Hiking to Long Lake in Bishop, California

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Miles: 5.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1843 feet
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Dogs: Yes
Permits: Not for day hikes, for backpacking only
When to go: June through early November

This is a short, family-friendly hike that takes you to postcard-worthy scenic views with a glistening alpine lake in the shadow of the High Sierra.

After my knee injury on the John Muir Trail, this was my first test hike back to see how I would do before I set out on bigger hikes. This trail is beautiful both in the summer and fall months. In the fall months, the whole trail explodes in yellow and orange colors.

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The trail

Fall at South Lake Bishop

The trail starts from South Lake about 20 minutes into the mountains from Bishop, CA. There’s plenty of day and overnight hiker parking at South Lake and there is also a boat launch at South Lake.

You’ll be hiking along the Bishop Pass Trail.

For about half a mile the trail follows along South Lake with beautiful views of the peaks around it and the lake. Then the lake continues to climb through the forest with the High Sierra peaking out here and there behind the trees.

Bishop Pass Trail
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Right before the lake, you’ll see a small pond to the left, keep hiking and it will open up to Long Lake. You can continue hiking along the lake for another mile. There are a lot of places where you can easily get to the lake for a swim.

It was so beautiful. I got there in the early afternoon, snacked by the lakeshore on a rock, swam, watched the lake sparkling under the afternoon sun and the High Sierra peaks standing proud in the background.

Bishop Pass Trail Long Lake

From here if you want to, you can continue to Bishop Pass at 11,972 feet. Along the trail, you’ll also pass Timberline Tarns, Saddlerock Lake and Bishop Lake, before Bishop Pass. Bishop Pass is a 10 mile round trip hike from South Lake.

If you want to turn it into a backpacking trip, you can continue into the Kings Canyon National Park from Bishop Pass and hike down to Dusy Basin which is roughly another 4 miles one way and carved by glaciers receding.

If you want to keep going, you can reach Le Conte Canyon which intersects with the John Muir Trail, which is a 12 mile one way hike.

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Permits

If you want to backpack to Long Lake or the surrounding areas on that trail, you’ll need a backcountry permit. Permits are not needed to day hike.

You get a permit through recreation.gov for Bishop Pass - South Lake (JM21).

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Jenny KotlyarComment