A funny thing happens when you travel along Highway 395. Amidst the stark high desert landscape, a dot of green appears. Drive closer and you’ll find yourself on the tree-lined streets of Bishop. This former American West frontier town rests between the towering Eastern Sierra and White Mountains, deep within the Owens Valley at an elevation of 1,249 meters. Unlike typical mountain towns, which are dumped with snow in winter, Bishop offers dry, sunny conditions, making it possible to hike, fish, camp and explore year-round.
This winter, forget about hunkering down and waiting out the snow. Head to Bishop, and add these adventures to your agenda.
Each autumn, Bishop Creek Canyon is ignited by an amber glow. New England may have red maple leaves, but Bishop has the distinct gold hue of aspens. Fall foliage season in Bishop Creek Canyon begins in September. Lace up your hiking boots, pack extra layers and hike to Blue Lake or Paiute Pass and marvel at the autumn colours along the way.
See Ancient Bristlecones
On the other side of the Owens Valley, high up in the White Mountains, you can walk among some of the oldest living organisms on Earth. Bristlecone pines, which can live to be over 4,000 years old, reach up to the sky with gnarled branches. Hike the 7.4-km (4.5-mile) Methuselah Trail, where the unmarked 4,850-year-old namesake tree grows. Keep in mind that this area hovers around 3,048 meters, so the scenery might not be the only thing that leaves you breathless.
Relax in Mineral Hot Springs
After a day in the mountains, soak your bones at Keough’s Hot Springs. These historic hot springs at the foothills of the Eastern Sierra have been in popular use since 1919, when pioneer Philip Keough purchased the land and created a small resort. Stay for a quick dip or camp beneath the stars. Travellers can also rent a tent cabin or spend the night in a mobile home.
Savour Alpine Wine
Anneke Schat’s Wine Cellar features boutique wines made from high elevation grapes. Step into the charming shop for a bottle of malbec, and gourmet cheese and craft beer too. When you’re done, it’s just a one-minute walk to nearby Erick Schat’s Bakery, which is known for its famous Dutch sheepherder bread and heavenly selection of tarts, cookies, donuts and other baked goods.
Experience California History
The Laws Railroad Museum tells the story of California settlers through railroad artifacts. Named for the Laws Depot, which is the centerpiece of this historic site, the museum features approximately 50 structures plus tools and photographs donated and restored by the local community. A highlight of visiting the Laws Railroad Museum is taking a ride on the 1927 Death Valley Railroad Brill Car. If you’re visiting in the winter, check the schedule for special Christmas train rides set against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.