Pick Your Path in Bishop, California
With so much to discover in the lower 48, we rarely go back time after time to the same destination. But when an area has as much to discover as Bishop, California, it’s easy to book a return trip. This small town with a regional population of 10,000 is nestled in between the Sierra Nevada and White Mountains on the eastern side of the Golden State. Not to be confused with a road-side pitstop on the way to Yosemite National Park, Bishop is a year-round outdoor mecca that knows how to keep its locals and tourists busy.
We’ve covered fall and winter activities in Bishop (many of which are available year-round), but what about visiting in the summer months? After our recent 72-hour non-stop adventure, we can confidently report that there is just as much to do. Pick your path in Bishop with the following suggestions, perfect for those who enjoy a vast array of activities.
This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.
Cool Off in the Eastern Sierra
While the city limits of Bishop sit at an elevation of 4,150 feet, a mere 25-minute car ride west takes you to the base of peaks soaring to well over 10,000 feet. Translation? Summertime might be hot in the desert valley, but it is reliably 20 degrees cooler in the mountains. Refresh yourself at any number of alpine lakes and creeks in this area of the Eastern Sierra, including Lake Sabrina. Pump up your paddleboard for a peaceful afternoon on the water, or rent a boat and throw in a line. Fishing is a popular pastime here, as is indulging in a piece of home-baked pie at the lakeside cafe.
Make Like John Muir and Take a Hike
Of course, with mountains comes hiking. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are famous for two trails in particular: Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail. Either is accessible from Bishop, but you may also consider a shorter out-and-back hike that is perfect for those on a schedule. Try Tyee Lakes Trail, which guides you through an iconic California landscape of towering Jeffrey Pines and granite rock. You may hike to just the first lake (just over two miles each way), or continue on to see all four. Enjoy lunch afterward at Bishop Creek Lodge or Cardinal Village Resort.
Celebrate the Iconic Mules of Bishop
You may have realized that Bishop isn’t far from the coast of California as the crow flies, but there’s a significant mountain range in between. How on earth do people get around in this granite landscape? On foot, by horse, and by mule. Bishop has a robust history of packing mining equipment, climbing gear, and humans into the wilderness with the help of these powerful animals, and even celebrates with a festival in their honor each Memorial Day. Sample this living history for yourself with a day trip on horseback or an overnight mule ride with Rainbow Pack Outfitters, a family-run business since 1924.
Roll Through Aspens on a Mountain Bike
For those who prefer to explore the Bishop area with a bit more speed, mountain biking is the perfect option. The upper two sections of the Lower Rock Creek trail, pictured here, offer a beautiful and beginner-friendly tour of the terrain. (It’s even great to shuttle!) Those with more technical prowess may opt for the final leg of Lower Rock Creek or any of the area’s other trails. And of course, it’s always fun to partake in a lift day at nearby Mammoth Mountain.
Fuel Up: Pre or Post Adventure in Bishop
For breakfast, try a burrito bowl or french toast at the lively Looney Bean, or a couple of pastries (and excellent to-go lunch items) from the well-known Erick Schat’s Bakkery. For lunch, Mercado Mexico provides fresh fruit, authentic burritos, and easy options for picnicking. When dinner rolls around, Mountain Rambler Brewery is the go-to for burgers, pizza, and salads. This author particularly liked their Porter Brownie—served piping hot!
Ready to turn in for the night? Rest your weary head at any of Bishop’s 21 lodging options! From quaint, budget-friendly motels to high-end luxury and everything in between, there’s a place to suit anyone’s preference.
…Or Experience a One-of-a-Kind Overnight
After the sun sets, climb aboard a 4WD vehicle and crawl up the side of the White Mountains, just to the east of town. Your destination? Eastern Sierra Observatory, where a powerful telescope transports you far past the limits of gravity. Guest speakers will blow you away with their knowledge of deep space during certain astronomical events throughout the year. But even if it’s just you and the stars during your visit, this is a truly unique experience that you shouldn’t miss! We can guarantee you’ll sleep like a rock in your space-inspired sleeping pod after a full day of fun in Bishop, California.