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One of the best things about living in and visiting the eastern Sierra are the thousands of acres of public land available for recreating. These mountains, valleys, and tablelands allow us incredible freedom in the ways we can visit them, including bringing our dogs along. No matter whether the land is administered by USFS, BLM, or LADWP, chances are Fido is welcome. The odds are also good that there will be a water source or two along the hike, and often quite a lot of shade available for rest stops and lunch breaks. We explore these public lands with our dogs year round, choosing to drop lower in elevation during the winter months, and heading for the hills when it warms up.

Having a dog (or two) is almost a prerequisite for living in the mountains, and on any day you’ll find locals out running the trails, riding horses, or hiking with a dog.  In addition to all the wonderful wild places, Bishop has a great dog park if your dog’s taste runs more to chasing frisbees or you just need to get him or her out during a busy day in town.

photo of fenced dog park

We’ve gathered together some best practices regarding hiking with dogs, some hazards to be aware of, and some resources in town to help outfit you and your dog for a safe and enjoyable hike. Most of us think nothing of loading our dogs up and simply heading out, but over the years we’ve learned a few tips we’d like to pass on.

The Elephant in the Room – to leash or not to leash

photo of leashed dog hiking with backpacker

We know this can be a touchy topic but we recommend always carrying a leash when you hike with your dog, and even it may not be required and you may not use it; you’ll have it. We’ve used collars and leashes as impromptu slings to help an over-tired dog, relied on a good harness  to allow a refreshing swim close to shore in bigger water than we were willing to risk if unleashed, and taken advantage of a free assist on the uphills with a big dog in a harness. Most experts suggest that you leash your dog with a 10′ or shorter nonretractable sturdy leash and a harness – much less pulling. We can think of any number of good reasons for leashing including the following:

  • Safety of the dog
  • Protection of wildlife
  • Trail Etiquette

Safety of the Dog

The mountains and deserts are great places to explore, but it’s good to remember that they are wild places. We see our fair share of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lion, snakes, and even fawn-protecting deer around these parts; and keeping your dog on a leash means keeping your dog out of harm’s way. Even water can be a potential hazard, especially during spring melts when normally placid creeks turn into raging torrents. Play it safe with a leash and everyone enjoys the hike without worry.

Overheating can be a concern during the summer months. Dogs pant and sweat through their pads to cool off, and being much closer to the ground they are exposed to more radiant heat coming off a trail. A leash discourages long, cross-country running that can raise your pup’s body temperature even faster. We learned this the hard way with our large dogs on a summer day hike in the Sierra; they got too hot and we had to inch our way back home working from shady spot to shady spot.

photo of woman hiker with three dogs

Toxic plants, thorns, and seeds like foxtail can cause problems long after the hike – leashing your dog helps minimize the exposure to these off-trail hazards. We know; we’ve watched in horror as our labrador lifts his leg and teeters next to a cholla cactus on one of our regular 395 stops… now we keep him on a leash during his road trip potty breaks. It doesn’t bother him in the least, and we spend much less time fretting.

Protection of Wildlife

Most dogs find chasing things almost irresistible and in the backcountry that instinct can lead to all sorts of mischief. From disturbing young wildlife to getting themselves hurt in the chase, it’s never a good idea to let dogs run after another animal. Plus, how are you going to get that once-in-a-lifetime photo if your dog mistakenly scares off the buck (or bighorn sheep or fawn)?

Wildlife can also turn on your dog, resulting in injury or illness. No one enjoys riding home with a dog that’s been “skunked”, or going through the stress of getting a dog with a snake bite to the vet on time. Leashes just give you such peace of mind, take up little space, and best of all – dogs get used to them pretty quickly!

Trail Etiquette

It can be hard to believe, but not everyone is a dog lover. And even if everyone you meet on the trail is, they may prefer that they meet your dog at the end of a leash. Keeping your dog under physical control can be very reassuring to other people on the trail and it demonstrates generosity and tolerance for non-dog folks. It can also really foster dog-friendly places, as people’s dog fears subside.

Riders (horse and bike) and hikers have the right of way on a trail. Unleashed dogs can be a nuisance or even cause accidents with equines and bikes- so always move off the trail with your leashed dog and let the animals and riders pass by. Many mules by nature are not fond of dogs, so you may also be keeping your dog safe from a well-aimed kick if you move off trail with your dog under control. Generally it’s best to move well uphill from the riders and stay in view; and a pleasant greeting will help the horses and mules realize you are just a friendly human and not a scary monster. It should go without saying that you should never let your dog run after a horse or a mule, after all you never know when someone might need a ride out!

image of dog in a mule's pack bag

Photo: Kent Reeves

One of the big challenges in our well-loved backcountry is what to do with human and animal waste. We recommend that you carry bags for your dog’s waste and carry it out if you are on a day hike;  if you double or triple bag it you can safely store it in a designated backpack pocket until you can dispose of it at a dumpster or trash can. If you are backpacking or prefer to bury it; use the same guidelines as for human waste, which is to bury it 6-8″ deep in a hole at least 200′ from trails, camps and water.

Equipment

You don’t need any special equipment to hike with your dog, aside from a leash, but there are many products available that help dogs do well on longer hikes, share the burden of carrying food and water, and address emergencies on the trail.

Dog Pack

Dog packs come in all sizes and allow your dog to carry some of the load on a long day hike or overnight trip. Many outdoor retailers carry dog packs, and most dogs quickly adapt to having the extra weight and girth (although we have seen our own dogs underestimate the space needed to sideswipe a tree from time to time). You’ll want to make sure you only have the dog carrying a maximum of 25% of it’s body weight, and even that will depend on the animal’s age and size.

photo of a dog wearing a pack

Collapsible Water/Food Bowl

Water is essential to a good hike and if your planned route doesn’t include a good, steady source of water, you’ll have to carry enough for your four-legged buddy. A collapsible water bowl makes it so easy to dole out that water without waste, dip a bowlful from a lake, or feed a little midday snack. Most come with a carabiner that clips on to the outside of your pack, keeping it handy.

photo of dog near lake with collapsible bowl

Booties

Booties aren’t something you’ll strap on for every day hike, but there are times when you may need them. Hiking over sharp, abrasive granite, over crusty spring snow, or very hot sand are a few conditions that can injure your dog’s pads. If you know you’re going to be spending time in such an area, or you are out for several long days of hiking, you may want to consider picking up a set of booties for your dog. It’s important to get your dog used to the booties well in advance of your trip or you may lose your investment the first time out.

image of dog bootie for the trail

Cabelas.com

Specialty Collars / Harnesses

Harnesses can be a dog-owner’s best friend. Harnesses really discourage pulling, so they can make being leashed easier on the owner and the dog – the dog learns quickly that there’s little reward in pulling, so they tend to walk better beside you. Harnesses don’t put any pressure on the dog’s neck or trachea – no choking sounds while lunging at the end of your leash any more. Like booties, you’ll want to practice with the harness at home before the trip, but most dogs adapt really quickly to the putting on, wearing, and taking off of a harness.

image of dog harness

Ruffwear.com

First Aid Kit

You probably already carry a basic first aid kit, but to make sure you have Fido covered, consider adding some old, clean wool socks to use as emergency booties (keep them on with duct tape over the sock and around the dog’s lower leg), kid’s benadryl, tweezers and maybe even needle-nose pliers in you are in cactus or porcupine country. Buffered aspirin is usually okay for pain in an emergency, but make sure you check with your vet for dosage and possible dog-friendly anti-inflammatory meds to carry instead.

Raingear, Personal Flotation Device, Sweaters, etc.

While our dogs don’t generally wear sweaters or raingear because they have a lot of hair, some breeds can really benefit from having an extra layer.  Nights can be chilly even in the summer if you are camping in the Sierra.

We’re big fans of Personal Flotation Devices (which we’ve heard referred to as DFDs – dog flotation devices), even with dogs that are natural swimmers. There are a couple of reasons for this, including the fact that our high elevation lakes are COLD! Year round. We don’t use the PFDs for a quick swim during a hike, but if we are paddle boarding, kayaking, or boating our dogs proudly sport their PFDs.

image of dog wearing a flotation vest

amazon.com

Favorite Trails

Where to start? We’ll quickly list a couple of our seasonal favorites, then link you over to some lists of trails that you might explore with your dog.

Summer

Tyee Lakes Trail: Start at Lake Sabrina in Bishop Creek Canyon – approx 5.5 miles out and back. Great early summer hike. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/tyee-lakes-trail

Discovery Trail: Just one mile, but you can spend hours here. Up in the White Mountains with views of the Sierra and the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/discovery-trail

Fall

McGee Creek Canyon: Spectacular fall color. Expect a good number of other hikers. An up and back hike as far as you want to go. https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7024810/mcgee-pass-trail

Sabrina Basin Trail: Out and back is about 7.5 miles. You’ll share the trail with other dogs and possible horses. Go whe the fall color hits Bishop Creek Canyon. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/sabrina-basin-trail-to-donkey-lake

Winter

Along the Lower Owens River: Drive out to the Lower Owens from Hwy 6 (5 Bridges Road) or from Pleasant Valley Dam and you’ll find some great winter walking along the dirt roads. Beautiful vistas, close to water, and plenty of room. Watch out for cars on the road. Well-loved by fishermen and women. For another idea, check out an Owens River Gorge hike as shot by Richard Kinney on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3oGEbtk6Ac

Tungsten Hills: Gigi de Jong put together a great blog post on winter / spring hikes, all of which are dog-friendly. Check out the Tunsten Hills hike here: https://www.bishopvisitor.com/4-super-spring-hikes-around-bishop/

Spring

Volcanic Tablelands: Once wildflowers begin to appear in the high desert, make a point of walking out on the Tablelands. While there aren’t any real marked trails to follow, it’s easy to create your own favorite walk out there. Share the trail with runners and hikers in the early season. https://www.bishopvisitor.com/volcanic-tableland-loop-trail-running/

Lower Rock Creek Canyon Trail: A local’s favorite, and well-used. Keep your eyes open for mountain bikers and other hikers. You can start at the top, off U.S. 395 just below Tom’s Place, or start from the bottom below Paradise. Parking available on either end; just watch out for cars on the sometimes busy road. https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/4914078/lower-rock-creek-trail

https://www.alltrails.com/us/california/bishop/dogs

Local Resources

Veterinary Hospitals
Outdoor Retailers

Additional Resources

http://thebark.com/content/proper-trail-etiquette-hiking-your-dog

http://dogtime.com/lifestyle/dog-activities/51067-protecting-dog-hiking-hazards


Feature Photo Credits: Mitchel Jones on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtch3l/)

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2 days ago

This is Bishop from the Tungsten Hills looking east. Our little town is almost like an island. We have to travel hours to do most major shopping, or for any major medical issues. For most of us, it is absolutely worth it because we love the Eastern Sierra and although our town is small, our “backyard” is big and full of majestic natural beauty. We know many of you who live far away love this place as well. ❤️

So as you are making holiday plans this year, please remember to protect the people and places you love to play in. We appreciate it!!

Photo by Betsy Forsyth Johnson
#keepbishopsafe
... See MoreSee Less

This is Bishop from the Tungsten Hills looking east. Our little town is almost like an island. We have to travel hours to do most major shopping, or for any major medical issues. For most of us, it is absolutely worth it because we love the Eastern Sierra and although our town is small, our “backyard” is big and full of majestic natural beauty. We know many of you who live far away love this place as well. ❤️

So as you are making holiday plans this year, please remember to protect the people and places you love to play in. We appreciate it!! 

Photo by Betsy Forsyth Johnson
#keepbishopsafe

Comment on Facebook

We were campground hosts at Mammoth & went to Bishop for nice dinners on our days off, get haircuts, do laundry & see dentist. Enjoyed Bishop Mule Days too.. Besutiful area to spend the summer... Had to edit & add Schat's Bakery 💞💞

My first trip to Bishop was 57 years ago and have been back more years than not. I plan to keep coming back until my legs can’t walk the trails anymore. It’s truly a special place.

Wish I could be there. Great place to do star watching. Seem to be extra stars in the sky over there. Wishing you all the best for the holidays. Wish that bakery could deliver. So yummy. Stay well. <3

Loved growing up in Bishop, many fond memories there! I bet the town has changed since 75, but never the scenery!

One of my favorite places to camp don't how many times I've been there but I've been a bunch of times love it over 30times

I love it too! Grew up in Big Pine, worked in Bishop and Big Pine! 😊

best town I ever lived in

A place and time far far away! A place named Bishop, where I was born.

Take care! Hope to see you again next year!

Lived in early 50’s I lived in a mine camp Sheelite till the mud slide, moved to Rovanna To a mine housing . Parents bought a house in Tungsten City, up behind Rocking K Ranch, attended school in Round Valley Lots of memory In the area

Maybe you need to stop Blaming people that travel to the Eastern Sierra for your local problems. Its not really that small of a town and With the tax you get from tourism build a real medical facility and hospital!

My Dad grew up in Bishop, he actually worked at the Tungsten mines for awhile before heading to El Paso to go to college. Then the war started and he joined the Army Air Corps . I spent many a summers staying with my grandma Duffy, playing with my cousins in that magical place. Still my favorite place on earth.

Best place to grow up ‼️

Bishop is always one of our stopping points if we're visiting Yosemite and Death Valley. Bishop Creek Canyon, Rock Creek Canyon, Schats Bakery, Jacks, Spellbinder Books, Whiskey Creek- all previous haunts. Once normal travel arrangements return, we'll be back to visit one of our favourite places in the USA.

I know this viewpoint........magic.

I really miss Bishop and the Owens valley.....

Lived at Hilltop Estates/ Swall Meadows for quite a few years in the late 70’s to the early 80’s. Only place in California that keeps me coming back every couple years.

We would love to move there! Love the area.

Thank you for the words and picture you are blessed to live there xo

Our favorite place to go. Always come to the car show.

Home🇺🇸

To bad its in commiefornia. Love bishop

I remember Lone Pine too. Loved it

Small Town, Big Back Yard. 🥰

One of my favorite places on earth

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5 days ago

Flashback to Main Street, 1886. Who would like to escape to this scene?

#LoveBishop #historicbishop
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Flashback to Main Street, 1886. Who would like to escape to this scene?

#LoveBishop #historicbishop

Comment on Facebook

I will take 1986. Had a cool uncle living there. Free lodging, and his Land Cruiser was available for deep snow drives.

Heck no...especially after I saw the video on "the old western hygiene". Talk about funk and stink! Whew, even the women stunk! Man-o-man....plus add on disease, diet and doctoring! Nope...lol 😆

I wonder if they still had to pose to get the exposure by 1886. Probably not.

Hmmm...1886 in Owens Valley? Was there a Sheriff? Or just a bunch of gun toting fools on horseback.

might be a sale but I will think it is a Halter class in the middle of the street and that will make me happy

Love that picture

I would love it. 🙏❤️🙏

I see Rusty’s!! Lol

It would be hard an cold but very free it would be something to go back in time

Every horse looks so healthy (extra shiny coat).... all that great pasture of the area > Owens Valley!

No thank you. I love Bishop, but I can't imagine living there without AC or a swamp cooler. lol

Even tho these days were hard ,they were free to enjoy great days.

Life was harder back then but better in My opinion.

Looks like a stock sale. If it were today, I would call it a horse show.

A busy place!

Early "Mule Days"?

I would buy that Appaloosa .

I would escape in a second :)

great pic

Right on

Can we visit but not stay?

Me

Great picture

Me toooooooo

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7 days ago

Ahhhh, we sure love sunsets in the Eastern Sierra!! 😍

Photo by John Paul DeRousseau
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Ahhhh, we sure love sunsets in the Eastern Sierra!! 😍

Photo by John Paul DeRousseau

Comment on Facebook

An amazing picture of a beautiful sky. Thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

The dinosaurs are still around when you see the sky like that

Hermoso,Bishop calf.

Awesome

Felicidades yerandi que tela pases muy vien

The ponds. Nice

I'm ready to FISH

Wow

Fantastic!

That's the sky color of snow on the way!! Lovely😍😘🐈😷

That is amazing beautiful blue sky I like winn you took that picture of the amazing beautiful blue sky

Amazing picture to put up on a wall

Gorgeous photo!

Wonderful!

So beautiful!

Beautiful

Beautiful

Beautiful!!

Beautiful

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1 week ago

Just an FYI. Seems fire season is still not over.
MONO COUNTY —U.S. Highway 395 in Mono County Due remains closed from Emigrant Street in Bridgeport to the Nevada State Line due to a wildfire in Walker Canyon. The fire has reached 20,800 plus acres and claimed 80 structures. It is unclear how long this section of the highway will be closed.

Drivers heading northbound on U.S. Hwy 395 should detour to either U.S. Hwy 6 just north of Bishop to NV360 to US 95 or State Route 182 in Bridgeport to Nevada 338. Southbound traffic from Nevada should detour to U.S. Hwy 95 to NV360 to U.S. Hwy 6 or Nevada 208 to Nevada 338 to State Route 182.
roads.dot.ca.gov/

This photo is from 9/11/2020 near Bishop... if you weren't here, the smoke was HORRIBLE!
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Just an FYI. Seems fire season is still not over. 
MONO COUNTY —U.S. Highway 395 in Mono County Due remains closed from Emigrant Street in Bridgeport to the Nevada State Line due to a wildfire in Walker Canyon. The fire has reached 20,800 plus acres and claimed 80 structures. It is unclear how long this section of the highway will be closed.

Drivers heading northbound on U.S. Hwy 395 should detour to either U.S. Hwy 6 just north of Bishop to NV360 to US 95 or State Route 182 in Bridgeport to Nevada 338. Southbound traffic from Nevada should detour to U.S. Hwy 95 to NV360 to U.S. Hwy 6 or Nevada 208 to Nevada 338 to State Route 182.
https://roads.dot.ca.gov/

This photo is from 9/11/2020 near Bishop... if you werent here, the smoke was HORRIBLE!

Comment on Facebook

Hoping for an end to this nightmare. Time for some real rain and snow. Be safe. <3

Blah blah anything from keeping people away ! Come on people clear road a little hazy try and drive back east ! Quit whining!

We used to always camp with my parents at Bridgeport or Topaz lake years ago.

Tanner Ernst

Oh no!

These fires are never ending! Be safe.

Y'all stay safe!

Wow!

🙏🏻

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1 week ago

How many of you love to take pictures when you visit Bishop and the surrounding areas? With large amounts of open space, stunning scenery and ample wildlife, it might be the perfect place to work on your composition and skills.

Make sure to ready this blog article about photography here in the Eastern Sierra:
www.bishopvisitor.com/4-fabulous-photography-features/

With COVID-19 on the rise, we ask you to please protect the places and communities where we play. Stay SAFE outside.
#loveBishop #keepbishopsafe

Photo by @leviaguilera_photography
... See MoreSee Less

How many of you love to take pictures when you visit Bishop and the surrounding areas? With large amounts of open space, stunning scenery and ample wildlife, it might be the perfect place to work on your composition and skills.

Make sure to ready this blog article about photography here in the Eastern Sierra: 
https://www.bishopvisitor.com/4-fabulous-photography-features/

With COVID-19 on the rise, we ask you to please protect the places and communities where we play. Stay SAFE outside. 
#loveBishop #keepbishopsafe 

Photo by @leviaguilera_photography

Comment on Facebook

Your Bishop is on my list of places I want to visit when all of this is over.

Love the contrast....... nice photo of wild nature!

Mule (deer) Capital of the World!😄

Where is this?great picture

Nice!

Awesome

Beautiful deer

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