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To Bishop And Beyond Part II: Volcanic Tablelands

Posted in Events on November 1, 2012
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Photographers: Jaime Hernandez

Last time, we pontificated about Bishop, California’s possible status as the ultimate base camp for adventure. This time we’d like to drive the point further home.

Adventure starts on the very edge of town in the form of the Volcanic Tablelands. Formed 760,000 years ago when a nearby volcano erupted, the Volcanic Tablelands are made from a rock type called the Bishop Tuff, which was the result of hot volcanic ash having cooled and solidified in place. The Bishop Tuff is about 3,000 feet thick.

Though volcanism gave the Tablelands their start, Native Americans, plant and animal life, mining, and recreation give them the personality they offer today.

Route finding in the Volcanic Tablelands is at least two notches foggier than what we experienced on our way to the Champion Spark Plug Mine. The Champion Mine sits in a distinct canyon. By contrast, the Tablelands stretch for many square miles and feature routes and trails radiating in several directions. With Highway 395 to the west and Highway 6 on the Tablelands’ eastern border, it’s impossible to get extremely lost, but it’s still possible to burn up a lot of time trying to reach an elusive point of interest. Guidebooks are helpful, but we’d suggest supplementing them with a map. Two guidebooks and one map are listed in the source box at the end of this story. They’re not the only sources of information out there, but they’re ones we’ve used and can recommend.

To access the Tablelands from Bishop, head out of town north on Highway 6. You won’t go very far before the highway takes a 90-degree turn to the right. Midway through this turn, you’ll need to make a left onto Five Bridges Road.

There are no services in the Volcanic Tablelands, but since they’re so close to Bishop, you can explore the Tablelands in the morning, break for lunch in town, and head back out for the afternoon. Did we mention that Bishop might just be the ultimate base camp?

PhotosView Slideshow


Sierra Nevada Byways
By Tony Huegel
Publisher: Wilderness Press
[Editor’s Note: We found a used copy on]

Inyo-Mono SUV Trails
By Roger Mitchell
Publisher: Track & Trail Publications

Bishop Region
Publisher: Sierra Maps
(760) 873-5838

Even if you’re driving something more compact you should still keep an eye on the canyon walls. Rocks are equal-opportunity slashers that don’t care what you’re driving.
PhotosView Slideshow
There are campgrounds in the Tablelands, but we had warm beds waiting in Bishop. The most direct way back into town was unpaved Casa Diablo Road. We’d made a big circle, ending up right back at the sign we’d started from. Been there? Yes. Done that? Not all of it. That’s reason enough to return.

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