Crowley Lake Columns

Bishop, CA

The first place we visited upon our arrival in Bishop was the visitor center.  The gentleman there was very helpful and pointed out a few interesting places to visit that are not included in the usual tourist brochures.  Once he found out we had a Jeep he told us about the columns at Crowley Lake.  We had just driven past the lake on our drive to Bishop from Lee Vining but knew nothing of the columns.  He shared pictures of the columns and used Google Earth to show us how to get to them by crossing the Crowley Dam and negotiating a series of dirt roads.  We invited Dave and Sue to join us as we set out to find these elusive columns.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains over Crowley Lake

Another view of the mountains and lake

The roads leading to the columns was pretty smooth except for one short part that required four wheel drive and a bit of maneuvering.  But we soon found the parking area and began hiking down the bluff to the shore of the lake.  We could see the columns right in front of us as we descended to the shoreline.

Carved by wind and water into the soft pumice cliffs of the shore, this series of small, shallow caves and soaring stand alone columns of white and pink volcanic rock create a wonderland of water and crazily-sculpted stone.

Low lake levels from the on-going drought in California have exposed the columns and caves making them accessible for exploration.

Dave tried to show off his muscles by lifting a large rock over his head.

But the nimble hiker quickly exposed his deception.  The volcanic rocks are quite light and some feel like they are really made of Styrofoam.

The caves were not very deep and the strong odor was evidence that they were the home to bats.  We didn’t go very far into the caves as we didn’t want to disturb these fragile creatures (the smell also discouraged us).

The caves extended for quite a ways down the shoreline but a spot where the water came right up to the cliff prevented us from further exploration.

After hiking back up over the bluffs, we returned to the Jeep and made our way back the same dirt roads.  All of us agreed the visit to this hidden gem was one of the highlights of our tour down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


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44 Responses to Crowley Lake Columns

  1. Vibrant says:

    Very intriguing place and beautiful pictures too. Thanks for sharing!

    Is Crawley a reference to Aliester Crawley the magician?

    Love and light ❤

    Anand 🙂

  2. Linda Wolfe says:

    Very cool. Like visiting an ancient temple.

  3. Laurel says:

    What a cool area! Those columns are beautiful — they remind me of temples in some exotic foreign land. We arrived at June Lake yesterday afternoon — we’re loving it, even though the rains have descended. The same pumice rock is on the shores of the lake here — but not such big boulders! We’re heading out for the Parker Lake hike right now. 🙂

  4. Alicia says:

    Wow those caves are so cool and unique! Alicia @

  5. Zsuzsa Klush says:

    What a wondrous place ! Thanks for sharing. Z.

  6. libertatemamo says:

    Wow! These are just amazing!! We’re going to have to buy a jeep just so we can out here LOL. Or, we’re taking you with us!

  7. heyduke50 says:

    wow, how cool are those columns!

  8. Jeff says:

    Awesome pictures! Would a kayak from the west shore be easier? OK your way looks more fun. Think you rule the Eastern Sierra this year.

  9. Ingrid says:

    Wow! Fascinating stuff. Sounds like a fun day was had by all 🙂

  10. Lenore says:

    WOW! (I’m not the first to say.)Those columns really are incredible! You win the new Eastern Sierras find game!

    • placestheygo says:

      We are so glad we stopped at the VC and got the gentleman there talking. We left with so many ideas for Bishop and Lone Pine. He had photos on the computer of his visit to the columns with his granddaughter. We were immediately blown away.

  11. Jim and Barb says:

    Two words……Very cool!

  12. Jean Lippy says:

    Just. Awesome. Photography! Living vicariously through your photos!!

  13. pmbweaver says:

    The benefits of having a Jeep…WOW! Anther fabulous discovery. What an adventure y’all are on. I just keep asking…How did God think of all this? What an amazing country we live in.

    I am glad Dave was strong enough to lift that huge piece, but I see Pam is just a little stronger. She looks like she is lifting that heavy piece higher…hehe Really cool photos.

  14. This looks fantastic! It’s a shame the drought is the reason you were able to see them…but WOW, what an opportunity!

    • placestheygo says:

      I’m glad we decided to visit 395 this year. If there should be a big wet winter in the west, the Mono Lake tufa and Crowley Lake Columns may not be easy to visit. If you get back here, do try to see the Columns!

  15. LuAnn says:

    That is fascinating! Looks like another trip on the 395 is in our future!

  16. Sherry says:

    Wow Pam what a fabulous and fascinating discovery. We really have to get a jeep so we can get to things like this. Wonder which one I could put two bikes and 2 kayaks on. Thanks so much for these great pictures of these unusual columns.

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad you enjoyed the columns. They were awesome.

      With a four door hard top (removeable roof), you can put the bikes in the back of the Jeep with the back seat down. That’s where we carry ours and they stand up nicely and are safe and dry. They make a special rack for the kayaks to work with the removeable roof panels. So…now you can go get a Jeep:)

  17. Those columns are amazing! It have never seen anything like this!

  18. furrygnome says:

    What a unique geological formation!

  19. Nancy says:

    Okay another WOW from me… YOU have got me quite intrigued with your last several posts. Sand Tufas and now these limestone columns! Fascinating!

  20. p says:

    So very cool! Love the shot through the columns of the people on the beach but they are all excellent.

  21. Karen says:

    My favorite kind of trip, off the beaten path to a spot few have heard of. Thanks for sharing!

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