Around 700,000 years ago, the Volcanic Tablelands were formed from the erupting caldera in Long Valley. Near the small California town of Bishop, the Volcanic Tableland has become known around the rock climbing world as one of the more awesome spots to explore. Before rock climbing and westward expansion, the Paiute-Shoshone Indians resided here in the valley, creating and leaving behind stunning petroglyphs that are scattered throughout the Tableland.While no real hiking or running trails exist in the tablelands, a handful or roads for bikes, ORVs, and cars help make this a great place for trail runners looking for big views, history and desert adventure. The best way to see all this land is by running the Volcanic Tablelands Loop and then exploring the rocks and mountains on your own to find the unmarked petroglyphs.
What Makes It Great
With limited maintained trails for hiking and running, the vast majority of exploration in the region is done on the variety of jeep trails or on your own. There are a few rock climbing maps and guides to good bouldering, but the Volcanic Tablelands are mostly unmarked and wild.
The Volcanic Tableland Loop is one of the few marked areas, consisting of mainly rolling double-track routes and dirt roads. The loop run might be nearly a marathon in distance, but this trail is ideal for nearly every level of runner to enjoy. Gaining just 1,308 feet over 24.3 miles, this route will give you the very best views of the entire area while letting you get in a long run with minimal gain. The land and the views, combined with the ever-present feeling of the history of humanity on your shoulders bring an awareness of yourself and your impact on the environment to the forefront of your brain.
Running in the Volcanic Tableland is what many feel it would be like to run on alien terrain. With each step, the possibility of discovering a 7,000-year-old petroglyph on a rock in this stark region. As scrub brush and rock ledges give way to gorgeous panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, wonder, geology and beauty extend out in all directions. Spending the entire day running out here also means you get to stay the night, where stargazing is incredible.
Who is Going to Love It
The roads and bike tracks at Volcanic Tableland will work for all levels of trail runners, but the main trail in the area is for those looking for an ultra distance. While the loop is the best running route, there are smaller excursions you can go on if you need something easier, or you can just take off and literally run for the hills.
If you are a fan of creating your own adventure and keeping locations of incredible petroglyphs a secret, you will love the region. With seclusion, stunning views and the chance to stumble upon some unmarked petroglyphs left by the Paiute-Shoshone Indians that lived here many generations ago, trail running here is just the beginning of discovering this incredible and historic landscape.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the town of Bishop, head north on State Highway 6 until you reach 5 Bridges Road. Take a left here and drive for five miles until it turns into a dirt road. Soon, you will reach a BLM kiosk that will provide a detailed map and some useful route info on the Tablelands.
Look HERE for more trail running options in the Bishop Area.
Featured image provided by BLM