Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Bishop, CA

  • Published 2021/10/10

Are you thinking about going to Bishop, California?

Outdoor enthusiasts and environment lovers flock to this “little town with a vast backyard” in Eastern California.

Bishop is a must-see site in the Eastern Sierra because of its closeness to so many famous sights.

On the western side of Bishop, you will find the Sierra Nevada and, on its eastern end, the White Mountains.

Paiute and Shoshone tribes inhabited the Eastern Sierras for a long time until explorers Joseph Walker and Jedediah Smith arrived to check it out.

After the 1820s, white colonization began in the region.

Richard Owens and Kit Carson joined John C. Fremont on a survey expedition in 1845.

Shortly after that, the gold rush in California sparked a mining boom and a population explosion in the area.

Because Bishop lies along a river, it was initially developed as a livestock and agricultural center to supply the nearby mining activities.

When the water war broke out in 1913, things got chaotic in Bishop when Los Angeles purchased much of Owens Valley to secure Southern California’s water supply.

That period saw a great deal of opposition and upheaval; however, Bishop is a resilient town that has made it thus far.

Today, Bishop is a popular pit stop for those doing an extended Highway 395 road trip.

With so many things to do in Bishop, it might be challenging to decide first what to do.

So, if you have a few more days to spare, you’ll be able to do a number of the things we’ve listed below and truly get into the Eastern Sierras’ best features.

Admire the Scenery at North Lake

View of North Lake

Luc Mena /

The elevation of North Lake is 9,350 feet.

The lake is a beautiful, secluded location that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. We had a bit of a scare getting here since the unpaved road is treacherous: small, steep, and twisting, with some cliff drops.

However, the surroundings are breathtaking.

View of North Lake

Danita Delimont /

North Lake does not have any amenities.

Also, it’s a great place to go fishing and take pictures, especially during the autumn.

Several steps from the lake, North Lake Campground is the starting point for the Piute Pass Trail, which leads into the John Muir Wilderness.

Try Bouldering at Buttermilk Boulders

View of Buttermilk Boulders

Geartooth Productions /

The Buttermilk Boulders are well-known among climbers.

Climbers of all skill levels go to the picturesque climbing region near the base of the Sierra Nevada, a few miles outside of Bishop.

Massive marble-sized glacial erratic rocks dot the landscape as if they were thrown there by an enormous hand.

View of Buttermilk Boulders

Maria Pologrudova /

Even if you’re not a climber, it’s worth the trip out to marvel at the enormous rocks and spot climbers conquering the boulders.

It also has a plethora of dirt routes for mountain riding.

The region is also ideal for hiking and taking photos.

View of Buttermilk Boulders

Geartooth Productions /

Springtime is an excellent time to come because of the abundance of wildflowers.

In the season, the willows that flank the stream that runs through the Buttermilks are teeming with songbirds, so birders should pay a visit then.

Take Highway 168 for 7 miles westward from Bishop to reach the Buttermilk Boulders.

View of Buttermilk Boulders

Always Wanderlust /

Follow Buttermilk Road for 3.4 miles before making a right turn.

It’s a dirt road, so take it carefully or bring a 4WD. Buttermilk Road might be difficult to navigate in a standard sedan.

Go Horseriding at Rock Creek Pack Station

Herb London founded Rock Creek Pack Station in 1947 as a family-owned and operated business.

It offers a variety of equestrian trips and wilderness experiences.

During the station’s busiest months, riders may choose from several daily trail rides, such as the two-hour trips to Rock Creek Canyon or Rock Creek Lake.

There are additional four-hour half-day scenic rides available, as well as all-day fishing and scenic ride tours that leave at 7:30 am.

This tour usually takes six hours, while longer journeys include food, cooking supplies, and camping equipment in addition to the use of horses and saddles.

Drop by Bishop Visitor Center

View of Visitor Center

Underawesternsky /

To get the latest information about attractions, hotels, events, and an unlimited array of outdoor activities, make sure to drop by the city’s visitor center.

The Bishop Visitor Center, housed in a tiny A-frame structure at the entrance of Bishop City Park, welcomes visitors from across the world.

It also includes a good range of books, maps, t-shirts, jewelry, and souvenirs related to the local culture.

RVs and large cars may park in plenty of space just past the baseball field, which is just a short walk away.

Check Out the Unique Trees at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

View of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bill45 /

Located in the Inyo National Forest, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest protects a notable grove of bristlecone pine trees at the White Mountains.

Several trees in the forest are over 4,000 years old, including the fabled “Methuselah” tree, which has flourished for at least 4,773 years.

View of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Guy Miller /

The woodland has some of the planet’s oldest trees.

Many trees have evolved into bizarre shapes throughout the millennia, resulting in a visually stunning landscape.

View of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Joy Stein /

Self-guided pathways allow visitors to explore the trees located at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

Schulman Grove’s visitor center is open in the summer and features picnic tables, educational activities, and facts about the area’s forests and trails.

Take a Dip at Keough’s Hot Springs

As Eastern Sierra’s largest hot spring natural pool, Keough’s Hot Springs opened to the public in 1919 and has served as a hot springs retreat ever since.

There are two mineral-rich pools on the property, and owners make sure to clean and refill them weekly.

As well as an 8.5-foot-deep midnight pool with temperatures as high as 92 degrees Fahrenheit, there is also a two-foot-deep hot pool with a 104-degree Fahrenheit maximum temperature.

There’s also a snack bar featuring picnic spaces, a rock garden, changing facilities, and massage services, among other things, at the location.

There are also water aerobics courses, RV hookups and overnight tents, and fancy tent cabins available at the location.

Take Photos With Crowley Lake Columns

If water levels are shallow enough, drive out to view the unusual Crowley Lake Columns, and you have a 4WD vehicle.

To the eastern side of the lake, thousands of columns adorn the beach.

They’re great photo subjects because of the variety of colors, textures, and sizes.

View of Crowley Lake Columns

Xiu Yu Photography /

There has been speculation among scientists that after 750,000 years, when lava ran over the deposits of ash in the region, it converted them into stone.

The hot rocks melted and boiled the snow when it snowed, resulting in the straight gaps between the columns that you can see now.

You’ll encounter potholes and bumps down the gravel road that leads to the beach.

To reach this area, you will need a 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance.

Have Fun at Bishop Dog Park With Your Furry Friends

Completed in 2012, the Bishop Dog Park is an off-leash park inside a large fenced area behind City Park.

Your fur babies will surely enjoy the grass and toys while socializing with their fellow dogs.

It also has a water feature so your dogs will keep hydrated, especially on a sunny day.

Meanwhile, fur parents can rest at the benches under the shaded trees.

There is a separate area for small and large breeds to ensure your dogs can safely interact with others of the same size.

However, do note that food, drinks, and dog treats are prohibited to avoid food aggression in dogs, leading to dog fights.

Learn About Bishop’s Railroad History at Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site

View of Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site

Espeef5, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This railroad museum is much more than just a collection of vintage railroad equipment.

Laws have been meticulously recreated by the Bishop Historical Society, with period-appropriate buildings and furniture.

As a small gauge line between Round House, Colorado, and the Colorado River, the railroad arrived in Laws in 1863.

Laws sprung established around the railroad. Even yet, the rails stopped at Keeler, one of its ghost towns.

As mining declined, interstate transportation grew, and the LA water thing happened, the train line came to an end.

An 11-acre display of trains and buildings, the historic park provides a unique look at Bishop’s past.

Do save at least 1.5 hours in your itinerary since there’s a lot of things to explore here.

Discover Indigenous Culture at Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center

For more than 40 years, Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center has served as an essential resource for understanding the region’s indigenous people and their rich history.

The museum, which opened in 1973, has an extensive collection of indigenous items and historical records and numerous living history exhibitions.

While a hall of honor recognizes indigenous war heroes, a garden walking route shares information about medicinal plants.

You may buy items made by indigenous craftsmen in the area and publications produced by various tribes.

Aside from performances and local merchants, there are food trucks and children’s activities at the center’s public community market every week.

Trek Down the Little Lakes Valley Trail

View of Little Lakes Valley Trail

Sundry Photography /

This stunning trail is a short and easy day trek that rewards hikers with spectacular views and the pleasure of being in the highlands on foot in the middle of breathtaking scenery without requiring a lot of effort.

It follows that the trek is quite popular, so be prepared to share the path with many other people.

Because the trailhead for this hike is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, be prepared for some serious elevation gain.

View of Little Lakes Valley Trail

Noah Sauve /

Wildflowers are in bloom during the summer, and the route leads to several picturesque alpine lakes.

Long Lake is the largest of the several lakes you’ll see, and a short walk along its edge will reward you with stunning vistas.

Once you’ve reached Long Lake, you have the option of going back the way you came or continuing to Chickenfoot Lake, which entails a bit more climbing.

To fully appreciate the trek, allow plenty of time since you’ll likely stop frequently for photographs or to take it all in.

View of Little Lakes Valley Trail

Sundry Photography /

Picnic at Bishop City Park

if you don’t typically spend a lot of time in parks that look the same as every other park in the suburbs, visit this park for a change,

This park is calm, with a lovely pond complete with ducks and fish.

There are a few lovely pavilions in the park and quiet pathways for a stroll.

You may also find Bishop Creek here.

The park is a fantastic spot for a picnic, unwinding, and taking in the neighborhood’s sights and sounds.

It has many areas where you can relax, as well as playgrounds and other amenities for children.

There are also walking paths and sports fields nearby.

The park is a great place to take photos, significantly when the leaves change color in the fall.

Bring a blanket, your morning coffee, and relax in the beautiful park!

Enjoy Lake Sabrina Boat Landing’s Water Activities

An area known as Lake Sabrina Boat Landing has marinas and boat launches placed within the artificial reservoir completed in 1907 by damming Bishop Creek nearby.

Public boat rentals are available at the nearby shops, including motorboats, pontoon boats, and canoe and rowboat rentals for short-term usage and long-term storage.

View of Lake Sabrina Boat Landing

Steven Guo /

All rentals include launching services and life jackets, as well as gasoline for outboard motors.

The marina also has a gear and bait shop and fish washing facilities for daily catches.

There is a cafe on site that provides breakfast and lunch, handmade pies, and ice cream.

The marina also sells takeaway wine, beer, and snacks.

Try Your Luck in Wanaaha Casino

Formerly known as Paiute Palace Casino, Wanaaha Casino is the only Vegas-style casino open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the Eastern Sierra foothills.

It has more than 300 of the most popular slot machines and a selection of table games.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe owns and operates the Paiute Palace Casino.

Founded in October of 1995, the casino lies at Paiute, California, just a five-minute drive from Bishop.

Approximately 65 percent of Native Americans make up its staff.

The Paiute Palace Casino has the latest and finest slot machines, blackjack, and poker to keep you cool in summer and warm in the colder months.

Tu-Ka-Novie, a restaurant in the region, serves excellent meals at reasonable pricing.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Check Out Author Mary Austin’s Home

View of Mary Austin's Home

Cullen328 by Jim Heaphy, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Austin lived in Independence, roughly 40 minutes away from downtown Bishop.

In 1888, her father, a Civil War Captain, selected California to settle.

Mary initially resisted relocating to California. Upon landing, she gained great respect for the Owens Valley and its inhabitants.

In 1900, she published articles about the valley.

Her 1903 work, “The Land of Little Rain,” is still in print and regarded as classic literature describing the Owens Valley.

From 1900 until she died in 1934, Mary published novels, essays, poems, and plays with the Owens Valley as the setting.

Her curiosity prompted her to spend 17 years researching the Mojave Desert‘s Native Americans.

She and her husband fought for their rights during the Owens Region Water Wars but lost.

Mary left her husband and relocated to Carmel, where she met Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and George Sterling.

Outside the home at 253 W Market Street, you will find a historical marker with a quote from her essay, “The Land of Little Rain.”

Final Thoughts

With the abundance of outdoor activities available, Bishop lives up to its nickname, “small town with a big backyard.”

Bishop, California, offers world-class adventure, with everything from the state’s lowest desert to its tallest peak and oldest bristlecone pines.

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