Day 1 | Bishop, California
Bishop, CA is known as a small town with a big backyard. When you visit you’ll quickly understand why. Bishop is nestled between two mountain ranges, the Sierra Nevada’s to the west and the White Mountains to the east. Both hold some of the highest mountains in the state, over 14,000’ tall.
The kids and I headed down to Bishop on a Wednesday, which (if you want to explore the town like a local) turns out to be one of the very best days to hang out in the family friendly town! We visited the Laws Railroad Museum, which on Wednesdays has an active mining exhibit (this quickly became the best part of our day. We got an amazing lunch from Great Basin Bakery and took it to the park to feed the ducks, a kid’s favorite. Then, we ended our day with a hot tub soak and swim at the historic Keough’s Hot Springs.
Follow along as I give you tips on how to enjoy some of the best activities that Bishop has to offer, like a local!
The Laws Railroad Museum
The Laws Railroad Museum is a quaint but awesome indoor/outdoor historic museum showcasing what life was like more than 100 years ago in the Owens Valley. The Carson and Colorado railway carried passengers and freight in 1883 and connected the Owens Valley to Reno, Nevada until 1960. A few years later, the Laws Museum was formed. Thanks to the donations of locals and collectors, a variety of local historic items were donated to make the museum what it is today, and both the place and experience are totally special and unique.
If you visit the museum on a Wednesday, you’ll be able to see the active mining exhibit which quickly became our family favorite. Local volunteers and miners come and operate some of the original mining equipment from 1912! Jay, one of the most special, longtime volunteers, took a liking to the kids and let them participate in some of the mining processes. He was so kind that he even took us on a private walk around to show us other equipment that had been donated that he had personally spent time working on and miraculously got running again!
Our experience at Laws Museum was one for the memory books. If you choose to visit, do your best to get there on a Wednesday and look for Jay. Tell him that Shannon, Bodhi and Skye say Hello!
Bishop Park and Keough’s Hot Springs
For the best lunch in Bishop that all locals love, visit the Great Basin Bakery. Their sandwiches on their fresh, house made bread, as well as their cookies, are something to write home about. We grabbed ourselves some of the incredible Mount Tom Turkey Sandwiches and a couple bags of cookies and headed for the park. Be sure to try their famous cowgirl cookies, they’re the best!
We took our lunch to the Bishop Park to let the kids play on the newly updated playground and to feed the ducks, another family favorite. Pro-tip for feeding the ducks is to walk across the street to Schatt’s Bakery and ask the staff behind the deli counter for some “duck bread”. For $1 you’ll get a bag of bread bigger than a small child. Any of the bread that falls on the floor or cannot be used on a sandwich for one reason or another, gets collected for the ducks. It helps eliminate waste for the bakery while also allowing the kids to feed the ducks some decent, fresh baked snacks. It’s always more bread that we care to feed the ducks ourselves, but other park-goers are really happy when you offer them bread to feed the ducks, too. A win-win for everyone.
After enjoying a lunch in the park, head south to the historic Keough’s Hot Springs for a nice afternoon soak. Keough’s Hot Springs was established in 1919 and is still running today. Guess what? Wednesday at Keough’s is what locals like to call, “Clean Water Day”. Keough’s is closed every Tuesday for cleaning, so each Wednesday you get to enjoy the nice clean, natural water. Enjoy a swim in the pool and a soak in the large, but much hotter hot tub! When you’re done soaking, be sure to check out the Rock Garden Trail near the parking entrance.
Day 2 | Mono Lake
Mono Lake is a large ancient saline lake south of Lee Vining. It is nearly 3 times saltier than the ocean and is home to trillions of brine shrimp, millions of birds, and world-famous tufa towers. Its tributary streams also supply water to Los Angeles, nearly 350 miles to the south. Mono Lake is so unique and beautiful it is like being on another planet. Besides the brine shrimp and unique flies that live and breed in the lake, nothing else lives in the water. Yet, Mono Lake is home to many Osprey who nest on the Tufa! Why would a bird so big and majestic live, breed, and raise their young on a lake that has no fish, you may ask? It’s the million-dollar view!
Mono South Tufa Reserve & Whoa-Nellie Deli
We set out in the morning to visit the Mono South Tufa Reserve. We enjoyed a self-guided tour of the reserve and read the plaques to learn more about features and creatures of the lake. After hanging out a bit and taking some photos, we stopped at the best gas station in the Eastern Sierra for lunch. Lunch at a gas station? That’s right! The Whoa-Nellie-Deli is an award winning restaurant inside the Mobil Gas Station in Lee Vining. They have some of the best fish tacos you’ve ever had, and if you’re up for it, a famous mango margarita! Besides those 5-star classics, they’ve got incredible pizza, especially the BBQ chicken pizza. You are seriously not going to want to miss this. Typically, in the summer they have live music two days a week.
Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie, once home to more than 10,000 people, is a genuine, super well preserved, California gold mining ghost town. You can take walk through time and down the streets of a place that was once a booming mining town.
“In 1859 William (a.k.a. Waterman) S. Bodey discovered gold near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By then, the town of Bodie bustled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes, and people from many countries around the world. At one time there was reported to be 65 saloons in town. Among the saloons were numerous brothels and ‘houses of ill repute’, gambling halls and opium dens – an entertainment outlet for everyone.” (Bodie.org)
Near the entrance of the park is the cemetery of Bodie. This discrete little cemetery is often overlooked, so don’t forget to backtrack your way over and read some of the historic headstones. We came across the headstone for the town’s founder that was decorated with ample gifts and offerings, left behind by many.
Looking down on the town of Bodie is what is known as Bodie Mountain, the high point of the surrounding hills. It only seemed appropriate to climb Bodie Mountain with my son Bodhi, so after walking through the park for a couple of hours, we made our way up to the summit. On top of Bodie Mountain you are greeted with the most spectacular views of the Eastern Sierra and the Mono Basin. It did not disappoint! If you are interested in climbing up Bodie Mountain, be sure to research the many different ways to approach it before you head out.
On your way back from Bodie, be sure to stop in Lee Vining for ice cream at Mono Cone! This classic spot is a must on a hot summer day.
Day 3 | Mammoth Lakes
Day 3 took us to Mammoth Lakes. A fantastic place to entertain the whole family is the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center. Get a day pass for the kids (or even the adventurous adults) that want to enjoy all the activities including mining, a rock climbing wall, ropes course, zipline, and bungee trampoline.
We started the morning with the mining and the kids were having so much fun they couldn’t believe that the day had just started and there were still more fun activities to do following that. I laughed. Later, the kids had a blast going up and down on the auto-belay rock climbing wall, then the ropes course where I had some good giggles watching them challenge themselves. At 8 and 6 years old, they were both on the smaller side for the ropes course, but they absolutely crushed it and got to push themselves further than they knew possible. The zip line and bungee trampolines were the icing on the cake. Pure joy all around!
After several hours and lots of laughs and smiles at the adventure center, we were on our way back into town for lunch. We stopped at Burgers for a classic, all American lunch. Highly recommend!
E Bikes & Convict Lake
After a big burger lunch, it was time to burn off some energy and some calories on a scenic e-bike ride up to the awe-inspiring, incredibly beautiful lakes basin. This day, the kids and me were on our own, so as a family of 3 with two young kids, it was slightly tricky to find e-bikes for the occasion.
After looking around a while, I was so pleased to see that our favorite local skate and snowboard shop, Wave Rave, offered an e-bike that held 3 people!! I could ride while the kids each sat on the back of this radical, limousine style e-bike! I made the nearly effortless peddle with the kids up to Lake George where we had an in-your-face view of Crystal Crag, a stunning formation of granite and quartz crystal that towers above the lake. From there we cruised around Lake Mary and back down into town making a more than 12-mile loop before returning the bike back to Wave Rave. We had such a blast!
On our way out of town, because we were dedicated to seeing it all, we made the obligatory stop at Convict Lake where we walked around the lake at sunset. If views are your thing, be sure to make the 2.5 mile trek around the lake. It is an all-time favorite. We all slept like babies when we finally made it home and into bed.
A day well spent!
Thanks for Tuning In
Thanks so much for tagging along with me and my family! We hope you’ll bring your family and enjoy all of these off the beaten path adventures the Eastern Sierra has to offer this summer. See you in the mountains soon!