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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


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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19 hours ago

Who loves to get up where the oxygen is thin??!! Mt. Langley is one of the many 14,000' peaks here in our backyard. If you are coming this way, make sure to check out the current guidelines and state regulations.
#KeepBishopOpen #KeepInyoOpen
Thanks, @wanderlena82 for this awesome shot!
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Who loves to get up where the oxygen is thin??!! Mt. Langley is one of the many 14,000 peaks here in our backyard. If you are coming this way, make sure to check out the current guidelines and state regulations.
#KeepBishopOpen #KeepInyoOpen 
Thanks, @wanderlena82 for this awesome shot!

Comment on Facebook Who loves to get up ...

I went up to 12,500 at Ski Apache in Ruidoso, N.M. My head nearly exploded.

Yep. I feel so amazing in high altitudes.

Very well done. I’ve never been over 12,000 and that just about ended me.

Why cant we post pics on this site anymore?

Been there a couple of times. Better than Whitney



I like those kinds of places. You can get a natural high. I think I've been there before. Hope to get back there soon. <3


Great photo! Looking great @ 14k+ ❤️

Definitely has a great view

...would have done it 40 years ago

How come females look so good after bagging a peak, but guys look tuckered out?

Mammoth parade starts at 11:00

Always head up to Whites Mountain for Ancient Bristol Cone Forest.


Been up there.

My friend Jack McBroom from Hemet climbed the highest 14 peaks on California in about four and a half days. Not sure that is still the record but I know it was for awhile. Sports Illustrated did an article about him.

Hayden Pester adding this to our list

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2 days ago

In case you need to do a little reflecting today....

Thanks for the beautiful shot of Honeymoon Lake, @biffnix
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen #MaskWashDistance
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In case you need to do a little reflecting today.... 

Thanks for the beautiful shot of Honeymoon Lake, @biffnix  
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen #MaskWashDistance

Comment on Facebook In case you need to ...

So beautiful California gold 😊😊❤❤

Reflection pix are my fav 🤩

Oh my, unimaginable beauty! Stunning!


So where exactly is this lake?

Just amazing!



See you there 4ofjuly

Can’t wait to get back up there!

I love it!

I like that you can go there even when you aren't on a Honeymoon. Even single folks go there. <3

So which side is up? Lol Great shot 👌!

Maayan Damti


Can't wait for August 1st will be there a whole week

Absolutely beautiful

Sharp knife and a shave! Awesome.

That water is like glass!

How beautiful

Hot creek. Much good for skin! Be respectful of native americans!!!!


Hopefully we'll be able to go up there Labor Day weekend.

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3 days ago

The night sky here sure is something magical. 😍

Thank you, @Pat Pester for this beautiful shot!
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen
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The night sky here sure is something magical. 😍

Thank you, @Pat Pester for this beautiful shot!
#KeepInyoOpen #KeepBishopOpen

Comment on Facebook The night sky here ...

Amazing! Don't see this very often!

The stars at night are beautiful. Miss them

Just beautiful. One of many reasons I love going there

Just spent 3 days there. Beautiful as always.

Missed my annual trip this past Memorial Day weekend, the beautiful Eastern Sierras Lake Sabrina South Lake etc were always so peaceful & tranquil to visit!

Absolutely amazing 😉

So beautifulth thanks for sharing 😊😊❤❤

13 days..... I We’ll be there!!!!

South Lake

This is at bishops??

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6 days ago

Happy Friday!! Ahhhhh, Big Pine Creek, looking sooooo good!
Thank you, @Pat Pester for the photo!
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Happy Friday!! Ahhhhh, Big Pine Creek, looking sooooo good!
Thank you, @Pat Pester for the photo!

Comment on Facebook Happy Friday!! ...

Beautiful!! I wish I would be there!!

Such breath taking beauty! I so 💙 the Sierra's, and have many awesome memories of my times there. Thanks for sharing! 🌞

I love second lake especially for the view of temple crag

Just magnificent!

Great picture love Bishop

I wish the same as you Mary!

Was up there last week. Weather was perfect. Hiked up to Chickenfoot while I was there.

Still having earthquakes?

Been there! Beautiful!

Wonderful picture

Spent fathers day week there

Love the Sierras.


Remember doing this hike. Gorgeous

So beautiful

Headed that way soon! 🏕


Sure hope to get there soon.

Very peaceful setting.



What a godly view. On the hwy. drive you can see Snow on top of Mount Whitney mountains, so awesome during in month of June when its hot

Mt. Sill ! Sally Spear Molé. Stephen Busch . Do remember climbing this mountain Stephen ? That was an adventure !

I used to live in the town of Big pine many years ago

I wish !!!

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7 days ago

We love seeing folks doing their part to #KeepInyoOpen by wearing their face coverings! #lovebishop
Thank you, Chris Bubser for Congress for this cool shot!
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We love seeing folks doing their part to #KeepInyoOpen by wearing their face coverings!  #lovebishop
Thank you, Chris Bubser for Congress for this cool shot!

Comment on Facebook We love seeing folks...

Thank you for doing your part. Just get used to it, we're in it for the long haul. It doesn't hurt to err on the side of caution. I would.

Best little town in the West. I hope you're all hanging in there. Stay safe so I can visit this fall!

I love Bishop because of it’s proximity to Death Valley and the Sierras. On a motorcycle!

A family hiking out in the mountains on a warm summer day..... with masks on. This has to be the stupidest photo on FB all day.

Ah, wearing a mask outdoors in the Sierra's. They're obeying their globalist masters. Good little sheep.

What a sad picture that this family appears to be out in the countryside ,away from people, wearing a mask..

You don’t need masks if you are outside hiking with your family.

Makes no sense to go up to the mountains for fresh mountain air just to breathe in your own co2

The masks with the exhale feature on it does not block your droplets from exiting and infecting the people around you.

That is not the Bishop I grew up in. We didn’t live in fear‼️ Bishop as lost it’s way. Sad fir a beautiful area ,

What time does the 4th of July parade start ?

masks are nonsense,, please stop

I really miss living there. Be back soon.

Enough of this bs. No way I would go hiking in the mtns and wear a mask. Just may as well stay in the cesspool known as LA County and breathe the air here with a mask on.

Hopefully the mask wearing works, cause the social distancing and all the sanitizing isn’t...

Wearing masks in fresh mountain air & sunshine. Just can't fix stupid.

More crying 😢 about wearing a mask. Pitiful little babies!!

Guess I won’t go this year👎

Jeeping this 4th of July!

More sheep

Looking good!

Yellow star,mask..same thing advocated by the same types of people.

No more masks.

Missing hometown

Lived in Bishop early 90's. Can't believe what houses cost there now!!!

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