Bishop Creek Canyon
Bishop Creek Canyon is an outdoor wonderland of fun. Fresh air, granite peaks, pristine lakes and summer wildflowers greet you on your adventures. Stay for a day or a week or more—there’s plenty to keep you busy.
How To Get There
Take CA Highway 168 (West Line Street) from Bishop and head west toward the mountains. Soon enough, the road starts winding its way uphill and after a 20-minute drive you quickly approach the decision point where you choose your destination, described below. (There are no fueling opportunities in Bishop Creek Canyon so fill up before you drive up.)
South Lake (elevation 9868 feet). Turn left at the clearly marked road sign for South Lake about 15 miles from Bishop.
South Lake and its surrounding lakes basin is surrounded by stunning 13,000-foot peaks and beautiful lakes and streams. There is a long-term and day-use parking at the trailhead, vault toilets, water spigot, and a boat launch ramp for the lake itself. Access a number of trails for a quick hike, or a multi-day backpack. Trails include:
Sitting below the Sierra Crest and the high peaks of Hurd Peak (12,237′), Mt. Johnson (12,871′), and Mt. Gilbert (13,106′), Treasure Lakes are a series of several lakes starting near the bases of the peaks and flowing down their drainage into the granite basin. The Treasure Lakes trail branches off on the right from the Bishop Pass trail after you climb above South Lake and is clearly signed.
Escape the main trail for a short hike to Marie Louise Lakes and discover the serene high lakes named after the wife of the founder of Parchers Resort. Along the way you have views of South Lake and an old sawmill site. The trail branches off from the Bishop Pass trail to the left and is clearly signed.
Take the Bishop Pass Trail for a fishing trip to the gorgeous Long Lake, a 6.4 mile day hike around Ruwau and Chocolate Lakes, or for a multi-day backpacking trip over the Sierra Crest into Kings Canyon National Park and to meet up with the John Muir Trail. This stunning lakes basin is encircled by Hurd Peak to the North and the Inconsolable Range to the South, with views of Mt. Goode (13,085′) and Mt. Agassiz (13,893′) at the crest.
And on your way up to South Lake, you will pass many campgrounds and amenities. Stop by before your trip for fishing licenses and bug spray, or afterward to rehydrate and refuel and just plain celebrate your day.
Lake Sabrina (elevation 9,128′) Take highway 168 straight to its end, about 19 miles from Bishop.
Lake Sabrina is formed by damming the middle fork of Bishop Creek and is named after Mrs. Sabrina Hobbs, wife of C.M. Hobbs first General Manager of California Nevada Power Company which built the dam. The lakes basin above Lake Sabrina is dotted with spectacular high alpine lakes, well worth a visit.
You will find long and short term parking, pit toilets, and the Lake Sabrina Boat Landing, which provides boat and pontoon rentals, free boat launch, fish cleaning facilities, tackle and bait, and a cafe to quench your thirst and cure your hunger.
This trail heads up and up via switchbacks for a great vantage over Lake Sabrina, and then heads toward George Lake and over the saddle alongside Table Mountain to meet up with the Tyee Lakes trail.
This absolutely gorgeous setting is about 2.5 miles from the trailhead and is a popular area for camping, fishing and day hikes alike—be sure to bring your picnic lunch here and soak in the stunning views. If you’ve got more energy, the trail branches off above the lake to a number of lake destinations higher in the granite basin, surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. Check out trails to Hungry Packer Lake (and Moonlight Falls), Midnight Lake, and Donkey Lake.
North Lake (elevation 9,500′) After passing through the town of Aspendell, look for the sign to North Lake on the right.
The high peaks of Mt. Emerson (13,210′) and further back Lamarck Peak (13,417′) define this lake basin. Amenities include short- and long-term parking, pit toilets, water spigot, and a campground. Bishop Pack Outfitters provide pack trips and day rides with a reservation.
Just after the Campground is a turnoff to the left for Lamarck Lakes. Head up to some high elevation lakes for crisp breezes and granite views. The cross country class 2 pass Lamarck Col takes you into the Darwin Bench in Kings Canyon National Park.
Branching off from the Lamarck Lakes trail is a short trip to Grass Lake, a shallow lake filled with grass that is slowly evolving into a meadow. The trail to here is mostly shaded, making this a great day trip on those hot Sierra summer days.
Head up the Piute Pass trail to Piute Lake or a little distance further to cross over the Sierra Crest to explore the expansive Humphreys Basin and beyond. Desolation Lake and Golden Trout Lake are popular overnight destinations in the Basin or travel further and you can meet the John Muir Trail for longer adventures.
Get After It
If you’re planning on spending some time camping in Bishop Creek, check out our ultimate guide to Bishop Creek Campgrounds. No doubt you will spend some time fishing or hiking while you’re in the area. We have some helpful info for that too.
TRAVELING AND SAFETY IN WILDERNESS
With the short 30-minute drive from town to most trailheads, it’s easy to think that amenities are close by—and some are—but things like cell phone service are not available on the trails. Plan on being self-sufficient and don’t underestimate the power of nature: sudden afternoon thunderstorms are frequent, and temps can drop suddenly as a storm approaches. Know lightning safety and carry an extra layer or waterproof shell on your hike. If clouds are building by noon, there is a good chance of rain in the afternoon. Despite all this talk of rain, conditions are sunny most of the time—therefore a sun hat and sunscreen are also high country musts. Also, nighttime temps can drop below freezing in the Spring and Fall, and in the 40s and 50s during the summer. If you are staying overnight, be sure your sleeping bag is warm enough for you.
While bears are not a frequent sighting in Bishop Creek, you want to be sure you are using proper food storage techniques to keep bears away from your supplies. And be sure to take ALL food and scented items out of your car.
Hike with an ample supply of water. The Eastern Sierra’s arid climate might surprise you, necessitating more water than you think. Any drinking water obtained from sources on the trail may contain Giardia (which causes moderate to severe intestinal upset) and needs to be treated.
HIKING WITH DOGS
Bring your canine best friend with you on a hike in the National Forest! Any trails outside of the National Park are dog-friendly, although dogs must be under control at all times, whether under verbal control or on a leash. And the Forest Service asks that you pick up after your dog and keep them from chasing animals in their natural habitat.
Free Wilderness permits for overnight trips are available from the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop. Day hiking does not require a permit, so just get out there and enjoy the trails!
LEAVE NO TRACE
While the mountains seem rugged, they are actually quite fragile. Proper Leave No Trace habits help preserve the lands for those who follow in your footsteps. Please take out all your trash, including any used toilet paper. For human waste, dig and use a hole six inches deep and well away from trails, camps or areas such as dry stream beds where the water has the potential to flow during a storm. Never bury or burn your toilet paper. Finally, archeological resources are protected by law and should be left in place.