Small Town with a Big Back Yard and New Friends ~ Bishop, CA

Bishop, largest populated city in Inyo County, sits at the crossroads of well-known Highway 395 and Highway 6.  It has a small town feel as you walk its streets, meandering among long-time locals, hippies with dreadlocks and weathered backpackers.   With all Bishop has to offer, it may well be the most popular stopping off point along the Highway 395 corridor.

When I think of Bishop, this is the scene I first envision.
When I think of Bishop, this is the scene I first envision.

We had planned several days in Bishop before we headed out for the summer as we wanted to experience this bustling little jewel in the spring, but our stay has been longer than anticipated as Mother Nature has decided she is not yet done with winter in the Sierras. So what is there to do in Bishop when you are waiting out storm fronts? Here are our top 3 picks:

1) Feasting

Bishop is the foodie paradise on the 395, with over 40 restaurants covering any type of meal a discerning palette could want.   We followed Nina’s lead on this one.

Any guesses whether we ate the whole thing?
Any guesses whether we ate the whole thing?

Bishop Burger Barn – offering a wide choice of burgers on homemade buns (even gluten-free) and grass-fed beef, the barn is a must if you love a good burger. Be forewarned, you could blow your daily allowance of calories in one sitting. We opted to bike out to the barn and felt just a wee bit comforted by the fact that we burned off a few extra calories, but definitely not as many as we consumed.

Mountain Rambler Brewery – new to town, with four of their own brews, one being a porter…yeah!  They are working on eight more taps and will surely improve over time.

Terry, Tom, & Z at Mountain Rambler Brewery
Terry, Tom, & Z at Mountain Rambler Brewery

The best part of our time at the brewery was meeting new full-timers Zsuzsa (better known as Z) and Tom. Z is from Hungary and they are a delightful couple. We learned during our visit that it was their 5th-wheel that was parked next to Dragon Face Rock in the Alabama Hills when I was respectfully trying to capture a photo without encroaching on their campsite.   Facebook brought us together from there.

Great Basin Bakery – go for the cookies, especially the Sierra Mud and Molasses…amazing!

Thai Thai Restaurant – another meet-up with Z and Tom. We had eaten here during our last visit…tasty!

One last meal with Z & Tom before we leave Bishop.
One last meal with Z & Tom before we leave Bishop.

2) Window Shop or Contribute to the Bishop Economy

There are lots of little boutique shops in which to spend your hard-earned money.  Here were our top three favorites.

Mountain Light Gallery – If you are the least bit interested in landscape photography, you should not miss out on the opportunity to visit this fabulous gallery, a tribute to the magical, one-of-a-kind photography of Galen Rowell and his wife Barbara.  We spent hours here during our last Bishop visit and did so again this time.

Wilson’s Eastside Sports – fabulous products, wonderful clerks and Terry is the proud owner of new hiking boots.

Spellbinder Books – a quaint bookstore with a variety of new and used books.

3) Hiking, Bouldering, Rock Climbing (now we’re talkin’)

There are plenty of high elevation hikes to consider but since the winter storms keep rolling in, this has been out of the question. It has made for some beautiful mountain photos but is not conducive to hiking. We did get our high altitude fix in when we last visited in the fall, which you can read about here.

Bishop, unbeknownst to us, is one of the top rock climbing places in the world, offering over 2,000 bouldering “problems” for all climbing levels.

Gigantic granite egg-shaped boulders dot the landscape in the Buttermilks, challenging the very best climbers.   It is said that the open windswept nature of these mountains will freeze your skin before your muscles give out.   The vistas are breathtaking, the hiking wonderful, and we were greeted by some interesting characters on the way back to our camper.

In the Volcanic Tablelands, where we spent several days boondocking, the volcanic tuff of the Happy and Sad Boulders present countless bouldering opportunities. The “Happies” have a larger choice of boulders and the “Sads”, less visited, have a dense population of more difficult problems. We visited both and the rock formations were spectacular. We hiked from where we camped and took the long way home, making for a 7-mile day of hiking and bouldering…fun times.

As of this writing we are still in Bishop, hoping for a break in the weather further north. It looks like spring here, with temps hovering near 70 degrees but the snow-capped mountains all around us tell another tale of what to expect on the mountain passes.  If we stay here much longer, we might get to experience Mule DaysBishop’s week-long festival held since 1969 celebrating the contributions pack mules have made to the area.  It might be fun to see but fingers-crossed we will be heading north soon.

Blue hour in the Volcanic Tablelands before the storm
Blue hour in the Volcanic Tablelands before the storm

48 thoughts on “Small Town with a Big Back Yard and New Friends ~ Bishop, CA

  • Looks like such a beautiful and fun place to visit. The weather in Colorado has not been agreeable either. We may be pulling out of Grand Junction without much hiking in the Monument at all 😦

    • Bishop is a great place to visit Ingrid. Hwy 395 is a great route to travel but we may be bypassing the rest of our stops along this highway. The storms just keep coming in. 😦

  • Thanks, LuAnn. This was fun to read. We spent two days in Bishop and enjoyed them also. We had an excellent meal at the Mexican restaurant on Main Street. The meatball soup there was to die for! I look forward to your next post. It’s raining today in Carson City although we spent the morning at South Lake Tahoe and remembered the last time we were there was around 2000!

    • Thanks for stopping by Sara. We love Bishop but are beginning to feel a little trapped due to all the storms. We had hoped to stop several more places along Hwy 395 but may have to change our plans due to the storms. I know California needs the precipitation but a little break in the weather would be nice. 😉

    • Haha! The food here is pretty good so we have to do something to try to stay even with all the calories we have consumed. 🙂

  • Oh my, you two are daredevils! I was so happy just to do 16,000 steps the other day. It was so nice meeting you, hope to see you soon ! Finger crossed also to move on north. Z.

    • Terry is more the daredevil than me Z. 16,000 steps is pretty darn good! So nice to meet you two as well. Be safe as you head north. We may see you in Carson City if the weather between here and there does not allow for camping.

  • Love your descriptions of places I used to know. Bishop certainly has grown up! Schatz Bakery and Restaurant and the mexican restaurant (can’t remember it’s name) were the main eateries in town back in 1992! My son loved friction rock climbing and did a lot. Mule Days were always fun and festive for us. As a member of the Sweet Adelines, I sold Mule Days tee shirts and souvenirs at the Visitor’s Center, serving people from all over the world who came to experience it. We lived on Yaney street.

    • I seem to remember that you and your family lived here Gale. What beautiful country to wake up to every day. Had we not already been here for so long, I would like to stay to experience Mule Days.

  • Looks like you’re making the best of it there, weather and all. We really liked Bishop and the Tablelands is such a convenient place to stay. If you haven’t tried it the Energy Loaf at Schat’s Bakkery is wonderful!

    • We are enjoying Bishop but time to move on, which we are going to attempt today. If the campgrounds along the 395 are under snow we may end up in Carson City. And yes, I did sample the Energy Loaf at Schat’s…yummy!

  • I can’t wait to see this place!! It’s nice that you have places to visit with the bad weather. That was the big problem with Torrey. There truly is no place to visit with bad weather…nothing!! And the restaurants are nothing to write home about.

    I love the bouldering photos!! You guys are good:) Sure hope you get to move on soon.

    Your new header is absolutely gorgeous! What a shot!

    • You will enjoy Bishop, and although there is lots to do here, we are more than ready to move on. We are going to attempt that today and hopefully will find some campgrounds along Hwy 395 that aren’t under snow. If so we will have to move to Carson City and forego some of our plans for hiking. 😦 As for the header, I was waiting for a sunset shot that never materialized and when I turned around, there was the rainbow lighting up the mountains.

  • I’m glad you chose a spot with lots to see and do, while waiting for the weather to clear. I was concerned about your being stuck in your camper, Sorry you didn’t get to do the hiking you were wanting to do, but I’m sure that won’t be your last time through that area. Anxious to hear about your next stop in this summer’s adventures. Stay safe, my friends!

    • Luckily that is lots to do in Bishop and we did some great hikes our last visit that we were hoping to repeat again. We are attempting to head north today and hope to be able to make some of our planned stops. If not there is always another time. 🙂

  • LuAnn I didn’t realize you and Hubby were into climbing! We rock climbed for about 15 years. The name Bishop is synonymous with road trip. 🙂 Unfortunately not one we ever made but our niece goes often.

  • That header shot is utterly stunning. It almost kept me from looking at the rest of your post! 😉 I think we ate at the Thai restaurant when we stayed there. It was very, very good. That bouldering stuff looks like way too much work for the likes of me, but glad you’re having fun.

    • Thanks Gunta. I was waiting for a sunset that didn’t materialize then turned around and there was the rainbow lighting up the mountains. The bouldering was kinda fun, especially for hubby.

  • This sounds a great place to visit… with all those food places and breweries … as for the hikes, brilliant… not sure who the rock climber is, not spider man, he’d use his web… Terry, are you mad???… lol … good for you Bud, still some life in you… although I think the eateries and breweries might just be a bit safer…

    • It is a great place to visit Bulldog. Terry seemed to take to climbing and was having a blast. As for the brewery being safer, well, that is debatable. 😉

    • Bishop certainly isn’t a bad place to be stuck but we are itching to move on. It was wonderful to meet Z and Tom. I am thinking our paths will cross again.

  • Love Bishop! If you’re looking to add a few more calories check out Astroga’s Mexican restaurant. While the building and the decor were nothing special, the food was incredible!

  • Your rainbow header photo is gorgeous! Looks like it could be in the Mountain Light Gallery (we always spend hours in there when we’re in Bishop, too). So sorry that you haven’t been able to do all of the hiking that you had hoped for, but you certainly made the best of your time there. I’m impressed by your bouldering skills! And I love the llamas on the trail. The weather is beautiful in Ashland — you’re going to love it. 🙂

  • The header picture of the rainbow is outstanding! Bishop looks to be a really fun place. And you did a lot of hard work for this post listing all the eateries, shopping etc. Thank You!
    Looks like you have had fun except you have not been able to get out to do all that you want. Hope the weather clears up for you!

  • Burgers, beers, books and boulders (not in that order of course), what a perfect place to be chill out in when the storms come calling.

  • Climbing takes so much physical work that use almost all body muscles… You guys are awesome, LuAnn! I love the picturesque image of the place. Thank you for the wonderful tour of Bishop. 🙂

    • My pleasure Amy! Wish we would have been exposed to rock climbing at an earlier age. Seems it is a sport meant for the young. 🙂

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