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Bishop Visitor's Center

The valley is wide, the mountains high, and exhilarating 4×4 adventures are almost limitless. The Inyo National Forest is home to some of the nation’s most spectacular alpine scenery.

A legal system of roads and trails for motorized vehicles was designated here in 2009 following many years of inventory and analysis. This included public involvement to balance the needs for recreational opportunities and to protect the unique character of our public lands. The result is an extensive network of 2,200 miles of OHV trails and roads providing access through almost one million acres of the Inyo National Forest.

Of these legal routes most are double-track, native surface roads, but about 50 miles of single-track and ATV trails are interspersed throughout this network. In addition to this system many of these routes link to adjacent routes managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Off-road driving is a popular activity in the Eastern Sierra for both local and visiting 4×4 enthusiasts. Many travel from far afield to test their mettle (and metal) on these adventure trails and locals venture out often for fun and challenge.

In less than 30 minutes drive from Bishop are three excellent routes that will take you up into the mountains where the air is cool, the scenery spectacular, and the rugged terrain a test for driver and vehicle.

Buttermilk Road

Many who visit here know the Buttermilk area is a favorite place for bouldering. The first few miles of the Buttermilk road, from the junction on California State Route 168, just 7.7 miles west of Bishop, are well traveled by climbers to access the impressive boulders and rocky outcrops. This short section of the road is wide and fairly corrugated, but beyond the climbing area it becomes less suited to two-wheel drive, low clearance vehicles and becomes the domain of the 4×4.

The road bears the Forest Service designation 07S01 and is 13.1 miles long between the two points where it junctions with CA168 near Bishop and 1.4 miles from Aspendell.

The route has a good assortment of obstacles and challenges at a moderate level. There are rocky sections, stream crossings, and a couple of relatively steep inclines. The road travels below overhanging tree arbors, over flat open meadows, it narrows in forested sections, and steps up over a few larger rocks. If there has been recent rain the road can be very muddy in places with large pools of standing water.

There is an excellent mid point for a picnic alongside McGee Creek. A large flat area can accommodate a few vehicles and with easy turnaround space. The trees are tall and shady and the creek is cool and refreshing. Depending on the rate of flow it’s possible to find a safe eddy for a dip in the invigorating water.

The route is navigable in either direction and it’s a quick drive there or back along CA168.

Late afternoon on the Buttermilk Road

Late afternoon on the Buttermilk Road

Silver Canyon Road

Beginning just a few miles north of Bishop is a very popular off-road route that climbs 6,500 feet in 11.5 miles. Silver Canyon Road begins in Laws on US Highway 6, 4.3 miles from the Bishop Visitor Center.

Managed under the auspices of the US Forest Service this route designation 06S02 terminates just beyond White Mountain Road, which runs along the crest of the White Mountains.

It is an exciting and challenging 4×4 drive up or down that requires a fairly skilled driver and well-equipped vehicle to deal with obstacles. The terrain is rugged and the surface can be dry and loose or muddy and slippery in places. The switchbacks are tight and washouts are not uncommon. The canyon walls are steep and sometimes precarious.

The route runs the gamut from moderate to very difficult. The few highly technical parts may not be many, but navigating these safely can be the difference between an enjoyable off-road adventure and a frightening experience.

For a fun day outing drive this 4×4 route up the canyon to the junction of White Mountain road, FS04S01, turn right and travel along the graded dirt road until it becomes paved and you arrive at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center. Stop in and absorb the wonders of this unique place and learn a little more about the fascinating world in which we live.

Return back to Bishop south along White Mountain road, west on CA168, then north on US Highway 395. The entire loop is approximately 57 miles of which 15 miles is dirt that will present a fun and challenging drive. The paved drive along the crest of the White Mountains and down the canyon back to the valley floor is a lovely, winding road with spectacular views.

Looking down from the top of Silver Canyon

Looking down from the top of Silver Canyon

Papoose Flat

Papoose Flat road is a wonderfully challenging 4×4 route that will put you and your vehicle to the test. Travel 15 miles south from Bishop on US Highway 395 then take the turn east onto CA168. In less than 2.5 miles turn right onto Death Valley Road and drive 11.3 miles along this quiet, scenic mountain road.

A small sign indicates the turnoff for Papoose Flat on FS09S15. Keep right at the fork you arrive at almost immediately. If you choose to return via the Squaw Flat road you will be rejoin the road at this fork.

Here too the road is not gnarly all the way, but the gnarly bits will be the make or break sections. The route serves up all manner of challenges from steep slopes to rocky scree to big steps and tight squeezes. It also provides magnificent views and a surprising alien looking landscape. Be cognizant of weather conditions and forecasts as summer storms build quickly up here and flash flooding is a potential risk factor.

This route can be combined with the Squaw Flat road, FS36E404, to make a 25.4-mile loop. This road will also present its share of challenges and drivers are cautioned to plan this trip carefully. Make sure that all vehicles are suitable for rugged off-road terrain and safety precautions are well considered.

There are wonderful campsites at regular intervals along this route. Some spots are nestled among the towering rock formations, others overlook the Owens Valley below and more make use of the shaded groves of pine forest. There is little water to be found in these mountains so be sure to carry sufficient water for all persons and animals on board.

View from on high on Papoose Flat

View from on high from Papoose Flat

Planning

There are excellent maps available from the California Trail Users Coalition and the US Forest Services hosts an interactive travel website that is a great resource for planning off-road adventures.

Local knowledge is very valuable when preparing trips into the unknown. The local 4×4 club has a wealth of information and experience and our Bishop Visitor Center guides can provide maps and recommendations on when, where, what and how.

As with so many of the fantastic adventures that can be had in the Eastern Sierra – be prepared! Take extra clothing, food and water on your 4×4 trip. Plan your trip and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Don’t deviate from your planned route unless absolutely necessary or you can let someone know. Cell signal is sparse or non-existent in many places so don’t count on it.

There’s so much more out there to drive and explore and all it takes is a little research and planning to have a great 4×4 adventure in the Eastern Sierra.

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14 hours ago

Thank you to the Fairgrounds!!Let's give it up for our local Fairgrounds to step into a summer full of safe outdoor fun; featuring more space for RV and tent camping, plus big events like Mule Days, California High School Rodeo, a Drive-In and Tailgate Concert series - all at the Tri County Fairgrounds, in Bishop! They're planning for a bigger and better year, bigger stage, better sound, bigger acts, and better seats! 🎥🍿--

#inyocounty #tricountyfairgrounds #driveinmovie
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Thank you to the Fairgrounds!!

2 days ago

Look at this sweet foal that was born yesterday!! 😍 Quite a Mother’s Day gift!

Photo by Julie Faber
#visitbishop
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Look at this sweet foal that was born yesterday!! 😍 Quite a Mother’s Day gift! 

Photo by Julie Faber
#visitbishop

Comment on Facebook

Awww. Congratulations momma

Hi sweet baby.❤️

Sweet baby horse.

Aww adorable

Truly beautiful ....well done Mummy ❤

Beautiful!!!

Beautiful horses!

Que belleza 😊 me encanta todo lo que tenga que ver con los caballos, lindo y hermoso día

Sara Kvaas ... not sure if you follow this page, given how we love Aspendell!

Beautiful

💞

Sweetheart.

So pretty.

So cute

Ohhhh cute!

Awww 🥰

❤️🐎❤️❗️

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5 days ago

Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth
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Wishing you and your littles a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!! ❤️

#visitbishop
Photo by Betsy Forsyth

Comment on Facebook

Always enjoyed fishing the canal.

Love Bishop and the Sierras

So beautiful and amazing pictures thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

My favorite place 😍🤗

We went a couple of years ago maybe 3 yrs ago what fun times we had there🤗

Beautiful

I think the big Brownies got a few of those

That's so cute.

Love that canal

Beautiful

Thank you 😊

Put any campfire completely out!

Sweet .

Be there soon

❤️😍

So many wonderful memories there!

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6 days ago

Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!Remember this from last year? The smoke was horrific, and most of the fires weren’t even right here. Please remind ANYONE that is going camping, be it here in Inyo County, or elsewhere, to PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE!!

Earlier this week Mammoth Lakes Fire Department responded to TWO different fires that started because campfires were not extinguished properly (one was a dispersed camping fire, and the other was in an area where fires are prohibited)!! It is going to be a tough year with the dry conditions, so we need to act accordingly!! Extreme fire conditions already exist. If you make a fire, please do it in a campground where there are fire pits, and make sure it is COMPLETELY out.

Please #RecreateResponsibly !!!
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Last year... Please #RecreateResponsibly!!!

Comment on Facebook

We need to stop the lightening and get rid of the power lines. No more electricity 🥰

Just everybody use common sense. And don't forget to pick up after yourselves. Leave no trace. <3

It gripes my ass when people just don't care. It doesn't take rocket science to put out a camp fire and to know how dry it is and we have international signs where people around the world know what they mean even when they can't read. They have no heart or respect for life animal's or human. I pray we don't have a repeat of last year.

It was awful, be careful out there. Be mindful of nature.

Its sound like it will be a dry summer across the west.....be careful....barb

Beautiful

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7 days ago

If you are wondering what it's looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!!

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you!

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek
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If you are wondering what its looking like up Big Pine Creek, here is a shot from a couple of days ago. It is the view up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek from the North Fork trail. Thank you to Alan Haight for this stunning shot!! 

We welcome you to send your beautiful photos to us in Messenger, or on Facebook or Instagram make sure to tag us #VisitBishop! Thank you! 

#visitbishop #RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #bigpinecreek

Comment on Facebook

Gosh this is beautiful!

Some of the most rugged terrain I've ever seen is up that canyon! Truly an amazing part of the Sierras.

Have hiked in this region. So beautiful

I highly recommend visiting Bishop. So much to see and do. 🤠

My old stomping grounds!💕

I LOVE BISHOP! ❤

Love the picture

Went as far as june lake

Gorgeous!

Love it there!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful!🏔

Beautiful!

Nice

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