Bishop California host the infamous Mule Days Celebration. Always Memorial Day weekend . Mules compete in events. Part mule show, part test of skills, and part Wild West. Thursday night concert, featuring Country Music stars, the longest running non-motorized parade on Saturday morning, Steer roping and penning, and the Packer’s Scramble.
Paved route that dead ends at a huge, old tungsten mill. Impressive peaks and slopes, steep granite; spires and beehive shaped mountains. This region has a very ALPS FEELING, with an “Italy Pass” high above on the wilderness ridge lines.
Pine Creek Road has minimal camping and maybe a half day worth of sightseeing (at most). A few creekside camp spots, only rock dirt road access. Campfire permits required. No facilities. No developed campgrounds. Hiking trails, wilderness access and a horse pack outfitter.
PINE CREEK PACK STATION
85 Pine Creek Road
Bishop, CA 93514
NO developed NFS Campground exist up here, so don’t think about bringing that motorhome up this steep incline.
California Camping Rentals: Outdoor gear rentals in California are more common in big cities with large retailers and harder to find in specific, small towns on the back roads. Plan ahead trying to rent gear. Recreation destinations such as Joshua Tree, Mammoth & Bishop might have rental shops, but finding a rental store in an unfamiliar area could be ‘just chancing it’.
Be sure, before you go.
DanaMite has revised this handy list for your wilderness vacation planning, recreational equipment and rental needs.
2020 UPDATE: Recently deleted 4 shops on this page, so don’t be surprised if more gear rental shops vanish.
There are many reason people rent gear. Tourists or vacationers passing through, wanting to experience a non-hotel night outdoors; Beginner backpackers wanting to try out equipment before committing to a big purchase; College students on an impromptu road trip; Novice cross country snow skiers; Doggy now packs in his own food & water too.
A new concept now being delivered is online gear rental, from camping to fly fishing. Seriously. They can ship you quality rental gear, and you can use it, test it, review it, all hands-on, out in the field. These 2 players in the West both ship nationwide. Imagine what else the web will rent in the future?
Inyo Forest Campgrounds – Eastern Sierra Campgrounds
areas include: Lone Pine, Mount Whitney, Independence, Onion Valley, Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Big Pine, Bishop [Hwy 168], High Sierra, Owens River, Lake Crowley, Rock Creek, Mammoth Lakes [Hwy 203], June Lake Loop [Hwy 158], Lee Vining & East Yosemite National Park [Hwy 120]. Camping on Eastern Sierra Highway 395
Eastern Sierra recreation – backpacking, horse packing, day hiking, creek fishing, mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing
Listed below are Inyo National Forest campgrounds, County Parks, BLM public camps for outdoor recreation. Many campgrounds are closed for winter months. Blue links lead to more camp information. Boldface links to detailed information & photos on campground.
Eastern Sierra Nevada – Inyo Mountains
Inyo Forest Back Roads – Mammoth Off Road
Off Road near US Highway 395. Yep, Olancha has some OHV (off-road) areas near the dunes, but this web site is dedicated to the real deal, the scenery, the trail heads, the hot springs, great secluded camping & of course, back road exploring.
You will need a Inyo National Forest map to discover these back roads. These are minimally traveled routes, un-maintained, sometimes washed out, eroded & maybe even creek crossings (without a bridge). Some gravel two-lane routes, some one lane roads leading deep into dead end canyons.
A few popular routes are paved, but most of these listed are indeed dirt roads. Some may require high clearance vehicle, or even 4×4. Know your vehicles limitations & be prepared to turn back when the road worsens. Cuz more often than not, it’s a sign of what more difficult terrain is to come.
Watch out for live stock – they are dumber than they look.
Owenyo Rd – Wanna parallel the highway (395) on dirt; Sure, it’s a long bumpy route – from Hwy 136 @ Dolomite to Bend City @ Mazourka Cyn.
Road# 13S05 – Mazourka Canyon Rd – leads up to some old mining camps & way behind Mazourka Peak (9410′) deep into the Inyo mountains. It’s all desert on this side, but these canyons have pinyons & more vegetation than you would imagine. Road# 9S15 & 9S14 circle Andrews Mountain (9460′) then join back up w/ Death Valley Rd (the North Pass into Saline Valley).
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has some great dirt roads surrounding it. After you are finished with all the touristy sights & you don’t wanna spend the rest of the day in the visitors center or back at camp, try Cottonwood Canyon – full of aspens, camp sites & fishing, not cottonwood trees. 4×4 is required. Crooked Creek has boulders, boulders & more boulders. Plus some amazing camp sites with open sky views. Silver Canyon is for high clearance only, 2WD okay. This will lead you down to Laws Railroad Museum on Hwy 6, on the back side of Bishop, CA
Benton Crossing Rd (green church @ 395)
This wide road leads out to multiple dirt roads that peel off in every direction. Many Eastern Sierra Hot Springs can be found out here – on the east side of the highway. No hot spring resorts, no facilities, no clothing & very primitive.
Bishop 4×4 route Coyote Flat
Coyote Wash leads up to Coyote Flat & out to Coyote Lake. This a a spectacular high altitude plateau overlooks the Owens Valley & requires 4 wheel drive just to get up there. Pinyons, junipers, aspens, wildflower meadows, old mines, & yes, lakes at 11,000′ elevation. Views of the High Sierra & South Lake.
Buttermilk Road – This dirt road is north turn off of Hwy 168, W of Bishop, CA. “The Buttermilks” are a popular spot among rock climbers. A great place for indian petroglyphs too!
Road# 9S21 – Glacier Lodge Road – Paved road. Creek exploring & fishing. Plenty Campgrounds. W of Big Pine CA
Horseshoe Meadows Rd – Paved route with great views over Owens dry lake bed; access via Lone Pine CA; A nice day trip to meadows & High Sierra scenery. Picnic & day hike!
McMurray Meadows Rd – south off of Glacier Lodge Rd (#9S21) just W of Big Pine CA. You can find ancient cinder cone volcanoes & cave-like lava tubes in between this long dirt road & the highway.
Monache Meadows is a high elevation meadow that takes some time & determination to get to. This area is part of the Inyo National Forest, but can be accessed by either: backpacking thru the high Sierra’s or driving a high clearance vehicle thru Sequoia NF # 22S05 Sherman Pass Road, behind the Black Rock Ranger Station & Troy Meadows Campground. High clearance is needed, 4×4 maybe. Great camping sites near Olancha Peak trailhead. The area is surrounded by Golden Trout Wilderness & South Sierra Wilderness. From US Highway 395 to Kennedy Mdws & then Monache is a full day of exploring, so you may as well stay the night up there. But bring warm gear, a campfire permit & a capable vehicle.
Manzanar Routes – Back behind Manzanar Camp there are miles of dirt roads to explore. Many creeks side camp sites can be found even with a passenger car. Small trees & sage brush. Secluded camping (for free) is possible in the Eastern Sierra.
Mono Craters (Rd# 1N11) – the youngest mountain range on the continent. Just south of Mono Lake, this route skirts the pumice cones & climbs over the Aeolian Buttes, before it meets back up with Hwy 395.
Walker Creek Rd #19S01 – Oaks & creek. South of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon.
Inyo Forest Road #4S12
also known as Inyo Road 12, and also Rock Creek Rd.
Majestic mountain scenery. Popular paved route that leads from US 395 up to Rock Creek Lake, on the edge of granite wild lands; lake is situated above 9000′ elevation and the hiker trailheads are further up, beyond the lake at over 10,000 feet. Steep canyon, large canyon, rocky granite canyon, high elevation.
Super scenic drive, but open less than half the year, due to deep snow. Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. Inyo National Forest
A popular and favorite place for summer camping, fishing and hiking. Backpacking, horse trails, high elevation lakes, mountain passes, peaks, wilderness areas. RV campgrounds, tent camping, car camping. Mountain biking in vast canyon, near campgrounds and creek. No bikes in the Wilderness (up and above Rock Creek)
Autumn colors, aspen groves usually best in early October. Snow closure in winter months (Nov-May).
elevation 7072′ @ Tom’s Place, CA (US Hwy 395)
elevation 9682′ @ Rock Creek Lake
elevation 10,272′ @ Trailhead Parking (end of road)
UP, UP, HIGHER & AROUND LAKE
One lane, paved route gets narrow, but keeps on climbing. Road #6S05 continues up – past Rock Creek Lake and ends at hiking trailheads, paved parking lot and a few picnic spots.
12 NFS Campgrounds in this region, starting with one at the highway, several along the way and the campgrounds at Rock Creek Lake.
No campfires are allowed in this canyon – outside of a developed campground. Not much in the way of primitive car camping options either, except for strapping on a backpack and heading into high elevation wilderness.
Rugged Sierra Nevada high country. The highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountains can be found inside this Wilderness. Many peaks are well above 13,000 feet. Granite, glaciated basins, big snow, alpine lakes, meadows, wildflowers, streams, creeks, cliffs, jagged peaks. Mount Whitney stands as the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.
Hundreds of miles of hiking trails, some of the highest peaks in the nation. Trails open to equestrian and foot traffic only. Trailhead quotas limit the amount of day hikers and backpackers that an access the Wilderness daily. Wilderness permit required: Inyo National Forest Permits
Eastern Sierra Visitor Center Inyo Visitors Office
USDA National Forest
USFS, NPS, BLM
Eastern Sierra Interagency Office US Hwy 395 @ SR 136 Lone Pine, CA 93545 760-876-6200
Primitive Camping Inyo National Forest – Eastern Sierra Car Camping
The mighty US Highway 395 runs from the Mojave Desert north through the eastern side of California, where the state line of Nevada meets. Mount Whitney and the tallest peaks run on the western range @ 14,000’+ the highest in elevation.
The Inyo Mountain range sits @ 11,000′ to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Major elevations but little vegetation, when compared to it’s neighboring Sierra range. The Inyos lay in the rain shadow of the taller western mountains – but still get snow. Plenty of primitive SUV camping on the dirt roads throughout this desert area north of Death Valley.
A more forested part of the Inyo National Forest is the Eastern Sierra region. Encompassing Mount Whitney & Mammoth Mountain area, plus the entire Hwy 395 corridor. This side of the Inyo National Forest is quite different that the desert range of Inyo.
Eastern Sierra back roads lead all over the place & may require 4WD. A high clearance 2WD can still get you to some awesome viewpoints & scenery. No picnic tables or toilets are available out in the boonies, but plenty of seclusion & vast open space wilderness. INYO Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping w/ no fees. See the Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need.
Open (free) Camping along Hwy 395
Monache Meadows – This high elevation (8000′) south Sierra Meadow is accessible by 4WD truck or SUV. Near Kennedy Meadows CA
Walker Creek Rd – quick camp in the lowlands; an easy in route camping near oaks & creek. Southside of Olancha CA, look for turn off & follow dirt road up into the tight canyon. No RVs whatsoever.
Fish Slough Road – open desert camping w/ popular bouldering & rock climbing areas; near Indian Petroglyphs. N of Bishop, CA
Lower Rock Creek Road– signed turn off US Hwy 395. Only a couple good camp spots tucked away in the trees. Small creek, very overgrown, traffic noise minimal. Nearby Round Valley @ Sherwin Pass had a big wildfire in wintertime (dry) FEB 2015!
Road# 4S02 – Owens Gorge Road – N of Bishop behind Lake Crowley. Free RV camping w/ boulders & pines
Road# 2S05 – Deadman Creek – Camp in pine forest on creek; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Road# 2S07 – Owens River Road – Camp in pine forest, near hot springs; no facilities. N of Mammoth
Parker Lake Road – Camp along aspen creeks or in pine forest, near lakes; no facilities. E of Grant Lake on June Lake Loop (Hwy 158)
Coyote Flat 4×4 Bishop – just west of Bishop CA is a 4 wheel drive paradise, Coyote Creek – This steep dirt road is quite a climb. A true off-roaders dream of open space, great views, large meadows, & alpine lakes. Great primitive camping along creeks, in pine or aspen forest or near small secluded lakes. Real remote Sierra high country, usually only reached by backpackers, is accessible to those who dare to venture off the beaten path of Highway 395.
At the golf course keep your eyes peeled — from the highway take Schober Ln. / Underwood Ln. due west through a residential neighborhood to the backside of the town. Find the electrical power station to the left at the base of the hills. Veer onto the slightly paved /dirt road to the right of the station & continue straight up the sandy wash. 4×4 is recommended, since the lowest gears are needed for the careful climb. The road will begin to get steep & gain in elevation fast. The area up here changes with the mileage: passing pinyon pines on cliffs, topping off to high meadows & aspen lined creeks, finally reaching large towering pines & small alpine lakes with snow melt still visible. Basically TREE LINE. This region is most likely open only half the year, due to its high elevation of 8000’+ and winter snow.
Keough California is comprised of two soaking spots – a small resort and the primitive tubs below. An Eastern Sierra rustic Hot Springs Resort w/ campground, tent cabins rentals and nice landscaping. Big, clean hot pools at the top of the road. Entrance fees, trees and vegetation, next to the mountains. Seniors and families frequent this place. Swimsuits are required.
Below the resort and above the highway, are some primitive, free hot pools that require dirt road driving. Public nudity is common. Open 24/7 w/ several brush lined pools on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains overlooking the high desert of the Owens Valley. Quite impressive for being just off the highway. Buzzing, huge powerlines overhead are one of the only drawbacks of this soak spot. This place can get crowded at certain times.
Posted: No overnight camping allowed at these lower hot springs.
US Highway 395:
Look for the turn off in between Bishop and Big Pine, California. Take the Keough Hot Springs Road up hill until the second dirt road, turn right and the primitive hot springs will be on the left, just beyond the cold stream crossing. Sometimes a high clearance might be needed. Cars should park and walk the if unsure of the terrain. Do not park right next to the soaking tub, as the ground is too weak and vehicles have been known to slide in, unexpectedly. No kidding!
Plenty great camping all around the Eastern Sierra region. For campsites with cooler temps, higher elevation, pine trees & creeks: Head for the Glacier Lodge Rd – Inyo Road #9S21, West outta Big Pine.
Adventurous 4x4s can try super remote Coyote Flat, a super high elevation pinyon plateau that overlooks Bishop. Also Highway 168 W outta Bishop will lead to primitive camping areas like The Buttermilks, a rock climbing area. Further up the hill is alpine lake and creek camping in aspen groves.
Eastern Sierra Mountains / Eastern Sierras California
Wilderness seeker John Muir called the Eastern Sierra, the range of light. It’s desery & drastic. Tons of granite & wild-ness. The impressive, tallest peak in the lower 48, Mount Whitney towers at elevation 14888′ over the Owens River Valley. Death Valley meets mountains. Ancient volcanoes & fresh granite. Creeks are alive throughout summer. Alpine lake hikes & their wild flowers are incredible. Horseback trails, rentals, pack trips are very popular. Total Escape even list high country Inyo 4×4 routes, that overlook Bishop.