN

This land is a land of changes. The landscape goes from low to high and from arid to alpine. The temperatures fluctuate with the time of day and the changing of the seasons. Water flows relentlessly down the mountains and the floral carpet and leafy canopy change colors as the seasons change. Sometimes the wind blows and always the snow falls in winter.

Choose your mode, choose you season and choose your region. Summertime it’s best to go high and wintertime is best down low. Timing in spring and fall is somewhat unpredictable, but no matter when you visit or what you want to do … somewhere nearby, there’s a road or track or trail or route that’s doable.

HOW

We encourage everyone, and especially folks with disabilities, to come and see what you can do in the Eastern Sierra. Here’s a blog from earlier this year that has tons of great information on wheelchair accessible places in our area.

Please treat our big backyard as nicely as you’d treat yours. Pack out everything you pack in and, if you can, take an extra trash bag with you and pick up and pack out any littler left behind by others. Please stay on designated trails and don’t park on top of bushes. Remember this fun phrase and teach it to your kids, “Don’t crush the brush.”

Come in, call, or email us at the Bishop Visitor Center and ask about the experiences and adventures you can have in our big backyard. We really do have a vast and most exquisite backyard. There is so much land where you can play and explore and it’s best to visit often and try it all.

Read about Bishop by Air and Bishop by the Water too.

Looking down from near the top of Bishop Pass trail.

Check out the Digital Bishop Visitor Guide!

Archived Stories

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7 hours ago

Spring brings flowers, but also birds and festivals! The Owens Lake Bird Festival is always a wonderful event - we'll post more about it as we get closer but mark your calendars for April 26-28th.
Thanks, California High Sierra !It’s film festival time for both nature lovers & film buffs alike! Don’t miss out on the Owens Lake Bird Festival and the 5-day Mammoth Lakes Film Festival this #spring season. Click 👇 to learn more about these & other High Sierra spring festivals. #CAHighSierra https://californiahighsierra.com/trips/miracle-march-means-fantastic-spring-time-festivities/ Image appears courtesy: Visit Mammoth . . . Friends of the Inyo Mammoth Lakes, California Mammoth Lakes Film Festival
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Spring brings flowers, but also birds and festivals! The Owens Lake Bird Festival is always a wonderful event - well post more about it as we get closer but mark your calendars for April 26-28th. 
Thanks, California High Sierra !

4 days ago

Just another beautiful Bishop late winter day! ... See MoreSee Less

 

Comment on Facebook

One of our favorite places!

Just spent the night at Brown Town and enjoyed the view.

This is just beautiful! If only we could be there in person for the sounds and smells. Thanks for sharing.

Wish there was a way for us to share our Bishop pictures in comments.

Miss Bishop

Now if you can just bottle up the air with the amazing smell of Bishop and send it to me 🙂

Chem trails

Beautiful indeed!!!

Thanks so much. So pretty. <3

Wayde Eddy

Very nice! What trail is this?

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6 days ago

Information from Jessica Strickland and Trout Unlimited

CDFW Inland Trout Regulation Changes - IMPORTANT PUBLIC COMMENT MEETING MARCH 20th BISHOP

Hello folks,
As many of you have heard, CDFW has been talking about simplifying their state trout regulations for the last couple of years. They’ve released their proposed changes, which are relatively significant. The chance to comment is in person at upcoming public meetings. This is very important if you have an opinion on their changes. Go to the following website to view the changes and for more information: CDFW website info page: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Trout-Plan/Regulation-Simplification

PUBLIC MEETING – EASTERN SIERRA - Wednesday, March 20, 2019 6-8 p.m. Talman Pavilion, Tricounty Fairgrounds, 1234 Fair St., Bishop
OTHER LOCATIONS:
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 6-8 p.m. Redding Library Community Room, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding
Wednesday, April 3, 2019 6-8 p.m. Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, 3040 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno
Saturday, April 6, 2019 Noon-2 p.m. Bass Pro Shops, 7777 Victoria Gardens Lane, Rancho Cucamonga
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 6-8 p.m. Colonial Heights Library Community Room, 4799 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 6-8 p.m. Truckee-Tahoe Airport Community Room, 10356 Truckee Airport Road, Truckee

IF YOU CANNOT MAKE THE MEETING CONTACT: Roger Bloom, CDFW Inland Fisheries Program, (916) 445-3777

The biggest change being – all waters under Section 7 general regulations for the Sierra district have been replaced with the following simplified regulation, “Open year-round, 5 trout bag, 10 trout possession limit, no gear restrictions.” The obvious change here being unless otherwise specified - fishing is now open year around. They’ve also shifted seasons around for waters with special restrictions in the following way:

Seasons
All Year
Closed to fishing all year
September 1 through November 30
Saturday preceding Memorial Day through September 30
Saturday preceding Memorial Day through the last day in February
October 1 through Friday preceding Memorial Day

They have also made some changes to special regulations – IE – Crowley, Upper Owens, Walker River, etc. I’ve went through and compared most the waters of the Eastern Sierra. Some notable changes: Crowley – they’ve extended the 5 fish no gear restriction season from July 31 to September 30. Upper Owens between Crowley and Benton Crossing Bridge– removed the monument and extended "no gear restriction" season to September 30, open all winter but with no take. Golden Trout Wilderness – removed gear restrictions. Rush Creek regulation added to protect fall spawn. This isn’t an exhaustive comparison, just some of the major Eastern Sierra waters.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Trout Unlimited staff will be in attendance at as many of these meetings as possible. Please pass this information along!

Jessica Strickland

California Inland Trout Program Director
830.5159917

Photo: Debra Varva
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Nathan Foth

When will these proposed changes take place?

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