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9 Epic Lakes for Views and Recreation near Bishop, CA

Bishop is an excellent base for exploring Eastern Sierra Mountains. It offers easy access to some of the gorgeous lakes in the area. You need to see it to believe it.

Eastern Sierra Mountains are dotted with stunning alpine lakes, and Bishop is the perfect base for exploring them. Picking the best lake out of hundreds is impossible as most offer something unique and beautiful.

Yet, where the lakes are similar is their versatility. Almost all of them allow swimming, fishing, kayaking, and boating. And what’s more, there are hundreds of breathtaking hiking routes in the area. It’s California at its best!

Check out what Bishop has to offer.

Lakes near Bishop:

  1. Lake Sabrina
  2. South Lake
  3. Rock Creek Lake
  4. Convict Lake
  5. Mammoth Lakes Basin
  6. Crowley Lake
  7. June Lake
  8. Grant Lake
  9. Mono Lake
Lakes near Bishop California Conparison Table

1. Lake Sabrina

  • Official Page: Lake Sabrina
  • Distance from Bishop: 19 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics, Horseriding

Lake Sabrina is a small 184-acre reservoir located 25 minutes from Bishop. It’s a hugely popular destination that attracts thousands of outdoor fans every year.

The lake is frequently stocked with rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for anglers, including winters, when ice fishing is on. Also, there are kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats to rent that are the perfect way to explore the shoreline. 

And if you have your own boat, there is a launching ramp that is free to use. Depending on the conditions, the water level can be too low for some craft; you can check the current situation here.  

Swimming is allowed in Lake Sabrina, and the crystal clear water often looks irresistible, but as you can expect, it’s icy cold.

Also, the area provides dozens of miles of hiking trails that lead to other stunning lakes. The most common routes from here are Blue Lake (3 miles), Baboon Lakes (4.5 miles), and George Lake (3.5 miles). 

Lake Sabrina is a highly-rated destination that rarely disappoints. What can be better than canoeing surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks!

Related: 11 Lakes and River for Recreation near Fresno

2. South Lake

South Lake
  • Official Page: South Lake
  • Distance from Bishop: 22 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics, Horseriding

South Lake is a 175-acre reservoir located just 22 miles from Bishop. It’s another stunning example of an alpine lake with more to offer than just the views.

Like Lake Sabrina, South Lake offers boat launching access, kayak and boat rentals, and superb trout fishing. It is stocked multiple times a year and is known for 10lbs+ trophy catches.

But if fishing isn’t your cup of tea, there is still plenty to do here. For example, swimming is allowed in South Lake, but it’s not as popular as kayaking or boating because of the frigid water. 

Still, the most popular activity here is hiking. Dozens of highly-rated routes start from the lake, including the famous Bishop Pass Trail. And, you can venture out to other gorgeous lakes like Chocolate Lakes (4 miles), Long Lake (3 miles), and Bull Lake (2 miles). 

South Lake is the top spot, well-known among outdoor enthusiasts, and just 30 minutes from Bishop!

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

3. Rock Creek Lake

  • Official Page: Rock Creek Lake
  • Distance from Bishop: 33 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics, Horseriding

Rock Creek Lake is a 55-acre reservoir located 33 miles from Bishop. Sitting at 10,320 feet, it is one of the highest drive-in lakes in the country.

Sierra peaks surround the lake providing for a stunning backdrop. It is teeming with photographers who try to capture the atmosphere during the golden hour.

Hiking and backpacking are by far the most common activities in the area. Like the previous options on the list, the lake offers access to dozens of routes, including Francis Lake (3 miles) and popular Hilton Lakes (6 miles).

Apart from hiking, you can fish for various types of trout here. The lake’s record was set in 1985 with 15lbs brown trout, still on display at the nearby resort.

Also, motorboats and kayaks are available for hire, which are a great way to explore the lake and diversify your activities. 

Stunning, versatile, and easily accessible, you can’t go wrong with Rock Creek Lake!

4. Convict Lake

Convict Lake
  • Official Page: Convict Lake
  • Distance from Bishop: 37 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics, Horseriding

Convict Lake is a 170-acre glacier-carved reservoir a couple of miles from 395 and some 40 minutes from Bishop. It’s a high footfall area with world-class alpine views.

Like other lakes thus far, it offers incredible fishing opportunities with rainbow, brown, and brook trout to try for. Also, the nearby resort has a selection of boats for rent; you can get a kayak for a paddle about or even hire a luxury pontoon boat. 

Swimming is allowed in Convict Lake, and the crystal clear water always looks tempting, but be prepared for a freezing experience.

The selection of trails that start from the lake is not as excellent as at the previously mentioned destinations. But this is being picky; Sierra Mountains rarely disappoint. Still, don’t miss the 2.5-mile easy trail that loops the lake. It’s gorgeous; go counter-clockwise!

Related: 11 Lakes and River for Recreation near Fresno

5. Mammoth Lakes Basin

Mammoth Lakes Basin
  • Official Page: Mammoth Lakes
  • Distance from Bishop: 45 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics, Horseriding

Mammoth Lakes Basin is located in Eastern Sierra Mountains, some 45 miles from Bishop. As the name suggests, it is home to a dozen stunning alpine lakes that offer recreational activities throughout summer.

Lake Mary is the largest and the most developed one in the area, offering campgrounds, RV sites, and a marina with kayak and boat rentals. During the warm weather, it buzzes with swarms of tourists.

But luckily, there are plenty of tranquil lakes around. For example, Lake George also has a campground and boats for hire, yet it’s not as busy. 

Many of the lakes in the basin are drive-in, but some require hiking to visit. Some of the terrific hike-in options are Chrystal Lake (1.5 miles), TJ Lake (1 mile), and McLeod Lake (1 mile). 

The town of Mammoth Lakes nearby provides plenty of accommodation, shops, and outfitters, and this is partly why these lakes get so busy. So, if you’re looking for a serene wilderness, there are better options on the list. Otherwise, this is the top spot!

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

6. Crowley Lake

  • Official Page: Crowley Lake
  • Distance from Bishop: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing

Crowley Lake┬áis a large man-made reservoir 28 miles northwest of Bishop. It’s very different from the lakes in Eastern Sierra Mountains.

The reservoir sits in a flat valley, on the opposite side of 395. It has a gorgeous landscape with snow-powered mountains in the backdrop.

It’s known for fantastic trout fishing that grows to trophy-size. Most anglers prefer fishing from the boat here, and the marina provides a large fleet of vessels for hire, as well as slips for private boats.

Still, what makes this lake unique is that it’s one of a few places in the area where powerboating is allowed. Wakeboarding, waterskiing, and jet skiing are popular ways to spend time here.

And if you’re more into paddling and exploring, kayaks are available for rent, and the shoreline provides unique geological features like the famous volcanic ash pillars.

Crowley Lake may not be as stunning and cozy as Sierra lakes, but it has its charm and certainly adds versatility to the area.

7. June Lake

June Lake
  • Official Page: June Lake 
  • Distance from Bishop: 56 miles (1h 5min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Picnics

At 320 acres, June Lake is one of the bigger options in the Eastern Sierra Mountains. It’s a well-known lake with Instagram-worthy views and easy access from the highway.

What makes this particular lake unique is its wide sandy beach. It’s the best option on the list for splashing about in the crystal clear water, sunbathing, and chilling on inflatable unicorns.

Other activities on the water are fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, with rentals available during the warm season.

June Lake is also one of the best when it comes to the choice of accommodation. There are primitive campsites, cabins, lodges, RV parks, and hotels. Needless to say, it’s busier than Convict Lake or South Lake, for example.

Overall, it’s the top lake for swimming and chilling on the beach, definitely worth visiting!

Related: 7 Fantastic Lakes near Bakersfield, CA

8. Grant Lake

Grant Lake
Photo: m01229CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Grant Lake 
  • Distance from Bishop: 62 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing

Grant Lake is a 1,100-acre man-made reservoir 60 miles from Bishop. It’s the largest of June Loop lakes and one of a few places for wakeboarding and waterskiing.

The lake’s shoreline is free from trees, making it look more alpine than other lakes and offering unrestricted access to the water. Fishing from the bank is easily done here.

Thanks to the lake’s size, powerboating sports are welcome here, which is rare for the area. If wakeboarding and skiing are your activities of choice, it’s a fantastic option and certainly no less picturesque than Crowley Lake.

Swimming is allowed at Grant Lake, and it offers plenty of access points for that. Also, kayaking and paddleboarding are fantastic ways to explore the lake.

When it comes to facilities, the reservoir offers a full-service marina with boats for hire, launching ramps, and a campground. 

Despite the lake’s size and versatility, it’s not as busy as some other options on the list. In fact, it’s the perfect compromise between developed and wild.

Related: 11 Lakes and River for Recreation near Fresno

9. Mono Lake

Mono Lake
  • Official Page: Mono Lake 
  • Distance from Bishop: 68 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, SUPs, Swimming, Hiking, Birding, Nature Trips

Mono Lake is a massive 45,133-acre lake 68 miles from Bishop. At 760,000 years old, it is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

Apart from its age, the incredible thing about the lake is that it’s 2.5 times saltier than the ocean. Such conditions provide a unique habitat that you won’t see almost anywhere else. 

For example, one species that thrive in salty water is brine shrimp. They run in trillions and attract a wide selection of birds, making the lake a prime spot for birding.

Swimming is allowed at Mono Lake, and because of its salinity, you will float much better than in freshwater.

Apart from swimming, kayaking and canoeing are popular ways to explore the lake. One of the main attractions here is tufas – limestone towers formed by the precipitation of carbonate materials in the water. They are an unusual sight, and you can get pretty close to them in a kayak.

Despite the long drive from Bishop, Mono Lake is worth visiting. It’s unique not only to the Eastern Sierra but to the county as a whole. 

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