One of the best decisions I’ve made in recent years of choosing places to go camping was to start looking more into the lesser known locales of the Eastern Sierra. Yes, there are the internationally renown National Parks of Yosemite and Sequoia, but there are so many other opportunities to explore the Sierra without the massive crowds. One really great jumping off point into the High Sierra on the eastern slope is Bishop Canyon, just outside the town of Bishop on Highway 395. This canyon, set within the Inyo National Forest has a string of many campgrounds, lodges, and lakes before you venture deep into the John Muir Wilderness.

The Bishop Pass Trail leaves from the trailhead at South Lake and rises quickly to give you a view of this artificially dammed lake. Unfortunately, as of my trip in 2014, this is also a very visible sign of the drought we have been experiencing in California. The snow pack has not at all been close to normal, and this is reflected in the extremely low water level in South Lake.

After a series of switchbacks and more climbing, the trail offers a junction to many other alpine lakes in the area. When the trail levels off, you are treated to your first view of South Lake and it’s lush assortment of flora surrounding the waters. The trail stays flat around the edge of the lake and eventually rises up all the way to the top of Bishop Pass, where it connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.