The Sierras with Kids – Mammoth,Bishop, and Outdoor Activities

Last weekend, Mr. Cain Travel conquered his goal of summiting Mount Whitney, along with backpacking through the Sierras over 5 days. In order to meet him at the Portal finish and celebrate, the kids and I spent a few days in Bishop and exploring the surrounding area.  As a Bay Area native, I grew up going to Lake Tahoe for our “mountain experiences”, so I hadn’t ever been to Mammoth or this part of the Sierras that’s a highlight for Southern Californians.  There is lots to do, and its worth a stop during a California Visit – either on the way to/from Yosemite, Reno, or on its own – summer or winter! 🙂

The drive on the 395 isn’t particularly scenic, but once you get into the mountain range it’s quite awesome!  We stopped in Lone Pine for lunch and then toured the Alabama Hills, a famous movie shooting location that happens to be right off Whitney Portal Road.  Farther up, we found the great Dehy Park in Independence that is situated right on a creek – complete with a tire swing – something we definitely don’t get at our parks at home! Best of all, in spite of it being a gorgeous Saturday, both places were empty!  Definitely outside of the LA Basin! 🙂


Looks like an old Western 


Checking out the rocks and dirt 




Great park in Independence 

Bishop itself is a great little town with lots of fun things within walking distance. We absolutely loved the Creekside Inn, a quaint local hotel that’s actually built around a small creek, where many of the rooms have a full view of the creek and its running waters.  Ducks also frequent the area and you feel like you are getting a little bit of the outdoors while still residing in a hotel. There’s also a full hot breakfast buffet daily, an outdoor pool/spa (seasonal), and cookies nightly at 7pm (a hit for my kids). Our room was huge, clean, and included a sofa bed, seating area, wet bar, fridge, and microwave in addition to dual sinks.  It was an ideal place for either couples or families to stay, and so pretty and quaint compared to some of the “chain” hotels.    We were literally next door to a great bowling alley – Back Alley Bowl and Grill – which was a great activity one evening and actually has really good food!  We were also next door to Eric Shat’s Bakery, which is a highlight for tourists coming through the area and has tasty treats and sandwiches.  It’s nice to stay in Bishop because you can get there before the crowds and make it a regular part of your visit!  We also enjoyed Holy Smoke BBQ for dinner one night, which is good old fashioned Texas BBQ and family run – and we even got lucky and won free ice cream as Customer Order #!!  There are lots of other coffee places, eateries and more that we will have to try on a future visit.


Spacious accommodations! 


Can’t beat a creekside room! 


Bowling fun! 


Schat’s Bakery! 


So many choices! 


Downtown Bishop 

Bishop is a great launching pad for Mammoth, which is just 50 minutes north and an easy drive.  We took the gondola up to the summit at 11053 feet, and the kids loved the scenic views and the fun ride. It was reminiscent of our ride up to Keystone Colorado this summer.   The summit has a great hands on exhibit with docents to answer your questions, and is a popular take off spot for mountain bikers and hikers looking for scenery and more of a challenge. We did some short walks around the building and the kids had a blast. We even talked to Dad who summited Whitney that day and were able to chat with cell services summit to summit! (His was a bit of a harder journey of course 🙂 )  Back at the Main Lodge and Adventure Center, our 8yo had a blast on the Ropes Course – he did great! Our 5yo enjoyed the gem panning, especially that it included a card to help identify the loot. Mammoth is a great village with tons of restaurants and food options, and a huge Resort that’s extremely popular in the summer, so it may be somewhere to visit during off peak hours when possible.  Of course, the winter scene is gorgeous and popular as well, with awesome skiing and snow play activities.


Going up Mammoth Mountain – beautiful lakes! 


Gondola views!


The Summit – 11053 feet! 


King of Mammoth Mountain 


Gorgeous views 


Hands on footprint fun 


A staring contest we hope we never have 


Enjoying the views 


Lots of games and activities at the Mammoth Adventure Center


Awesome Kids’ Ropes Course at the Main Lodge/Adventure Center


Gem panning

Finally, we met Mr. CT and our friends at the Whitney Portal when they finished their journey – and got to sample one of the famous huge pancakes! The little eatery and portal store is an ingenious addition to this popular trailhead for backpackers, offering breakfast or cold beers for tired and hungry summiteers along with cool stickers and other swag.  We even saw a doe and two fawns nearby, lots of chipmunks, and a bear print left on our friends’ car!  Don’t leave any food or even water in cars parked overnight in the Sierras! 🙂


Whitney Portal (Trailhead) 


A serious pancake 


Yep, that’s a bear print!

I hope you can enjoy this fun destination with or without kids someday! Contact me to help you plan your stay! 🙂

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