It is hard to say which season is the most beautiful when one is driving to Bishop from Southern California. Each season brings with it a special beauty all its own.
The highway runs parallel to and almost up against the base of the Sierras allowing one to get a good feel for just how high the peaks are. The tips and crevices have snow almost year round.
The first “town,” and we use that term loosely, on the road trip is Olancha, population 192. The area’s main employer is a large water bottling company. But mostly, it is known for beautiful range land often dotted with horses and cows.
A half hour up the road is historical Lone Pine, home to the Lone Pine Film History Museum and Film Festival. Lone Pine not only sits up near the Sierras but also the Alabama Hills. If you have ever watched an old western, you have likely seen the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine has long been a Hollywood favorite for filming westerns. Tom Nix, John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Spencer Tracy all starred in movies filmed in the area.
Next up is the Inyo County seat. Independence has a population 669, a total that includes the inmates at the county jail. Independence is a beautiful old unincorporated town with many historical buildings such as the county’s courthouse built in the early 20th Century.
The last town before reaching Bishop is Big Pine. Big Pine feels more modern, mostly because the road has been widened through town, yet it is still a throwback to a gentler time with general stores that will sell one a soft drink or bait or maybe even a fishing pole.
Bishop is only a few minutes up the road from Big Pine. It is the only incorporated town in the county, with a population just under 4,000.
Although Bishop has a few modern amenities such as motels and a Starbucks and a McDonalds, mostly it is a small town full of mom-and-pop businesses catering to the outdoorsy-type tourist. The surrounding area is a paradise for hikers, photographers, skiers and fisherman.
Bishop is also home to Bishop Mule Days, an event held each Memorial Day weekend. It attracts mule lovers from around the world increasing the town’s population ten-fold during the four-day event. For more information about this year’s event, check out their website at MuleDays.org.
Bishop is a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway any time of the year.