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20 Best Things to Do in Bishop, California

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The Bishop area has gorgeous scenery and ample hiking, fishing, and rock climbing. And it’s rural isolation and unspoiled terrain are part of the draw. Many think of the town as a small town with a big backyard. These are some of our favorite things to do in Bishop.

Bishop is also known for its mules. Bishop hosts the largest non-motorized parade, Mule Days, every Memorial Day weekend. There are many places to visit in Bishop, California, for an outdoor adventure or a quiet day by the river.

There are also many places to eat in Bishop. Dozens of local restaurants ensure options for various interests and on every budget. The Bishop Visitor Center has free lists and maps to make choosing easier.

Downtown parks and a casino are all within reach of this eastern High Sierra town. Lodging runs the gamut from beds and breakfasts to small hotels.

One of the best hotels in Bishop is the Creekside Inn. Featuring all the modern conveniences of a luxury hotel, it hosts some breathtaking views – all for a very sensible price.


  • Most significant landmark – Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
  • Park – Bishop City Park
  • Free activity – Downtown Urban Murals
  • Activity for kids – Laws Railroad Museum
  • Activity for adults – Keough Hot Springs
  • Restaurant – Whiskey Creek
  • Nightlife – Owens Valley Distilling Company
  • Place to stayCreekside Inn

Things to Do in Bishop, California

1. Go Birdwatching

Birding at Owens Lake -By Joe Pollini

Address: 688 N Main St, Bishop, CA 93514

Bishop’s “Big Backyard” has some of the best birdwatching trails in the High Sierra. Even Bishop City Park and canals are known as top birder haunts.

The difference between birding and birdwatching is your dedication to the activity. Birders are competitive. Some drop everything if they hear about a rare species in a region and drive hours to see it.

Whether you’re a birder or birdwatcher, Bishop is a migratory route in the spring and fall and a year-round home for many others. Some of the birds of Bishop include Red-Winged Blackbirds in Mono Lake, Egrets at Owens Lake, and the majestic Great Blue Herons along the canal in Bishop.

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2. Spend a Day at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and Skyline

Address: 237 E South St STE E, Bishop, CA 93514

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is part of the Inyo National Forest and is truly unforgettable. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the oldest trees in the world, bristlecone pine trees.

Some living trees exceed 4,000 years of age and exhibit spectacular growth forms of twisted and beautifully colored wood.  As you enter the Forest, a picnic area has picnic tables. This spot is perfect for a quick bite or short walk on the nature trail to stretch your hiking legs. 

Further up the paved road in Schulman Grove is one of the visitor centers. This gorgeous lodge-style building has a gift shop, educational exhibits, and video.

Adjacent to the visitor center is the Discovery Trail – an easy trek highlighting the spectacular surroundings of the ancient bristlecone and limber pines. The next stop is the Methuselah hiking trail – a much longer hike. 

Unfortunately, the area is closed for visits during winter and usually opens in mid-May. The hiking season lasts until the end of November, depending on the weather. You should always check the forecast before consulting the visitors center.

To get to Patriarch Grove, follow the dirt road for about 12 miles. Patriarch Grove is home to the world’s largest bristlecone pine, the mighty Patriarch Tree. If you’re looking for a hotel, book a stay at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Bishop is one of the best choices.

See Related: Road Trip Ideas in California

3. Grab a Bite on Main Street

The Upper Crust Building
image by gebbes6 /TripAdvisor

Address: 186 S Main St, Bishop, CA 93514

Almost all of the restaurants in Bishop are located along South Main Street – the main road through town.The Mountain Rambler Brewery is a great place to meet friends after a day of adventure.

The Mountain Rambler offers craft beer on tap and delicious sandwiches and pizza with spectacular views. If it has been a hard day of play, grab a pizza at The Upper Crust and relax in your hotel.

If you want a peaceful place to unwind, the Owens Valley Distilling Company offers craft cocktails and bar snacks in a lush environment. Whiskey Creek is a local favorite for all-around fantastic food and an excellent dining experience.

Upscale American with salads, grilled seafood and burgers, and poke bowls. They also have cold craft beers on draft and handmade cocktails.

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4. Play at Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site

Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: Silver Canyon Rd, Bishop, CA 93514

If you are wondering what to do in Bishop with kids, the Laws Railroad Museum & Historic, The Laws Railroad Museum, is located in Laws, just a little over 5 miles from downtown Bishop. The 11-acre museum is a designated California historic site on the National Register.

This unique museum celebrates how trains helped tame the West. The outdoor exhibits include saved and restored historic buildings and an old railroad depot. There are also authentic rail cars, an old engine, and a caboose.

See Related: Difference Between NorCal and SoCal

5. Visit Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center

Huts at Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 2300 W Line St, Bishop, CA 93514

While in Bishop, stop by the Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center. Here, visitors experience the culture, history, heritage, and living history of the indigenous peoples of the Owens Valley region. These include the Nuumu (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone) tribes.

The center houses cultural exhibits, a Memorial Hall paying tribute to Native American Veterans, artifacts, and historical archives. There is also a Native Garden and a Walking Trail. Browse the gift shop, where you can purchase arts and crafts items made by local artisans.

Another part of the Bishop Paiute Tribe is the Wanaaha Casino. Formerly called the Paiute Palace Casino, the Wanaaha Casino is on Highway 395 in Bishop, California.

In addition to over 500 games, the casino houses the Tukaanovie restaurant, Wanaaha Lounge, and the Paiute Deli. Proceeds from the growing venture are dedicated to the growth and advancement of the Paiute people.

See Related: Things to Do in Fresno

6. Soak in Keough’s Hot Springs Pool

Keough's Hot Springs Pool
image by sv_makai/TripAdvisor

Address: 2742 N Sierra Hwy, Bishop, CA 93514

Nothing is more relaxing after a day of hard play than a soak in a hot mineral spring. The hot springs of the Eastern Sierra are famous tourist attractions in Bishop. In the 1920s and 1930s, Keough’s was a world-class health and wellness resort that used geothermal spring water for healing.

There are two hot springs pools at Keough’s Hot Springs. The larger pool is used for exercising and splashing. The smaller hot pool, a constant 104 degrees, is for deep relaxation. The mineral water in the springs and pools is constantly refreshed and cooled from its original 130-degree temperature. The location continues the tradition of a destination hot springs with cabins and a recreational vehicle park.

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7. Bike around Poleta Canyon

Poleta View Bike Ride

Address: Polenta Canyon Road, CA 93514

Five miles from Bishop sits Poleta Canyon. This 2,500-acre area canyon has a descent of over 6,000 feet. Hundreds of miles of trails include short hiking trails that crisscross the canyon. The trails connect to Owens Lake and the Bodie ghost town.

There is also a single-track mountain bike trail that descends – twisting through washes and dry falls. This mountain bike trail has amazing Sierra Mountain views. The area is also home to a dirt bowl for ATV use.

There are no facilities in the canyon, but primitive camping is permitted. For those staying overnight, California requires campfire permits for all campers. Vehicle permits are also needed to be in the canyon. 

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8. Tour the Downtown Murals

Bishop Murals
image by Bishopvisitor is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: Downtown Bishop, CA

Bishop is the largest town in the Owens Valley. Downtown is very walkable, with historic buildings and Old West facades. Another aspect of Bishop is a great urban art walk.

Almost two dozen murals throughout downtown Bishop document the region’s history – the Bishop Bakery from 1922, John Muir Wilderness, and a portrait of Father Crowley.

One of the newer installations is a ten-by-fifteen-foot natural history mural of 421 sculpted ceramic tiles and mosaics created by 216 local community members.

Mural maps are available from the Bishop Historical Society and Mural Society. These uniquely painted walls and buildings are among the great free things to do in Bishop, California.

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in America to Vacation

9. Climb the Buttermilk Boulders

Buttermilk Boulders Hike

 Address: Buttermilk Rd, Bishop, CA 93514

If you climb, you probably know about the Buttermilks already. It is located eight miles west of Bishop, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This scenic rock garden is world-famous for all levels of climbers.

The Buttermilk is a glacial boulder erratically strewn across the canyon floor. Even if you do not climb, these awe-inspiring giant marbles are worth the drive.

Mountain bikers love the dozens of dirt trails in Buttermilk Country. The hiking trails range from easy to ‘oh no’ in difficulty. Spring brings rain to Buttermilk. And with the rain, the wildflowers bloom, and the birds return to the area.

Buttermilk Road is the only way to get to the boulders. It is well maintained but still a dirt road and a rough drive in a regular car. 4WDs are highly encouraged!

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10. Visit the Long Valley Caldera

Long Valley Caldera
image by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 437 Old Mammoth Road Suite 230. Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

One of the best things about Bishop is that it is ideally near some of the region’s most interesting geological landmarks and attractions.

Believe it or not, the eastern California area is scattered with active volcanoes and calderas dating back millions of years. The Long Valley Caldera sits adjacent to Mammoth Mountain in Eastern California, measuring 20 miles long by 11 miles wide.

The depression was formed after the eruption of magma to the surface some 730,000 years ago. The last volcanic explosion blasted 150 cubic miles of volcanic ash and rocked into the atmosphere, forming the Long Valley Caldera. Currently, a partially molten magma chamber sits five miles below the surface.

The Happy and Sad Boulders are about an hour north of Bishop within the Long Valley formation. The volcanic rock in this area created channels and cracks that challenge climbers from all over the world.

To get to the Happy and Sad Boulders, drive north from Bishop on Highway 395 and make a right onto Pleasant Valley Road. Turn right to Chalk Bluff Road after passing by the Pleasant Valley Campground.

Another enjoyable outdoor activity in Bishop is the Old Sherwin Grade road. It ran parallel to Highway 395 and the Pleasant Valley reservoir and was built to transport Jeffrey Pine from Round Valley to a mill on Lower Rock Creek. As you head northwest of Bishop, you will pass Rock Creek Canyon on your way to Crowley Lake and the Crowley Lake Columns.

These fascinating arch-like formations in the cliffs around the lake were thought to have been created by water erosion. To get to the columns, you will need a 4WD. Turn off Highway 395 near Rock Creek and go to the trailhead. The rugged trail is rugged, but the trek is worth the trip.

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11. Visit Lake Sabrina

Lake Sabrina and Skyline
image by inkknife_2000 (11.5 million views) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: State Route 168. Bishop, CA 93514

Lake Sabrina is one of four lakes in the Bishop Creek Canyon Basin. It is located about 20 minutes drive southwest of Bishop. The lake was created when Bishop Creek’s middle fork was dammed. It sits at 9138 feet above sea level high in the Sierra Mountains. 

Lake Sabrina is a favorite destination for anglers and is a known home to world-class trout fishing, including rainbow and brown trout. It is also famous for boating, swimming, and paddle boarding.

The area is also a favorite of hikers and daily trail riders who enjoy mountain biking. The site is also popular with campers.

The Lake Sabrina Blue Lake Trail is one of the most popular. This moderately challenging hike is a 6.2-mile out-and-back trail and takes about three hours and 21 minutes to complete.

Lake Sabrina Boat Landing offers pontoon boats and rentals at the northwest corner. The Landing also operates the Waterfront cafe and general store. Nearby, Parchers Resort has cabin rentals and RV hookup sites available during the summer and fall. 

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12. Visit North Lake

Sunset at North Lake
image by Jay Huang is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Address: N Lake Rd, Bishop, CA 93514

Drive 20 miles southwest of Bishop, and you will find North Lake, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the area. North Lake sits 9,350 feet above sea level.

Highly remote, getting to the lake is an adventure. The road is partially paved. There is also a graveled segment that is steep, narrow, and winding, with nail-biting drop-offs. But there are few people, and the views are magnificent — worth the worry.

The high peaks of Mt. Emerson (13,210′) and further back Lamarck Peak (13,417′) define Bishop Creek Canyon and the lake basin. Area amenities include short- and long-term parking, pit toilets, and a water spigot. The North Lake Campground is welcoming among the tall Jeffery and Lodgepole pines. There is a fee to camp with minimal facilities.

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13. Relax at Bishop City Park

Bishop City Park
image by Bishop City Park/Facebook

Address: 688 N Main St, Bishop, CA 93514

Bishop City Park features a beautiful pond, home to fish, birds, and ducks. The park has a beautiful gazebo and a few strolling paths, and Bishop Creek flows through the park. It’s a lovely, relaxing green space.

Bishop City Park is one of the best things to do with kids in Bishop, California. The iconic Skate Park and multiuse sports fields are available for public use.

There are several play areas and a community pool. Tennis courts are at the rear of the park, as are the leashed Bishop Dog Park and community gardening spaces. If you’re looking for more parks in Bishop and California, visit Universal Studios Hollywood on a VIP tour.

14. Trek the Little Lakes Valley Trail

Little Lakes Valley Trail Scenery
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 688 N Main St, Bishop, CA 93514

Carved over centuries by glaciers, Little Lakes Valley is easily accessible and consists of a chain of both large and small alpine lakes. From Bishop, drive north on Hwy 395 to Tom’s Place. Follow Rock Creek Road to Mosquito Flat.

At the end of the road, there is paved hiker parking. The Little Lakes Valley area is popular for fishing, day hikes, and beginning backpackers.

Part of the Inyo National Forrest, wildflowers complement spectacular views of the 13,000-foot peaks of Bear Creek Spire and Mt. Dade.

The area is a conservation area and home to the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep habitat – a recovering species. Evidence of historical mining equipment and an old road bed at Morgan Pass can be seen.

The trailhead for this Little Lakes Valley trail sits at over 10,000 feet above sea level for authentic high-altitude hiking. This trail leads to several beautiful alpine lakes. Long Lake is the largest of the lakes. Continuing, you will encounter Chickenfoot Lake.

Rentals are available directly off Rock Creek Road at the Rock Creek Pack Station. Trail rides are also available and start from the station—book guided tours through Bishop Pack Outfitters.

Wilderness permits are required year-round for overnight trips into John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Information and permits can be obtained at the White Mountain visitor center.

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15. Stay at Horton Creek Campground

Sunset at Horton Creek Campground
image by jfdervin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: Horton Creek Rd, Bishop, CA 93514

Deep in the heart of Owens Valley, along the lower slopes of the Eastern Sierra, is a primitive campground on Bureau of Land Management land. South Lake and Sabrina Lake are short distances from the camp, and rock climbers often use the campground as a base.

Hiking trails crisscross the region. One of the most popular hikes is the Big Pine Creek trail, which passes several beautiful waterfalls to actor Lon Chaney’s wilderness cabin and Big Pine Lakes.

Minimal facilities and dispersed camping are vital to this area. But the views are worth the trouble. To get to the campground, take Highway 395 10 miles east from Bishop until you reach Horton Creek Road.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in California

16. Walk the Canals in Bishop

Ducks in a Canal in Bishop California

Address: Downtown Bishop, CA

Bishop Creek Canal runs through the town and is a beautiful place to walk for low-impact activity. High grass hides the dozens of birds, fish, ducks, and cows that make the area’s canals home. The largest bird in the channels is the Great Heron.

Bishop Creek Canal is part of the network of creeks and rivers that are a wash for the area’s mineral hot springs. Its water flows out of the Owens River near the Happy and Sad Boulders and south towards Big Pine.

The area has 17 canals, including the North McNally Canal, Owens River Canal, and Big Pine Canal. The canals are popular with local fishermen because they are home to both rainbow and brown trout and the trophy fish, the large-mouthed bass. Anglers of all ages can easily access the water with several inputs up and down the canals.

Canals are an important part of the area’s ecosystem. Owens Valley was once a wet floodplain. The Numic tribe named this part of the valley Payahǖǖnadǖ, or “Place of flowing water.”

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17. Play Some Golf

Playing Golf in Bishop

Address: 1325 US Hwy 395, Bishop, CA 93514

Another low-impact activity located in the heart of West Bishop is playing a round of golf. And there is no place better than the Bishop Country Club.

Bishop Country Club golf course is located on White Mountain Road (US Hwy 395), between the stunning White Mountains and the beautiful High Sierra in Eastern California.

Bishop Country Club is a public, par 71 – rye grass course with spectacular fairway views and smooth-putting greens. There is also a lighted driving range for anyone needing extra practice or stress relief.

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18. Climb Mt. Whitney

Mt Whitney and Skyline

Address: Whitney Portal Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545

About an hour’s drive from Bishop, just west of Lone Pine, Mt. Whitney is located. Permits are required to walk the trail and are available online. But that does not stop the thousands who trek the 10.5 miles to the summit (elevation 14,496 feet above sea level) yearly. 

For those attempting the hike, there are several area campgrounds, including Tuttle Creek Campground and Lone Pine Campground. Visitors can also camp in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area near Whitney Portal.

The Mt. Whitney Trail of the eastern sierras remains one of the world’s most hiked trails and one of the best things to do in Bishop, California.

19. Visit Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Address: Daylight Pass Road, Death Valley, CA 92328

Death Valley is hot, dry, and one of the lowest places on the planet at 282 feet below sea level. Officially a National Park, this desert is one of the best places to visit in Bishop, with spectacular views, impressive dunes, and canyons. 

Bishop is an ideal base camp if you want to go on a weekend trip to this unique national park. The best times to visit Death Valley National Park and the Badlands are winter, spring, and fall; the drive is less than 3 hours. 

This haunting valley is a place of extremes, but there are still many things to see and do. You can visit the park on a Death Valley Explorer or Small Group Guide Tour with Stargazing.

Depending on the time of year, the list of attractions is seemingly endless, including Badwater Basin’s salt flats, walking trails, and an authentic ghost town in Titus Canyon. If you are in a 4×4, the Eureka Dunes and The Racetrack are unforgettable experiences.

Want to snap scenic photos? Book a Death Valley Sightseeing and Stargazing Photography Tour.

See Related: Things to Do in Eureka

20. Take Photos at Alabama Hills National Scenic Area

Alabama Hills National Scenic Area Sunrise
image by RuggyBearLA is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: Whitney Portal Rd Lone Pine, CA 93545

Looking for more day trips from Bishop? About 60 miles from Bishop, the Alabama Hills area is one of California’s most photographed areas and a favorite for Hollywood filmmakers. 

The rounded contours of the Alabama Hills contrast the craggy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The iconic Mobius Arch was formed by chemical weathering while buried under the soil.

The Mobius Arch is the largest of the many natural arches in the Alabama Hills and, viewed from the correct angle, frames Mt. Whitney perfectly.

The Alabama Hills are an adventurer’s playground with boulders to climb and trails to bike and hike. While in Alabama Hills, vehicle and mountain bike use are restricted to existing roads and paths. And it is always good to remember that there are no area services. The nearest hospital is in Lone Pine.

See Related: National Parks to Visit in November

Places to Stay in Bishop

1. Creekside Inn - Bishop Top Recommendation

Creekside Inn is the perfect place for guests to stay. Located in Bishop - a small town that is known for its amazing surroundings and outdoor adventures. The hotel offers guests with a choice of either a balcony or patio guestroom with views of Bishop Creek or guestrooms with views of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

2. The Hostel California

If you're heading to California, you've come to the right place. In Bishop, guests can enjoy a taste of local life that is both friendly and inspiring. Nestled into the Sierra Nevada foothills, this historic mining town has kept its small-town charm while being well equipped for modern needs.

3. Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Bishop, an IHG Hotel

Bishop Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites is located in the heart of Bishop, California - a popular destination for rock climbing and hiking. This hotel features free high-speed internet access in every room. A daily breakfast is offered at the hotel. The hotel is a short walk from Owens Valley.

How to Get Around Bishop, California

Getting to Bishop by Plane

Eastern Sierra Regional Airport near Bishop, California (BIH), hosts United from three of its hubs: Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO). Daily flights to Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO) are also available.

Bus and Shuttle Transportation

The Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA) provides transit service throughout Inyo and Mono Counties. Bishop Creek Shuttle operates seven days a week through September. The Shuttle will depart Bishop and travel to South Lake and Lake Sabrina before returning.

The Shuttle will stop for passengers along the route where it is safe for the bus to stop. A one-way adult fare is $20 for non-residents and $5 for locals. Proof of residency is required.

YARTS ( Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System) is a bus system that runs daily from Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, and Lee Vining to Yosemite Valley

Bishop, California Car Rentals

You will need your car, preferably a 4WD for dirt and mountain roads, to efficiently explore Bishop  Enterprise rents cars directly in Bishop and at Mammoth Lakes (MMH) airport, a 40-minute north of Bishop. Reno-Tahoe Airport, a 3 3/4 hour drive north of Bishop, is the nearest International Airport with car rental agencies.

And, of course, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which is a four to five-hour drive from Bishop, has all major rental agencies and a few local providers. Alternatively, you can always hit up Kayak to get all that guff squared away before you arrive!

See Related: Things to Do in Reno, Nevada

What is Bishop, California, known for?

Bishop is a small town that is the perfect Eastern California getaway, with lots of things to do in Bishop, California, for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Bishop is located near Owens Valley’s northern end, in the center of California, where Highways 395 and 6 cross. Most major cities in California or Nevada are about a four-and-a-half to five-hour drive from Bishop.

In addition to adventure in the great outdoors, you’d have to mention Bishop’s local artists and photographers. The Inyo Council for the Arts gallery houses the work of local Owens Valley region artists.

The Mountain Light Gallery featuring regional photography has closed, but several other galleries still celebrate famous area creatives. Also downtown is the historic Coons Gallery houses famous Sierra Nevada landscape paintings by Robert Clunie and Richard Coons.

Stop by Black Sheep Coffee Roasters for single-origin coffee or a quick espresso eye-opener as you meander through the shops and galleries. The Great Basin Bakery serves delicious treats, and Erick Schat’s Bakery is known for its sheepherder bread. The bread recipe was brought to the valley by Basque shepherds during the 1840s California Gold Rush. 


What is Bishop known for?

Bishop is the “biggest backyard in the High Sierras,” or eastern California. This is due to a never-ending list of spectacular outdoor activities, most of which are free to do and see in the area.

What is the best thing to do with kids in Bishop?

The Laws Train Museum and Historic site is the best thing to do with kids in Bishop. In addition to indoor exhibits and educational videos, there are authentic train cars, engines, and even a caboose outside.

What do you do in Bishop when it’s raining?

There are dozens of art galleries and shops in Bishop, California, to fill a rainy day, including famous landscape artists and photographers. Most of the galleries are free or charge a nominal fee.

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