Bishop Creek Canyon
Top Photo: Josh Kizziar
Bishop Creek Canyon is one of the biggest and best playgrounds in our beautiful big backyard. Situated about 20-miles west of Bishop along CA-168 W., it is a magnificent area of about 30-square-miles in the majestic Sierra Nevada where perennial creeks flow into large, high-altitude lakes surrounded by evergreen and deciduous forests laced with hiking trails. Our guests tell us they are awestruck by the beauty and calming influence of the sights, sounds, and sensations when experiencing this natural environment.
The heart of the canyon is a beautiful drive of a little over 20-miles from downtown Bishop. Head west on W. Line St., also known as CA-168 W., to one of the large, lovely lakes that are the hub of adventure in Bishop’s Eastern Sierra.
Seasons in Bishop Creek Canyon
Bishop Creek Canyon is a year-round playground with something for everyone. Summer is spectacular. Bring the whole family (furry family too) and drive up the good, paved roads to access trailheads, boat ramps, campgrounds, cafés and resorts, pristine beaches and rocky shores, wheelchair accessible fishing piers, and so much more in the wonderful wilderness regions beyond. Trails for a short, leisurely walk in the woods or full day hike into the wilderness begin at easily accessible trailheads. These trailheads also connect backpackers to two of the most famous trails in the world, the Pacific Crest and the John Muir trails, for the more adventurous long-distance hikers.
This year-round playground becomes a winter wonderland with ice-skating, sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and holiday fun with Santa when the snow falls. In spring it’s an enchanting land of wildflowers and waterfalls. In fall it’s one of the most magnificent fall color experiences in all of California, and maybe the whole country.
Everywhere you look is a scene worth photographing. Did you know this is one of the most photographed regions in the country?
The Lakes of Bishop Creek Canyon
Bishop Creek Canyon is made up of three forks—north, middle, and south fork. The headwaters of these three forks begin high in the Sierra Nevada converging at the mouth of Bishop Creek Canyon to flow into the Owens Valley below. Along each fork, between the elevations of 9,000- and 10,000-feet, lies a large lake: North Lake at north fork, Lake Sabrina at middle fork, and South Lake at south fork. Many small ponds and a well-maintained reservoir, Intake 2, lie along the forks below these lakes.
This magnificent, high altitude set of canyons and basins was carved by glacial action during the ice age. Thousands more natural lakes lie higher up in the Sierra Nevada, which scientists tell us are the result of a recent ice age when massive glaciers carved down the mountain and left innumerable lakes at all elevations when they retreated as the climate warmed. This glacial staircase of connected lakes has produced an environment of ever-flowing water, lakes and ponds, cool forests, sun dappled meadows, deep canyons, and craggy mountain peaks that is today one of the most diverse wilderness regions in the country.
Click on the toggles below to learn more about each lake.
Lake Sabrina - 9,125'
Located 19-miles west of Bishop at the terminus of CA-168 W. is lovely Lake Sabrina, pronounced “Suh-bry-na” by locals. Temperatures here in summer are 20-30 degrees lower than in the valley making it a perfect place for a half day summer outing. Take a hike along the trail that climbs the steep shore of the lake; swim, paddleboard, or kayak for a few refreshing hours in and on the water. Enjoy a delicious treat from the quaint and beautiful Lake Sabrina Boat Landing and Café, open and accessible by road from spring to fall each year. Boat and kayak rentals are available.
Fall is spectacular here. The grandeur of the lake and the contours of the craggy mountains are accentuated by the swaths of autumnal color where trees cling to the rocky mountainside in colorful defiance of gravity.
North Lake - 9,500'
North Lake is located along the north fork of Bishop Creek just 20-miles from downtown Bishop. The drive along CA-168 W. (West Line St.) is on a scenic, paved mountain road for 18-miles to the junction of N. Lake Rd. Here the road climbs more steeply between a forest of aspens and pines, part-paved and part-dirt, with a short traverse along the cliffside offering spectacular views into the canyon below. This section of road is closed during winter and offers excellent cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when winter snowfall is deep.
This lovely lake is a favorite fall color destination in early autumn. It is frequented by campers, hikers, backpackers, and anglers during the warm season from May to November. Bishop Pack Outfitters is stationed here and offers mule and horse packing for easier access to the spectacular backcountry and world-renowned Pacific Crest and John Muir trails that pass by here.
South Lake - 9,868'
South Lake is the highest of the three large lakes in the Bishop Creek Canyon lakes basin. Located 22-miles west of Bishop at the end of South Lake Rd. (Drive 15-miles on CA-168 W. (W. Line St.) from downtown Bishop and turn left onto S. Lake Rd.) It is a popular start point for hiking into the wilderness along the Bishop Pass Trail, which connects to Kings Canyon National Park and the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails. Many other gorgeous hikes are accessed from this trailhead for day hikes, fishing, and mountaineering providing some of the most spectacular views of the craggy Sierra Nevada.
The lake is wonderful for all types of water sport like swimming, paddling, kayaking, and boating; rentals of watercraft are available here from nearby Parchers Resort. This lake, like the others in the large and impressive Bishop Creek drainage, is stunningly colorful in fall.
Look!!! Let’s plan a Death Valley Trip. Ask about including a visit from Bishop.
And don’t forget to check out all our great lodging options.
Read and study these pages, download the brochures and maps, and plan a trip to Bishop and the Eastern Sierra. Call us: (760) 873-8405, or email us: and let us help you choose your future adventure. We look forward to meeting you then!
Experiences in Bishop Creek Canyon
These lakes are easily accessible in summer for fabulous for fishing, swimming, paddling, or boating. Use your own gear or rent equipment from nearby outfitters. There are places to picnic and establishments for casual dining, drinks, or a quick house made snack. Find a campground or book a cabin. Take a hike, go trail-running, or book a mule pack trip. Fall color spotting is incredible if you catch it just right. Be sure to review our Fall Color page and current color report in season. Winter is wonderful in the canyon with ice-skating, sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing available when conditions are good. There’s always holiday fun with Santa at Cardinal Village.
With so much available we’ve created this guide for you to review and choose the best experiences for you and your family and friends. Use the menu options near the top of the page to hop between activities and plan your best trip to our big backyard.
Click on the experiences below to launch a StoryMap with more details about each.
A NOTE OF CAUTION: Altitude is the omnipresent phenomenon to take into consideration. All trails from Bishop Creek Canyon begin at well over 9,000-ft. Visitors from coastal regions may need some time to acclimatize to these elevations. Be prepared for rapidly changing conditions any time of year. Drink plenty of water and take hydration with you, dress in layers with adequate sun protection and wear sunscreen, wear good tried-and-tested shoes, use a GPS or carry a satellite tracker—there is no cell phone service in the backcountry. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Lodging. Dining. Camping.
Eat, stay, and play in Bishop Creek Canyon. Most of the lodging, dining, and camping options are seasonal, open from about mid-April to late-November. Make your mountain getaway be exactly what you dream of. Book a fully serviced cabin for a rustic retreat, hookup your RV, or pitch a tent and fish or hike right outta your door. Enjoy everything from campfire cooking to heat & serve pastries to full service, made-to-order meals. Burgers never tasted so good as they do at altitude. And made-from-scratch, homemade pies are the finest you’ll find anywhere. Pull up a chair at a log-cabin bar and finish a day of fishing, hiking, or paddling with an ice-cold beer or delicious cocktail.
As winter rolls in, road closures and facility closures depend on when and how much snow falls. Occasionally an early season snowfall may result in temporary closures, but by mid-December roads, cafes, campgrounds, and lodges will be closed for the season.
Parchers Resort offers cabins with private bathrooms and some with kitchenettes, RV hookups, and a general store with heat & serve pastries. Groups can book additional services such as catered meals and special events.
Bishop Creek Lodge is a family run resort that’s been welcoming guests since 1928. The property has 11 cabins for rent ranging in size from cozy cabins for two to larger cabins for families and groups up to 8 people. The resort also has a restaurant, cocktail bar, general store, and laundry facilities on the property.
Cardinal Village Resort has beautiful cabins ranging in size and amenities provided; from large multi-room cabins with private bathroom, kitchen, dining and lounge area to dormitory style cabins to basic one room cabins. Many of these restored cabins were originally built over 100-years ago when the village was settled by miners and their families. Read more about Cardinal mine here.
The Lake Sabrina Café is owned and operated by the folks from Parchers and serves breakfast and lunch made-to-order meals and the best scratch, homemade pie in the mountains.
Bishop Creek Lodge has a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar (with TVs so you don’t miss an important game) that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The most popular item on their menu is the personalized pizza!
The Cardinal Café at Cardinal Village Resort serves up breakfast and lunch made-to-order. Summertime is wood-fired pizza time. This a favorite all-you-can-eat pizza buffet set outdoors (weather permitting) and served with classy wines for over 21s. Reservations are required for these convivial repasts.
Creekside RV Park offers full RV hookups, tent sites, and trailer rental for a ‘creeksite’ experience. Fish in the stocked pond, in creek on-site in the park or upstream and downstream of the park. The park has restrooms, showers, a country store and fish cleaning station.
Parchers Resort has three full hookup RV sites with guest access to bathrooms and showers and the general store and café.
U.S. Forest Service campgrounds maintains 12 campgrounds along the roads that weave through Bishop Creek Canyon. With a range of sizes and services these campgrounds offer a great variety of camping in exquisitely beautiful settings. Read about these campgrounds in more detail here.
Blogs about Bishop Creek Canyon
Look at these previous blogs for more information on the many wonderful aspects of Bishop Creek Canyon.
About the Author: Gigi de Jong
Gigi is “crazy mad in love with Bishop.” Since moving here in 2006 she has made it her mission to participate in as many of the outdoor activities as possible. She learned to snowboard, improved upon her very average climbing skills, took long hikes, has driven up and down innumerable mountain roads and 4×4 tracks, cycled and occasionally tumbled down mountain bike trails, taken to the roads on a bicycle or motorcycle – sometimes for fun and sometimes to commute, and successfully completed her first attempt at a triathlon. She spent 10 months touring the western US and Canada on a bicycle and after 4,000 plus miles returned to Bishop – for the beauty of the place and the spirit of the community. “My soul belongs here,” she says.