Nestled next to the Eastern Sierras, southeast of the beautiful Yosemite National Park and surrounded by mountains, lakes and deserts, Bishop is a popular year-round destination for locals. However, many visitors miss out on the region during a trip to California, despite it being filled with some of the state’s most stunning natural beauty.
The area has spectacular mountain backdrops, such as the Sierras, Mount Whitney and Mammoth Mountain, an abundance of bright blue lakes surrounding Mammoth, many geological hot springs and opportunities for everything from hiking, swimming and fishing in the summer to skiing, sledding or relaxing in a hot pool in winter. Although it’s small, within Bishop itself, you can find a range of museums, sights and excellent dining, making it the ideal base for exploring the area. The best things to do in Bishop involve being outdoors.
- Bishop, California
- Top 3 Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Bishop
- 1- Visit Downtown Bishop
- 2- Explore Bishop Creek Canyon
- 3- Hike Buttermilk Boulders
- 4- Hike Little Lakes Valley Trail
- 5- Step Back In History At Laws Railroad Museum
- 6- Soak In Keough’s Hot Springs
- 7- Explore Hot Creek Geological Site
- 8- Walk Around Convict Lake
- 9- Relax In Crowley Hot Springs
- 10- Drive Lake Mary Road
- 11- Discover Western History In Lone Pine
- 12- Climb Mount Whitney
- 13- Explore The Alabama Hills
- 14- Photograph Devil’s Postpile
- 15- Admire The Majesty Of Rainbow Falls
- 16- Enjoy The View At Minaret Vista
- 17- Ski or Hike Mammoth Mountain
- 18- Hike The Inyo Craters
- 19- Enjoy The Winter Wonderland At Mammoth Village
- 20- Picnic At Crystal Lake
Top 3 Tours
- Rock Climbing Half-Day in Mammoth Lakes – Get your adrenalin pumping on a guided rock climbing adventure.
- Mammoth Mountain Performance Ski Rental – Rent skis and whoosh down the slopes. Your skies will be delivered to you.
- Mammoth Mountain Premium Snowboard Rental – Not keen on skiing? Try snowboarding instead. Rental includes delivery of the gear.
20 Things To Do In Bishop
1- Visit Downtown Bishop
Bishop isn’t a large place, but its downtown area is fascinating to walk down and is a nice place to stay.
Take a stroll through the area, and you’ll find quirky museums, local restaurants and cafes and plenty of souvenir shops.
Bishop is known for its excellent bakeries, so be sure to check out Erick Schat’s Bakery, which is the oldest and most famous and bakes bread, pastries and sandwiches.
Since so many outdoor activities surround Bishop, you’ll also find a lot of shops selling outdoor goods, such as fishing and hiking gear.
So, if you’re planning on heading into the wild, be sure to grab some supplies and the staff will also be able to help with recommendations.
2- Explore Bishop Creek Canyon
Bishop Creek Canyon, which lies slightly southwest of the town, is the closest introduction to the area’s natural beauty.
The canyon contains forests, waterfalls, lakes and trails to explore.
The area is a popular location in itself, so there are several hotels here, although many people choose to come for great camping.
The lakes are particularly well-known for anglers, so if you’re into fishing, this is a great place to begin.
The creek has three significant trails which end in lakes: North Lake, Intake II and Lake Sabrina.
The former is relatively remote, so come prepared, whereas Intake and Sabrina are very photogenic and have activities such as water sports on offer.
3- Hike Buttermilk Boulders
Any avid climber heading to Bishop will already know about the Buttermilk Boulders, which are giant rocks scattered at the foot of the Eastern Sierras, perfect for climbing.
Getting there can be tricky, as the road normally requires a 4WD, but it is still worth coming out here even if you don’t climb. Even if you do, it’s best to join a guided rock climbing tour to familiarise yourself with the terrain.
Whether you watch the scary feats of climbers from afar, head out on a hike or mountain bike trail, or photograph the scenery unique to this area, you’ll find something fun to do.
Visit during spring, when it’s generally dry, so the road isn’t muddy, and beautiful wildflowers are in bloom.
4- Hike Little Lakes Valley Trail
There are countless lakes in the Bishop area, but if you’re not a seasoned hiker or want something to warm up, this is where to go.
The hike is accessible and suitable for beginners, although it is at a high altitude of over 10,000 feet and ends in the stunning scenery of the two lakes.
Long Lakes is the largest of the two, and Chickenfoot lake is a little further on and requires a little more effort to reach.
The lakes here are frequented by day-trippers who go kayaking, swimming, fishing and more.
It’s the perfect spot to reward yourself with a picnic, participate in water sports or enjoy the view.
5- Step Back In History At Laws Railroad Museum
Laws is just a short distance from Bishop and is home to a fascinating Railroad Museum, a great rainy-day attraction, even if you’re not a train fanatic.
Not only has the museum preserved many of the original historic buildings from the area, but in the central depot is a variety of original old rail cars and engines.
It is an enjoyable place to take kids, especially as a break if you’ve been up to a lot of hiking.
On certain days of the week, the museum runs historic train rides in a classic old carriage.
6- Soak In Keough’s Hot Springs
Keough’s is not the only hot spring in the area around Bishop, but it is one of the best if you’re looking for some relaxation.
There are two main pools here, which are naturally heated using fresh water that flows through during the day, that have been there since 1919.
The larger of the pools is generally reserved for exercise, while the much hotter small pool is just for relaxing.
The hot springs offer facilities such as a changing room and is worth adding to your list after a long day or weekend of hiking or climbing.
7- Explore Hot Creek Geological Site
Another geological wonder, the Hot Creeks Geological Site, is just east of Mammoth and is one of the most intriguing places to visit, with one of the most incredible views.
The site has marked paths and handrails so that you can explore the range of springs, which includes boiling pools, geysers and steam holes, although it’s wise to watch where you walk.
Much like the geysers and springs in other National Parks, you can’t swim in the ones at Hot Creek simply because they are often above boiling point.
If you want to swim, head to Keough Hot Springs near Bishop instead.
8- Walk Around Convict Lake
Convict Lake is a popular spot for anyone visiting the area due to its jaw-dropping beauty and range of activities.
The brightly sparkling blue lake is surrounded on almost all sides by mountains, and as the lake is mostly still, it’s popular with photographers taking photos of the reflection.
If you visit during summer or autumn, there will likely be many people here since the water is slightly warmer, and the leaves are beautiful bright greens, oranges and yellows.
You can drive up to the lake by turning off Highway 395, and when you arrive, there’s boating, kayaking, swimming and more to enjoy.
9- Relax In Crowley Hot Springs
East of Mammoth is somewhere you can enjoy a more relaxing dip without getting burnt, like at the Hot Creek, or cold, like in the lakes.
Crowley Hot Springs consists of two natural pools outdoors, which have been set up for visitors with pathways that lead you into them.
The pools are 95F and 105F, respectively, so there’s no chance you’ll get cold here.
They are where you can chill out in the area, and while soaking in the pools, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view across the valley and the snow-capped mountain range in the distance.
10- Drive Lake Mary Road
Since the entire length of Lake Mary Road is stunning, this drive near Mammoth has plenty of places to stop and admire the view.
It only takes around 20 minutes but takes in some of the best sights and panoramic viewpoints in the area, which is ideal if you’re short on time.
The main point of interest is Horseshoe Lake, but take advantage of the scenic views of Lake Mamie and Lake Marie along the way too.
You will also see a sweeping view of Twin Lakes and Lake George and pass the Valentine Ecological Area.
11- Discover Western History In Lone Pine
Lone Pine is quite a bit further south of Bishop, but it’s worth the drive if you’re in the area.
The main street is iconic and very popular with photographers, as it has the dramatic Mount Whitney and Alabama Hills as the backdrop.
There’s a wealth of things to do in town, such as the Museum of Western Film History, which is popular because several huge Western movies have been shot here.
This is also another excellent gateway for heading into the Sierras and will be the best place to stay if you’re planning to climb the challenging Mount Whitney, a strenuous 22-mile overnight roundtrip trail.
12- Climb Mount Whitney
Many people visit this area to take on the challenge of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States.
At almost 14,500 ft (4419 m), the climb is no small feat and requires lots of planning, but it’s achievable.
Although it looks beautiful with its snowy peak from afar during winter, the best time to go hiking is the summer, when the trail is dry, and the flowers are blooming.
The mountain is so popular that you’ll need a permit to hike it, available via a lottery system in Bishop.
The hike is around 22 miles (35 km), and most people do this over two or three days to take in the full beauty of everything along the way.
13- Explore The Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills is a Scenic Recreational Area popular for hiking and photography due to its unique appearance.
Like Lone Pine, the area was once very popular with Western filmmakers.
You can even drive ‘Movie Road’, where some of the most famous movie scenes were filmed.
Keep an eye out for several naturally made rock formations in the park, such as the famous Mobius Arch.
The hills are most popular with nature lovers since there are endless opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, plus avid climbers will have no end of boulders to choose from.
14- Photograph Devil’s Postpile
Visiting the Devil’s Postpile National Monument is one of the things to do in Mammoth Lakes north of Bishop.
The huge natural rock formation is unique and is a 60-foot (18 m) cliff face made up of enormous hexagonal basalt columns.
The columns were created by cooling lava around 100,000 years ago, so it’s also a fascinating part of the area’s history.
The monument is usually open to tourists in the summer, between June and October, and you can climb up and get a great view from the top.
15- Admire The Majesty Of Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is perfect for pairing with a trip to the Devil’s Postpile as they are in the same location, however, the falls require a hike to reach.
The waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the area at over 100 feet high, and the best time to go is during early summer when it’s in full flow, although it is also stunning in the winter.
There are multiple trails to the falls, including one directly from Devil’s Postpile Monument. If you continue past the falls, you will also find the small but just as pretty Lower Rainbow Falls.
16- Enjoy The View At Minaret Vista
If you’re heading to Devil’s Postpile or Rainbow Falls (or both), you can’t miss Minaret Vista, which is on the road that leads there.
The epic panoramic viewpoint takes in the rugged peaks of Sierra Nevada, including Mount Banner and Mount Ritter.
The viewpoint has information about everything you can see in the distance.
It’s one of the most popular viewpoints in the area, so unsurprisingly, it has its own parking lot, with a couple of its own hikes leading out from here if you want to stretch out your journey.
17- Ski or Hike Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountain is arguably the most famous sight in Mammoth Lakes.
You can hike up the mountain at 11,000 feet (3352 m) above sea level, which surprisingly isn’t too strenuous with three- and five-mile roundtrips.
For the less actively inclined, there is a gondola to the top, which is a popular way to reach the peak mainly for its sweeping views during the ride. At the top, you’ll find a café for a bite to eat and exhibits with information about the surrounding area.
18- Hike The Inyo Craters
The Sierra Nevada Mountains, Bishop and Mammoth Lakes have a long and fascinating geological history, as demonstrated by the local hot springs and unique rock and lava formations.
The Inyo Craters are yet another unique sight, which is much more modern at around 600 years old, caused by steam explosions in the ground.
The trail to see the craters is only 1.6 miles and is just off the main Mammoth Scenic Loop, so anyone can do it.
Two of the craters have bright blue pools of water inside them, and several other hiking trails veer off around the craters if you want to extend your visit.
19- Enjoy The Winter Wonderland At Mammoth Village
Mammoth proper is a village that has something for everyone no matter when you visit.
However, with Mammoth’s reputation as a winter wonderland, the winter months are a great time to go when the town is lit up with Christmas lights and is filled with skiers, snowboarders and those looking to enjoy the snow.
You’ll find many great restaurants, festivals, live music and events in the plaza.
The town is beautiful and almost like a cute European ski resort, so it’s worth wandering around to admire the buildings.
Warm up at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a tasty dessert or hot drink.
20- Picnic At Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake is separate from many other lakes in the Mammoth area because it’s at the top of the most beautiful list.
The hike is wonderfully scenic, even if you’re not keen on hiking.
The hike is straightforward, with little climbing and is only around a three-mile roundtrip.
Not only does the trail have great views of various lakes along the way, but when you arrive, you’ll enjoy the most incredible views over the entire Mammoth Lakes Basin.
Crystal Lake is the most immediate lake near the end of the hike and is spectacularly blue, although, on this trail, you can only see it from above.
At the top, there are plenty of scenic spots to have a rest and some snacks, or you could even bring a picnic.
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