Rising to just over 4,000 feet in elevation, Bishop, California is a town of about 11,000 people nestled in a high desert valley, wedged between the High Sierra and the White Mountains. With nearby national parks and national forests, deserts and mountain peaks, there’s much to do and be discovered in the Bishop area. Many pass through Bishop en route to Yosemite, just north of the town, while others pass through southbound to Death Valley. Whichever way you’re going, and wherever you may be heading, make sure you take the time to stop in Bishop.
If you have limited time in the area, here’s how we recommend spending two days in what will surely become your next stomping ground. We also recommend having a camera in two for all of your high desert adventures, as you’ll want to capture the abundance of beauty you’ll find every step of the way.
First things first, and that’s a solid day hike. Before you hit the road, stop at Manor Market—a small-town grocery with locally sourced produce, meats, and cheese—and stock up on a picnic lunch for your mid-day summit. They also have a fine wine and beer collection if you’d like to toast to your trek once you’re at the top.
Then you’ll be heading just 20 miles outside of town to Lake Sabrina. Sabrina is part of a series of glacial, alpine lakes high in the mountains. Surrounded by 13,000-foot Sierra Nevada peaks, the steep trails range from 6.2 miles to 11.8 miles. No matter which one you choose, you’ll find incredible panoramas of the peaks and the valley below. The 6.2-mile roundtrip hike to Blue Lake is strenuous and will take a few hours; take your time as you climb the switchbacks and take in all the scenery. And, once you’ve worked up an appetite, take a break and put together a sandwich, before beginning your descent back to the trailhead.
Once you’ve finished your hike, head back to Bishop to freshen up for dinner and a celebratory beer. Head to Whiskey Creek for post-hike beers and dinner. The restaurant has been a local tradition since it opened in 1924. Featuring local microbrews, steaks, pasta, salads, and more—it’s a perfect nightcap after a long day on the trails. When your belly is full, rest up. You have another big day of adventures tomorrow!
Wake up bright and early to grab coffee and a pastry at Erick Schat’s Bakkery, which you’ll find across the street from the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and town park. Grab a sandwich or one of their famous cheese breads as a snack for later. After enjoying everything the bakery has to offer, take a walk through downtown Bishop. There are several quaint local shops with everything from antiques to art galleries to specialty shops with outdoor gear and western wear. Get inspired by Galen Rowell's ability to capture the Eastern Sierra landscape and visit the Mountain Light Gallery on the corner of Main and Line Street.
When you’re ready to take off for your next adventure, head 41 miles (about an hour southeast) to Inyo National Forest’s Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to marvel at the oldest trees in the world. The drive to the forest is a beautiful one, winding through the Sierra Nevada and climbing in elevation as you go. Some of the trees that you’ll see are more than 4,000 years old and have distinctive gnarly, twisted limbs. The most famous tree is in the Schulman Grove, and is known as Methuselah—it’s 4,773 years old. Take your time exploring the groves via well-maintained dirt roads in the national forest. Just don’t forget water—the area is dry and there isn’t much shade. Perhaps you’ll have an inclination to stay till sunset. If you do, plan to be back in Bishop in time for dinner.
When you return to Bishop in the evening, head to Sage Restaurant for an upscale dinner with a menu including dishes like piccata, ravioli trios, and filet mignon. Lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to Bishop without a nightcap at Rusty’s Saloon—a good ol’ American dive bar with cheap beer and pool tables. When you wake up on your last morning, head to Jack’s Restaurant for a hearty omelette before bidding Bishop farewell.
If you have kids (or history buffs) along, squeeze in a quick tour of Laws Railroad Museum and Historic Site, just north of town off Hwy 6. And if you don’t have time during this visit, there’s always next time (and we’re pretty certain you’ll want to return!)