At the base of the White Mountains, 5 miles east of the center of Bishop, is an exceptional off-road motorcycling and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) area. The Poleta Open Area, covering 2,500 acres, consists of about 50 miles of single-track and ATV trails interspersed within a system of OHV trails and roads leading through almost one million acres of the Inyo National Forest.
Whereas most of the larger network comprises of double track native surface road, where vehicles are required to stay on designated roads, the Poleta Open Area, is approved for cross-country and open motorized vehicle travel.
At the northern end of the Poleta area the small, once bustling town of Laws served the railroad station when the “Slim Princess” ran along its narrow gauge through this valley. Now the Laws Railroad Museum & Historic Site is a beautifully preserved reminder of an earlier form of motorized travel.
What Makes It Great
Managed jointly by the Bishop area Forest Service and BLM authorities this open area with its excellent network of trails is linked to the bigger network making the opportunities for dirt bike riding seem almost endless.
The area provides for a wide variety of ATV riding including motorcycles, dune buggies, jeeps and SUVs. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced technical single-track trails as well as 4-wheeled driving routes.
Excellent maps have been produced by the California Trail Users Coalition and are available free of charge at many of the trailheads and, of course, the Bishop Visitor Center.
Who Is Going to Love It
If you are a motoring enthusiast this is a place for you. There’s a road or trail or cross-country adventure that’s just right to put you and your vehicle to the test. You can challenge your skills or just let off some steam.
For the others in your group who want to go at a slower pace, the Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site is not just another theme park – it’s the real deal. Many original buildings, train engines and cars, salvaged and restored structures, and thousands of artifacts celebrate the rich history of this railroad.
Spring is magnificent in the foothills of the White Mountains. The trails are firm, lined with desert flowers, the air is fresh and cool, and the longer days offer many hours of daylight for an adrenaline-filled adventure. It’s really a great place to play year-round and fall is the next best time for OHV fun. Summer can be pretty hot at the lower elevations and winter can, at times, provide some snowy, icy conditions.
The railroad museum is open year-round from 10 am to 4 pm daily. Summer is super for kids of all ages and train rides on the old Death Valley Brill Car No. 5 are fun for all. Visit their website for the train ride schedule. Celebrate the holiday season on the second Saturday in December at the “Railroad Express” with rides in DV#5 rail car, games, prizes, goodies to eat, carol singing, a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, storytelling and so much more railway magic.
Directions. Parking. Regulations.
There are plenty of access points between Silver Canyon Rd, 5 miles north of Bishop at Laws, and 4 miles east of Bishop on East Line St. on Poleta Rd. Dirt tracks and turnouts provide ample parking for trucks and trailers for easy offloading of ATVs. The greater OHV network also provides shared road usage for off-highway vehicles on designated roads around Bishop.
Please obey posted signage and make sure that all OHVs have a California green or red sticker or be street legal. All vehicles must be equipped with a Forest Service-approved spark arrester. Tread Lightly! has an informative guide to responsible dirt biking.