Boondocking Site Review – Volcanic Tablelands BLM, Bishop, CA
A gorgeously stark boondocking area 6 miles north of Bishop, CA off Hwy 395 in the East Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Note/ Review Updated as of last stay, Nov 2014
Location: Casa Diablo Road ~6 miles north of Bishop, CA. The area is officially referred to as the Volcanic Tablelands.
Coordinates: Approx. 37.419867,-118.411945 (start of Casa Diablo Road). Link to map location HERE. Link to info on the Volcanic Tablelands HERE.
Cost: FREE (14-day stay limit)
How We Found It: I initially heard of this area from other bloggers, plus we had friends who stayed in the area right before our arrival.
Nearest Dump/Water: No water or dump in the BLM area. There is a pay dump ($12) and free water at the south-end Shell Station in Bishop, CA. Also there is a paid dump and water ($5) north on 395 at Horton Creek BLM Campground.
- Access – 3.5/5
Relatively easy access here, although (as usual) the best boondocking sites require some extra effort:
Directions: From Bishop, take State Highway 6 north to Five Bridges Road, then take a left. Proceed on Five Bridges Road 5 miles until it turns into a wide, firm but rather washboarded dirt road. Follow the dirt road up the steep hill to the BLM area.
Camping Sites: The BLM here requires that you stay on designated roads & trails so it has very obvious cleared-out areas for camping. There are several campsites near the very beginning of Casa Diablo which are basically just turn-outs off the main dirt road. These are various sizes of either firm, cleared areas or rocky pull-outs. They’re easy to access, but do see somewhat frequent road-traffic. However if you drive further back you will find dirt spurs going off from the sides of Casa Diablo that lead to additional, more private spots, some of which are very scenic. Sites here are generally cleared dirt and vary alot in size. In general most of the sites are best suited to vans or small trailers, but there are a handful or so which can accommodate bigger rigs. If you chose these trails be sure to scout ahead as some of them can be very rough and/or sandy (more suited for high-clearance vehicles) with very limited turn-around areas.
- Nature – 5/5
Lovely, albeit quite stark nature here. The volcanic tablelands are high desert scrub with interesting rock ledges and lots of wide-open views. Not much in the way of shade here, but lots of interesting geology and gorgeous 360-degree views of the landscape and surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Isolation – 3.5/5
Medium to good isolation here depending on how far off the main road you’re able to camp. Casa Diablo Road does see a somewhat steady stream of vehicles so if you camp right off the main road you may see some traffic. Also this area is popular with the climbing crowd on week-ends so campsites tend to fill-up especially near the beginning of the BLM area. The more remote your site, the more likely you are to be alone.
- Pet Friendliness – 5/5
Another great location for the paws. Lots of open space around camp plus miles of dirt roads on-site to hike and explore with doggie. The roads are sand and the landscape is mostly scrub and rock which is fairly easy on the paws.
Overall Rating = 4.25
BONUS ALERT = Camp with gorgeous 360-degree views just north of lovely Bishop, CA!
Summary: The Volcanic Tablelands is part of a large BLM area just north of Bishop, CA that extends many miles back. The ledge rises steeply off the valley floor, but then flattens out into a wide-open expanse of high desert scrub. We’d had several other RV friends who stayed in the area and it turned out to be an excellent base to explore all the interesting sights of Bishop, as well as the restaurants and bouldering in the area. The tablelands are accessed via a large, firm albeit very washboarded dirt road and campsites are easily distinguished as cleared-out dirt areas either right off the main road, or on dirt spurs further in. It’s a somewhat popular spot for day road-trippers and climbers so you will see some traffic (and campsites will fill-up on the week-end), but overall it’s quiet & relaxed especially if you manage to snag one of the more private sites further in. Most of the sites are smaller in size and best-suited for smaller rigs, but there are a handful or so which will accommodate a larger size. Also many of the dirt spurs can be very bumpy (with very limited turn-around) so it’s important to scout ahead if you’re coming in “beast” size. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would most definitely come back again.
Extra Info: Steady 2-3 bars of Verizon LTE signal. No facilities (no RV dump, no water, no trash) on site. Nearest RV dump is at south Shell station in Bishop ($12 fee for dump, water is free). There is also a $5 dump further north on 395 at Horton Creek Campground.SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Hi, Nina and Paul…Your reviews are so thorough and helpful! Love the map! Sue
Thanks for the lovely compliment Sue 🙂
We didn’t know about that area but the BLM ranger recommended it when he came around to tell us we had to leave Horton Creek for the shutdown. We liked the proximity to Bishop, but since we stayed at the site in your second to last photo, quite a few cars went by every day. In fact that is our friend’s Lazy Daze in the picture!
Did you hike around and find the petroglyphs?
So those were your buddies…Small world! That was a nice, big site with a good view, but I could see it being a bit busy. And yes, we’ve been to see the Petroglyphs including all the wonderful specimins on Fish Slough Road:
What a fabulous place!
Fantastiske billeder, Nina!
Mange tak 🙂
Ja wohl, sehr gut! I love boondocking sites that are in the middle of nowhere, yet within reasonable mountain biking distance of a town so I can bike there for lunch.
Yup, I love those kind of boondocking sites too. This place had lots of fun dirt roads to explore on 2 wheels.
Long time since we heard from you.
We just stored the rig next to St Louis after 5 months in Ontario,Wisconsin & Illinois,
Flying back home for the winter just to come next June and pick it up from there to Missouri, Arkansas & Oklahoma.
Have a great winter.
I followed your recent trip on the blog, although I admit I didn’t comment. Looks like you had a wonderful tour!
Wonderful descriptions of the location. We arrived a couple days before you departed. Had stopped by to visit but you guys were deep into some work. Perhaps another time. Still here and it is cold but the mountains are so so beautiful. This is amazing find. We will head south in a couple days after our annual visit to the Bristlecones and tending to some business. Thanks for all the reviews of great sites (and a few to be possibly avoided.
So it was you two that stopped by? Sorry we were so busy. Paul was deep into some chassis stuff that day and I was glued to the computer. Glad you enjoyed the area and good travels to you! Nina
Yep that were us. you guys looked busy. we will catch you another time in another place. we are still here in the cool or rather cold but absolutely beautiful place dreaming of soon to be back in sandals instead of mukluks 😉
Chuck Dick says
Nina: I’ve been lurking around your wonderful blog for almost a year and thought it about time to let you know. I follow you, RVSue, and Me and My Dog…. I’m about a year away from joining you brave souls on the road to exploration. Thank you for your excellent photos and superb reviews of campsites! I’m from the great white north here in Minnesota….lots of Danes around here….(though most of us are Norwegians, Swedes and Germans). Keep up the excellent work!
One day I hope to make it to your side of the country. I’ve heard MN is lovely in fall, and I really want to see the great lakes and some of all the wonderful lighthouses! Thanks for following along, and hope your road dreams come true! Nina
Thanks for another great review Nina. We need you or your twin scouting out sites on the east coast and New England.
Hey if you find those East Coast sites, I will be there! Sadly, not too much boondocking over there, especially not for “beast” size. Hope to do the NE at some point, but figure we’ll be forced into alot of private parks when we do.
Love your blog! Don’t miss the Bristlecone Pine forest while in Bishop…it has some of the oldest living trees (some over 14,000 years) on the planet. It’s at the top of the mountain via paved roads and there are amazing views as a bonus. Here is a link: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900
Yup, we went last year and enjoyed it thoroughly. Here are my pics and write-up on the ancient trees: https://www.wheelingit.us/2012/10/14/the-oldest-living-things-on-earth-ancient-bristlecone-forest-ca/
Note/ I think you got one too many zero’s in the date…the oldest tree here is ~4,600 years old. Still incredibly impressive!
Papa and Lala says
We dump at the Mammoth Water District for free. Take the first left off the main road to Mammoth from Hwy 395 and then the next left. They dump is open 24/7. Papa
Nice tip!! Thank you for sharing it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! This website is so very helpful and I appreciate it. I’m typing this from the BLM area off Casa Diablo and I am thrilled of its location….thanks to you! From here I will check out the one you recommended near Mammoth Lakes. Thank you again! Happy wheeling!!
Randi Roche says
Please note that many if not most of the pullouts have been illegally created in this in the past five years. The Casa Diablo road is the western boundary of the Tablelands Wilderness Study Area. This area was chosen as potential wilderness for its unspoiled scenic vistas and extraordinarily opportunities for solitude. Until very recently, when exploring the area one wouldn’t see any human sign. This is a unique value, in that almost everywhere you go these days you’ll see a road or house or power lines… The Tablelands offered sweeping wilderness vistas, but recently pullouts have been made, and campsites illegally created that spoil those endless views. Please, enjoy this area, but do your best to not “stick out” in the landscape. And please do not blaze new campsites by crushing brush.