Sleeping anywhere along roads or trailheads along the upper Bishop Creek roads outside of campgrounds within Inyo National Forest is of course prohibited. That is because it is within a "no dispersed camping" zone. The fact some people do so and have not been rousted is merely the result of general lack of enforcement due to usual budget issues.
However sometimes that does in fact occur if their personnel have reason to be up there which of course does occur. This is the same situation in all national forests that have designated "no dispersed camping zones" and such is always in areas of for fee campgrounds and near habitation areas. I almost always dispersed camp unless there is no other choice and do so legally. And camping includes sleeping inside vehicles although if there is someone up there actually checking, I doubt any would bother looking into vehicles and instead are more interested rousting those sleeping outside, especially if they set up tents. Note evening INF rousting patrols are more likely along SR120 going up to Tioga Pass that is also fully in a NO zone. One reason they will always do so is that if they never roust then it isn't long before the RV crowd starts setting up in such known spots with it all their "stuff".
So where to legally pull over and sleep? Anywhere outside the "no dispersed camping zones", including national forest and BLM lands but NOT Los Angeles DW&P lands of which there is considerable down in the valley areas. You can view it on this map:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/landma ... rdb5329473
Then select this map.
Forest Visitor Map - Northern Portion*
The INF boundary is where the old kiosk entry station used to be (only we old folks will recall that) and that and a nearby gravel pit side road are perfect spots you are unlikely to see anyone else. I also like several places along the Buttermilk Road. See this topo:
If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
My mom spent three years as campground host at Big Trees,it's the first campground on the drive up from Bishop. Each day they would drive up and check their other campgrounds(including Willows),it was popular with backpackers looking to acclimate and seemed to be always full. That whole area is "Camping in campgrounds only",pretty easy for a backpacker to disappear though. Personally I prefer to go up the trail or into the woods and not hang out at the trailhead. If you focus on just getting through the night rested it shouldn't be a problem. Out of sight,out of mind.
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