Is Bishop, California, worth visiting?Absolutely! This small town 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.
The Bishop area is blessed with gorgeous scenery, ample hiking, fishing, and rock climbing. And its rural isolation and unspoiled terrain are part of the draw. Many think of the town as a small town with a big backyard.
Bishop is also known for its mules. Every Memorial Day weekend, Bishop hosts the largest non-motorized parade, Mule Days.
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 something for everyone and on every budget. And to make it easier to choose, the Bishop Visitor Center has free lists and maps.
Downtown parks and a casino are all within reach of this eastern High Sierra town. Lodging runs the gamut from beds and breakfast to small hotels.
One of the best hotels in Bishop is the Creekside Inn. Featuring all the modern conveniences of a luxury hotel, it plays host to some breathtaking views – all for a very sensible price.
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.
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.
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.
- Most significant landmark – Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
- Best park – Bishop City Park
- Best free activity – Downtown Urban Murals
- Best activity for kids – Laws Railroad Museum
- Best activity for adults – Keough Hot Springs
- Best food – Whiskey Creek
- Best nightlife – Owens Valley Distilling Company
- Best all-around accommodation – Creekside Inn
Best & Fun Things to do in Bishop, CA
1. Go Birdwatching
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 how dedicated you are 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, or the majestic Great Blue Herons along the canal in Bishop.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Santa Monica, California
2. Spend a Day at Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
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 of these living trees exceed 4000 years of age and exhibit spectacular growth forms of twisted and beautifully colored wood. As you enter the Forest, there is a picnic area with 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 that highlights the spectacular surrounding of the ancient bristlecone and limber pines. The next stop is the Methuselah hiking trail – a much longer hike.
UnforUnfortunately the area is closed for visits during winter and usually opens in mid-May. The hiking season lasts until the end of November dependent on the weather. You should always check the forecast before you go and consult 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: Best California Road Trips
3. Grab a Bite on Main Street
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 are looking for a peaceful place to unwind, the Owens Valley Distilling Company offers craft cocktails and bar snacks in a lush environment.
For all-around fantastic food in an excellent dining experience, Whiskey Creek is a local favorite. Upscale American with salads, grilled seafood and burgers, and poke bowls. They also have cold craft beers on draft and handmade cocktails.
Go on a side quest and book a Napa and Sonoma Valley Wine Tour to quench your thrist!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Turlock, California
4. Play at Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site
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.
5. Visit Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center
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 Bishop Paiute Tribe is the Wanaaha Casino. Formerly called the Paiute Palace Casino, Wanaaha Casino is located 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: Fun & Best Things to Do in Fresno, California
6. Soak in Keough’s Hot Springs Pool
Address: 2742 N Sierra Hwy, Bishop, CA 93514
After a day of hard play, nothing is more relaxing than a soak in a hot mineral spring. The hot springs of the Eastern Sierra are famous Bishop, California, tourist attractions.
In the 1920 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 degrees temperature.
The location continues the tradition of a destination hot springs with cabins and a recreational vehicle park.
See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World
7. Bike around Poleta Canyon
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 criss-cross 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.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Graeagle, California
8. Tour the Downtown Murals
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. There are also almost two dozen murals scattered throughout downtown Bishop that 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 mosaic, 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 undoubtedly one of the great free things to do in Bishop, California.
If asked, what is Bishop known for?
In addition to adventure in the great outdoors, you’d have to say, 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.
If you’re looking for more art scenes, check out Los Angeles Art District on tour.
See Related: Most Beautiful Places in America to Vacation
9. Climb the Buttermilk Boulders
Address: Buttermilk Rd, Bishop, CA 93514
If you climb, you probably know about the Buttermilks already. Located eight miles west of Bishop, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This scenic rock garden is world famous with all levels of climbers.
The Buttermilk’s are glacial boulders 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!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Santa Rosa, California
10. Visit the Long Valley Caldera
Address: 437 Old Mammoth Road Suite 230. Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
One of the best things about Bishop is that it is ideally situated 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 in Eastern California adjacent to Mammoth Mountain, measuring a whopping 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 rock 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 make your way to the trailhead. The rugged trail is rugged, but the trek is worth the trip.
See Related: Best Wedding Destinations in the US
11. Visit Lake Sabrina
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 3 h 21 min to complete.
Lake Sabrina Boat Landing offers pontoon boats and rentals at the lake’s 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.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California
12. Visit North Lake
Address: N Lake Rd, Bishop, CA 93514
Drive 20 miles southwest of Bishop, and you will find North Lake, one of the 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 a welcoming place among the tall Jeffery and Lodgepole pines. There is a fee to camp with minimal facilities.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Diego, California
13. Relax at Bishop City Park
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, a few strolling paths, and Bishop Creek flows through the park. It is a lovely, relaxing green space.
Bishop City Park is one of the best things to do in Bishop, California, with kids. 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 gardener spaces.
If you’re looking for more parks to visit not only in Bishop but in California, visit Universal Studios Hollywood on a VIP tour.
14. Trek the Little Lakes Valley Trail
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 where there is paved hiker parking. The Little Lakes Valley area is hugely 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. Some evidence of historical mining equipment can be seen, along with an old road bed at Morgan Pass.
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 at the Rock Creek Pack Station directly off Rock Creek road. 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.
See Related: Most Romantic Cities in the World
15. Stay at Horton Creek Campground
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 criss-cross the region. One of the most popular hikes is the Big Pine Creek trail which passes by 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: SoCal & NorCal Spots
16. Walk the Canals in Bishop
Address: Downtown Bishop, CA
Bishop Creek canal runs through the town and is a beautiful place to walk for some 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.
Currently, the area has 17 canals, including 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 flood plain. The Numic tribe named this part of the valley Payahǖǖnadǖ or “Place of flowing water.”
See Related: Best Things to Do in Malibu, California
17. Play Some Golf
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), nestled 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.
See Related: Best Mancation Destinations Around the World
18. Climb Mt. Whitney
Address: Whitney Portal Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545
Mt. Whitney is located about an hour’s drive from Bishop, just west of Lone Pine. 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) every year.
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
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, and the drive is less than 3 hours.
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: Fun & Best Thins to Do in Eureka, California
20. Take Photos at Alabama Hills National Scenic Area
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 perfect.
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: Best National Parks to Visit in November
Getting 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) that started last December 15, 2022.
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 11, 2022. 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 own 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 drive north of Bishop. The next nearest International airport with car rental agencies is Reno-Tahoe Airport, a 3 3/4 hour drive north of Bishop.
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!
What is Bishop, California, known for?
Bishop, California, is known as 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, California?
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 to do in Bishop, California, 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.