Photo credit: Mike McDermott
Trail runners who know … know that Bishop, California is trail-running heaven. Now all of trail running world knows. Bishop was rated one of the 8 great top trail-running mountain towns on the North American continent in the September issue of Trail Runner magazine. Naturally, those of us who live, work and play here (it’s tough, but someone has to do it) are not surprised by this accolade.
Nestled between two gargantuan mountain ranges, the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains, both rising to over 14,000 feet above sea level (ASL), Bishop is perfectly situated to offer a broad range of trail running options. From the wide-open terrain of the Owens River valley to the rocky outcrops of Buttermilk Country and the Tungsten Hills to the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west and rugged ridges of the White Mountains to the east – this is the good, better and best of trail running.
Trails vary in length, grade, terrain and altitude to provide something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned trail runner. What’s more, the town boasts numerous other world-class activities for those whose passions are not so fiercely ignited by trail running. The trails are also great for hiking and mountain biking. The boulders and crags here are a mecca for rock climbers. There are numerous lakes and miles of river for superb fishing, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. And for the motorheads in your group, many tracks & dirt roads are open to off-highway vehicles.
Bishop is the quintessential western American mountain town with an old-fashioned Main Street with new-world facilities. In and around Bishop there are 24 lodging properties from well-known national brands to locally owned and operated B&Bs, mountain resorts and a hostel. Campgrounds range from full-service commercial, to serviced & developed, to free-of-charge dispersed locations.
Main Street stores and businesses offer everything from trail running gear to fully guided outdoor adventures, with great local knowledge and advice based on on-the-ground experience. Restaurants cater to just about every palate and appetite with just too much to list here. Check out our home page and see all our great mountain town has to offer.
So pack up your shoes, shirt and shorts – then herd the family into the car – and make Bishop your good, better and best trail-running/mountain-sports/weekend-getaway destination.
If you’re a novice trail runner and want to start out with a good, easy jog on a soft surface with the sun on your shoulders and a cool stream or pond nearby for a refreshing post-run dip then try out the trails that flank the Owens River. There are 55 river miles between Pleasant Valley dam and Tinemaha reservoir and countless tracks and trails undulate alongside the river over grassy banks, between tall reeds and over sand dunes. Running alongside the waterways of the valley floor provides little elevation change, but it has an almost limitless number of miles of diverse open terrain. The recently restored Buckley ponds have access for the physically disabled to be at the water’s edge to fish or just enjoy the view.
Buttermilk Road bears the Forest Service designation 07S01 and is 13.1 miles long between the two points where it junctions with CA168 near Bishop and 1.4 miles from Aspendell.
This is a major portion of the now well-known trail running race, the Bishop High Sierra Ultra Marathon, which is coming up again in the Spring. This section of the race route runs on a 4-wheel drive dirt road that climbs about 2,000 feet in elevation. There are rocky sections, stream crossings, and a couple of relatively steep inclines. The road travels below overhanging tree arbors, over flat open meadows, and a few small, forested sections. If there has been recent rain the road can be very muddy in places with large pools of standing water.
It’s a great trail for an out and back totaling about 25-30 miles, depending on where you start, or to run either up or down with a mountain biker buddy and/or chase vehicle for recovery. There is an excellent midpoint for a picnic alongside McGee Creek, where the trees are tall and shady and the creek is cool and refreshing. Depending on the rate of flow it’s possible to find an eddy for a safe dip in the invigorating water. The non-running members of your group can relax, refresh and cheer you on as you run by.
The best trails for the best runners and those aspiring to be their best are tough, high-altitude climbs that reward with awe-inspiring views and a sense of absolute satisfaction. Numerous single-track trails begin in the Bishop Creek Canyon area and climb to nearly 12,000’ ASL to summit passes in the John Muir Wilderness.
There is no better place for competitive runners to train at altitude. Few other regions offer such easy access to trailheads that provide an array of options to run long and high. These trails give runners the chance to test their legs, lungs and heart. The love of trail running is more than just a passion for the sport – it is a driving force for those who live to run.
Run Bishop Run
There is more than one trail running season in Bishop. High-altitude running is best between late May and early October when the temperatures are cool and the trails are clear of snow. The foothills are perfect from late fall to early spring and, depending on recent precipitation, forays to slightly higher elevations are possible if the snowpack is not too deep. A warm winter sun and sparklingly crisp days make winter running alongside the river and valley floor trails a true joy.
Find more information on our web page about Trail Running Near Bishop.
Come on into the Bishop Visitor Center at 690 N. Main Street to find out more details about trails, access, lodging, restaurants and all things that make a weekend getaway good, better, best!