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.