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“Really? This could be my last trip and you wanna go WHERE?”
I always thought that Bishop was just a spot you stopped at for a quick potty-n-petrol break on the way to Mammoth.
When Honey suggested we go here for her birthday and a quick get away before I was to start my first chemo treatment, I initially felt a little less than impressed, but was I in for an awe inspiring surprise!
Mystery. Majesty. History.
10 awesome must see spots along Highway 395. And all just about 4 hours from LA. My butt could appreciate that!
1. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
The Methuselah Grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the world’s oldest known living tree with an age of 5064 years.
Trees older then Jesus!
Check out the Methuselah Grove trail which starts from the Schulman Visitor Center, a 4.5-mile loop that includes the side valley of the Methuselah Grove where the oldest tree lives.
If catching your breath while walking at high altitudes above 10,000 feet for nearly 5 miles isn’t sounding like your particular brand of fun, there are shorter, equally scenic trails to choose from.
Continue up the mountain for another 12 miles along a well maintained dirt road until you reach Patriarch Grove, the otherworldly home to the largest Bristlecone on this earth, the Patriarch Tree.
Tip: If the gate for the Patriarch Grove is open, switch it up and head there first. The early morning light is well known for making excellent Instagraming conditions.
US Hwy 395 towards Big Pine.
Just North of Big Pine, take State Route 168 East (Westgard Pass) for 13 miles.
Turn Left (North) onto White Mountain Road for 10 miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center
Continue on 12 miles of maintained dirt road to the Patriarch Grove.
2. Death Valley National Park – The Racetrack
Mystery rocks who’s paths show that they’ve moved over the years – but nobody is quite sure how.
Due to the remoteness of this location, no one has ever actually seen the rocks moving with their own eyeballs but there’s always a chance that it could be you*.
*Not a guarantee
But still totally worth the adventure points!
Caution: High-clearance vehicles are recommended for this one.
Another Caution: Don’t go in the summer. Death Valley is hot. 134 degrees Hot.
Yup. Another Caution: This spot is 126 miles to the next services in Furnace Creek. Don’t forget the important stuff – like water and a can of Fix-a-Flat.
Near Big Pine, off Hwy 395, Go East on Death Valley Road
Turn Right (south) onto Racetrack Valley Road for 26 miles
Straight ahead at TeaKettle Junction
You will reach the north end of the Racetrack and the Grandstand parking area first. It’s a short stroll to viewing area where you can check out this almost perfectly flat lake bed.
To find the spot where the rocks are having a party, drive two miles south of the Grandstand parking area. Walk at least a half mile toward the southeast corner of the playa for the best views of these mysterious moving rocks.
3. Bodie State Historic Park (Ghost Town)
With about 110 structures suspended in a state of arrested decay, this awesome Ghost Town is an Instagramers paradise!
From U.S. 395, 7 miles south of Bridgeport, take State Route 270 (Bodie Road).
Go east 10 miles to the end of the pavement and continue 3 miles on a rough dirt road to Bodie.
Road closes in winter. Call the park with any questions about road conditions: 760.647.6445
In the mood to change things up on the return trip? Try the more adventurous “dirt” Cottonwood Canyon Road for some new scenery.
Alternate Cottonwood Canyon Road Directions:
Head Southwest towards Highway 167.
Turn West on Highway167 taking you back to Historic Highway 395
If you get to Nevada, You went the wrong way.
4. Alabama Hills
Mars-like rock formations combined with Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States, makes Alabama Hills a perfect backdrop for your next photo op – so don’t miss this easy side trip!
Stop at the Beverly & Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History for a survey of local lore.
Check out these amazing locations on film and their costume and memorabilia collection, then take the scenic drive through the Alabama Hills area and see it all for real.
The resume of movies filmed here include:
1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
2. The Lone Ranger
3. Hopalong Cassidy
5. Gun Smoke
7. Iron Man
9. Star Trek Generations
5. Mono Lake Tufa State National Reserve
Otherworldly views dotted with clusters of salt pillars rising from the sea – home to trillions of teeny Brine Shrimp beckoning the hungry masses of migratory birds.
When visiting in the summer, show up at the South Tufa area for the naturalist led sunset Tufa Walks at 6pm.
The visitor center is closed in the winter.
Catch this spot along US Highway 395, near the town of Lee Vining.
6. Tioga Pass – Yosemite National Park
If you enjoy thrilling tight curves and sharp drop-offs then make sure to check out the highest mountain pass in all of the Sierra Nevada mountains on CA Highway 120.
This pass gains more than 3,000 ft from U.S. Route 395, reaching 9,943 feet above sea level and is the eastern entry point to Yosemite, our favorite National Park.
There are several trailheads into the jaw-dropping Yosemite backcountry which begin near Tioga Pass, including the less crowded trail to the Gaylor Lakes, a low to moderately difficult hike of 3 miles-roundtrip.
Check out the Google Street View for a view of trail head parking.
Eastbound (down hill) drivers travel in the outside lane right next to these exciting drop offs in the final descent as you exit the park towards Lee Vining. Don’t forget to use your low gears.
Opening times can vary widely from year to year so check here for opening and closing dates.
7. Buttermilk Country Loop
Stop for a picnic and a little bouldering while waiting on an afternoon storm to appear.
Buttermilk Country Loop is a 17.8 mile loop trail located near Bishop recommended for 4×4 vehicles.
From US Highway 395, head West on State Route 168 and turn Right onto Buttermilk Road.
Check out the Eastern Sierra 4×4 club for more info.
8. Lake Sabrina
California’s tasty state fish, the Golden Trout, is abundant in these parts.
From the South shore, adventurous types can strike out on a rugged hike through the classic Eastern Sierra scenery of the Sabrina Lake Trail.
It’s crammed with share worthy views of high alpine lakes and jagged granite snow-capped peaks with ample camping opportunities for overnighters.
If you’re not feeling the wild call of free roaming bears in the deep backcountry, head over to the Lake Sabrina Inlet Trail located behind the cafe and take a leisurely stroll along the scenic North shore.
Get a look at all of these lakes to choose from!
From Bishop, go west on State Route 168 (Line Street) for 15 miles
Stay Right at the Y junction and continue on towards Sabrina Lake.
Limited trailhead parking at the intersection of North Lake Road in approximately 3 miles.
9. Rock Creek Lake
If you’re looking to try your luck with the most popular hike along highway 395 that isn’t Mt. Whitney, then head up to Mosquito Flat at Rock Creek and you’ll find the trailhead to the stunning Little Lakes Valley.
A super easy trail through the John Muir Wilderness so spectacular that it boasts a daisy chain of trout filled alpine lakes and sparkling streams alongside lush meadows bursting with wildflowers and happy go-lucky bears.
Keep in mind while moseying around bear country that you had better stow your salmon jerky and hippie granola in required bear proof containers because they deserve a nice hide-and-go-seek challenge every once in a while.
Just like our Dad’s taught us, be prepared cause it’s called Mosquito Flat for a reason, especially in the early summer season.
A can of buggy repealant and a not-so-stylish head net will save your Facebook friends from being totally grossed out by numerous close up shots of your icky skeeter bites.
Long sleeves wouldn’t hurt either.
Something else to ponder if you:
A.) Hate the thought of maneuvering an oversized rig through the narrow mountain roads of the Eastern Sierras.
B.) Have a slew of fancy friends who wouldn’t dare leave behind the comforts of home to set foot inside a tent.
Avoid the achey bones, hard work and whines from friends by indulging in a posh travel trailer delivery service by Adventure In Camping.
They do all the work in setting up your choice of fully equipped travel trailer at most campsites in the Bishop area including excellent locations like Devil’s Postpile National Monument, Mammoth Lakes, Lee Vining, June Lake, and Rock Creek Lake.
They park it. You use it. They pick it up.
It’s that freakin’ easy.
Your back will thank you on Monday.
From Tom’s Place Head North on Highway 395. Follow Rock Creek Road to Mosquito Flat trailhead. Approximately 36 miles from Bishop.
10. Manzanar National Historic Site
In 1942, the Manzanar War Relocation Center off Hwy 395 was just one of ten remote locations where more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were detained in military style camps during World War II.
Check out the visitor center and take a virtual tour of the internment camp by picking up an I.D. badge with a photo of an actual resident and start by scanning the badge at different kiosks to get a glimpse of what life here was like.
Click here to download an awesome map of the Bishop Area.
Weather varies greatly from one area to another. Also, roads can be closed due to snow or ice, so be sure to check conditions before heading out.
Hit any of these or other nearby spots? If so, we’d love to hear your stories, tips and ideas! Share your photos with us and we may just mention ya’ in a future post or show! Got questions? We’re happy to help! Feeling inspired? Leave us a 5 star review on iTunes or Stitcher and a unicorn will get its horn*!
*not a guarantee
OMG! Donna (Lena), I did not know you were going to the Bishop/Mammoth area! I love, love, love that area! So much to do and see up there!!!!! So, do you remember all those summer backpack trips I went on in Junior High and High School? It was there!!! Most were out of either Independence (Onion Valley over Kearsarge Pass (sp?)) and Mammoth Lakes. Also, if you go to Bishop (and if they still do it) on Memorial Day Weekend, you will have the chance to attend one of the most comical types of rodeos. It’s Mule Days. Fabulous and hilarious! A definite thing to do in that area if you only go once. But make sure you make any reservations as soon as you can. My Stepdad would make reservations for the next year’s event at one of the trailer parks on the Northern side of Bishop as soon as he got home from Mule Days. Also, one of the best Beef Jerky (and all kinds of other meats and jerkys) is there in Bishop – Mahogany Smoked Meets (can also be ordered online and shipped). I learned how to fish at Convict Lake (in that area) and have camped in that camp ground at Rock Creek. Love Tom’s Cabin! Thanks for bringing those fabulous memories back to mind!
I do remember! Thanks so much for sharing your awesome memories! We just happened to be there for Mule Days too! I remember we sat across the street from the grounds & smelled those guys as we ate pizza & drank beer! Haha! That entire area is a goldmine of amazing places! I’d totally go back! And thanks for the tip on the jerky! I love me a dried meat!
They do have a unique odor! I think I know exactly which pizza place upu were at too. The one in front of Walmart of Kmart or whatever that major store is, right? They have fabulous pizza. We always ate there once while attending Mule Days. The Baskin Robbins is good too. That was a nightly after the rodeo trip. Love those memories! Makes me miss my fam being do far away now!
Yup, that’s the one! And they have beer too!
Great reviews. My only comment would be about the road to Patriarch Grove. It is not very well graded, many rocky areas, and you should have well treaded tires on your vehicle. Other than that, great photography and well worth the drive.
Hi Richard, thanks for the great reminder! We’ve been road tripping in a 4WD FJ for so long now we rarely think about road quality limitations anymore. Actually, poor roads make it all the more exciting but we will definitely keep that in mind for the future post!
Great podcast and post – we shared it on our FB page! Hope you return someday and do ANOTHER 10 awesome spots! Thanks for the LOVE – @visitbishop.
Thanks for the share and LOVE Visit Bishop! We can’t wait for our return trip to the Eastern Sierras, but this time keep an eye out for us traveling in our motorcycle and sidecar. There is so much to see and do in this area that we’ll be coming back for years to come!
This list is awesome!! I have done 6 of the ten things on this list. All were amazing! The only thing I would add to this list would be fossil falls, onion valley, and of course the hot springs in Mammoth or the hot springs in Bridgeport.
Ohhhh nice! We’ll definitely need to add this to our list!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thanks for your awesome list for 395! My girlfriend and I drove from Tucson to Lake Tahoe through Nevada on the way up and down 395 on the way home. We used your list/ideas to make many side trips. Lots of fun memories!!!
Hey Debbie! Yay! So glad y’all enjoyed it! We recently just rode the sidecar and pup up there and made some more fun memories! Such an amazing arewa! Hugs to you and the girlfriend! <3