Between Yosemite and Death Valley and less than an hour from Mammoth Mountain, walk among ancient trees and relax in Bishop, California, a small town with down-to-earth people.
Not long after the mammoth went extinct and before Stonehenge was built more than 4,000 years ago, a young bristlecone pine seedling burst through the soil near Bishop.
Today, that bristlecone pine tree, known as the “Methuselah” tree, is still alive after 4,853 years, making it one of the oldest living things on Earth. See it and other ancient bristlecone pines, many more than 2,000 years old, in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains an hour’s drive east of Bishop. The Schulman Grove Visitor Center in the forest has a large patio and boardwalks that make for a perfect place to stargaze. The area’s low population density and often-clear weather make the night skies stunning.
It’s just one of many unique experiences you can have in the Bishop area where crowds are non-existent, trout-fishing and bouldering are world-class and locals are happy to see you. It’s the kind of place where you can drive 20 miles and it takes 20 minutes because there’s no traffic.
“It’s a different part of California,” says Tawni Thomson, executive director of the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. “You think of Hollywood with its glitz and glamour. We don’t have that here. We’re just real people. We have wide open spaces and people are relaxed here.”
United offers seasonal flights to Bishop from San Francisco and Denver, making it easy to start your California adventure here.
An outdoor lover’s dream, the picturesque mountains and alpine lakes near Bishop are a must see. Head to South Lake, 25 minutes outside of Bishop, to rent a kayak at Parchers Resort and paddle under impressive peaks. If you’re feeling adventurous, lace up your hiking boots and hike the 5.4-mile one-way Treasure Lakes Trail for unparalleled Sierra Nevada beauty. The trail continues to Upper Treasure Lake, 2.8 miles further.
Afterwards, discover the area’s history in Bishop’s vibrant downtown murals and see its artsy side in downtown galleries. A big surprise is its diversity of restaurants from Thai and Chinese to Italian.
Eastern California has a rich history of Native American culture. Don’t miss Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center that provides a detailed look at the local Paiute and Shoshone tribes from beautiful baskets to intricate bead and tools. It’s at 2300 W Line St. in Bishop.
But there’s nothing that feels quite as western as Bishop’s Mule Days. On each Memorial Day weekend, more than 700 mules and 30,000 spectators descend on this eastern California town to celebrate its heritage of mule packing – a practice that continues today with the horse/donkey crosses helping to guide hikers into the backcountry. Mule competitions, country music, cowboy poetry and barbecue abound. Learn more at muledays.org.
For more information:
Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Information Center
690 N. Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514