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Hike this trail in early November to see a magical sight-- fiery colors of yellows and golds of the black oak trees.


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Map Key

3.3

Miles

5.3

KM

Point to Point

4,921' 1,500 m

High

3,951' 1,204 m

Low

79' 24 m

Up

1,048' 320 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

21%

Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Historical Significance · River/Creek · Waterfall · Wildlife

Although accessible in summer, use of the trail is not recommended when temperatures are hot. There are several creek crossings, and while most can be easily forded, getting across Bishop Creek can be a challenge in times of springtime snow melt; there are no bridges across the creeks.

Overview

The Bishop Creek Trail is bountiful in history as well as charm. Hidden waterfalls and even a granite arch spanning a creek are located in the area. Old-growth Ponderosa Pines and Black Oak woodlands, known for a fantastic fall color presentation, adorn the slopes. A route used for millennia, take a hike and continue the tradition.

Need to Know

There are no restrooms or services. Fellow hikers will be few if any. Cell service is spotty at best. If you opt to travel in this area, be fully self-reliant. Due to limited trail use, downed trees and a tremendous resurgence of post-fire plant growth, some sections of the trail may be difficult to follow. Be aware. Be prepared.

Description

The Bishop Creek Trail is bountiful in history as well as charm. Old-growth Ponderosa Pines and Black Oak woodlands adorn the slopes. To find the trail (there is no sign), look for a bear box in the paved vehicle pullout to the north of where the Wawona Road crosses Alder Creek (Alert- there are bear boxes at a pullout south of Alder Creek at Mosquito Creek, but there is no trail access to the Bishop Creek Trail from that vehicle pullout).

The first 1.2 miles of the trail are located in Yosemite National Park (YNP); after that point, the land is managed by the Sierra National Forest. After this boundary, the trail will continue its descent to Willard Creek, a seasonal creek that runs alongside what was once a meadow where giant Ponderosa Pines once stood, and pioneers grazed cattle. Just past this, up a small rise is the boundary of the Bishop Creek watershed, whose headwaters begin in Yosemite National Park. If you travel in spring, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Upper Bishop Creek Falls near where the Wawona Road is perched precipitously on the hillside to the northeast.

Bishop Creek is one of three creeks below Wawona that feed the South Fork of the Merced River year-round. As the trail gets closer to the creek, you'll hear it winding its way through pines, oaks, and alders. At the junction of the trail and the creek is a wonderful place to have a lunch break before returning to the trailhead.

Hiking & Backpacking: There are no established campgrounds; however, dispersed camping is allowed. No camping is allowed in the first mile. You'll need to obtain a wilderness permit from YNP to camp overnight beyond the first mile. Before recent fires, floods, and tree mortality and associated tree fall, one could easily walk unobstructed to Bishop Creek. Under current trail conditions, folks should expect to clamber up, over, or around trees that have fallen onto the trail.

Mountain Bikes: The first 1.2 miles of the trail is located in Yosemite National Park (YNP); mountain bikes are not allowed on dirt trails in YNP.

Equestrians: Equestrian use of the trail, notably between YNP and Jerseydale (21 miles west of YNP), occurred as recently as the late 1900s. Efforts are being undertaken by "Mariposa Trails" to reestablish horse travel, however. To learn more information about this effort and how you can help, check out the "South Fork Project" under the header What-We-Do at mariposatrails.org

Flora & Fauna

The trail threads through a forest of Black Oak trees and Ponderosa Pines; some Foothill Pines, Sugar Pines, White Fir, Incense Cedars, Alders and California Bay are present as well. While there is no poison oak along the trail, bear clover (a fragrant groundcover with small white flowers) cloaks much of the hillside. Raptors, jays, bluebirds, woodpeckers and songbirds are abundant. Bears, mule deer, mountain lions and coyotes also live in the area. Be watchful for rattlesnakes too. Use of bear containers is highly recommended to keep the bears wild and safe.

History & Background

Much of the first ¼ mile of the trail is located along the "Old Wawona Road," a road that bore witness to the great cultural transition from horses to cars between 1875 and 1934. The trail is a contemporary version of a historic route used in this area by indigenous peoples and wildlife. Early pioneers used the area to graze cattle and for fishing and hunting. In 1851, the Mariposa Battalion travelled to Yosemite Valley along this route, and established a "forward camp" for such purposes in the vicinity of Bishop Creek.

Contacts

Shared By:

Mariposa Trails

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Photos

View of the South Fork of the Merced River Gorge from the Bishop Creek Trail
Jan 18, 2023 near Midpines, CA
View from Bishop Creek Trail looking west into the South Fork Merced River Gorge
Jan 18, 2023 near Midpines, CA
View from Bishop Creek Trail looking west into the South Fork Merced River Gorge
Jan 18, 2023 near Midpines, CA
View of the Bishop Creek watershed looking east into Yosemite National Park.
Jan 24, 2023 near Midpines, CA
October 2023. Equestrians enjoying a trail ride to Bishop Creek trail camp.
Oct 30, 2023 near Midpines, CA
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