Alabama Hills Owens Valley Road Trip points of interest you don’t want to miss.
Take a drive in the Alabama Hills’ “movie flats” and walk in the footsteps of the Lone Ranger, Russell Crowe, Gene Autry, and Mel Gibson. Or simply enjoy the natural beauty of one of California’s most delightfully weird outdoor destinations while hiking, biking or climbing.
Located in the Owens Valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Alabama Hills’ collection of spectacularly unique sunburned granite rock formations and arches has become known as the quintessential western landscape.
Alabama Hills History
The Alabama Hills got its name from prospectors living and mining in the area during the Civil War. When news reached California about the victories won by the Confederates’ warship, the CSS Alabama, miners supporting the South named their claims in the ship’s honor.
Even though Union forces sunk the ship in 1864, the name “Alabama Hills” stuck.
On May 24, 1969, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designated 30,000 acres of the area west of Lone Pine, CA as the “Alabama Hills Recreation Area.”
The unique rock formations of the Alabama Hills not only make a stunning playground for geologists and tourists alike; they have also proved to be a perfect set of movies.
Since the early 1920s, hundreds of TV shows and movies have featured the area’s distinctive arches, oddly-rounded rocky hills and breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Things to Do Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills is a perfect destination for movie buffs, geology experts, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Take a self-guided driving tour along Movie Flat Road, which will lead you to places like Gene Autry Rock and the Lone Ranger Ambush Site.
For the younger generations, the “Movie Flats” also offers up scenery recognizable from movies like Iron Man and Gladiator.
As tantalizing as it is to walk through former movie sets so is experiencing the Alabama Hills’ unparalleled natural beauty.
Centuries of wind, snow, and sandstorms have weathered the area’s granite hills, resulting in uniquely rounded rock formations and arches. The most famous of these arches is a fifteen-minute round trip walk along the Alabama Hills Arch Nature Trail.
At the end of the short, hilly hike is the Mobius Arch (also known as the Alabama Hills Arch and the Movie Road Arch).
It’s smooth, fluid contours form an oval that perfectly frames Mount Whitney in the background, making it the most photogenic of all the Alabama Hills’ arches.
Heart Arch can be viewed from the parking area for the Mobius Arch trail. It is possible to hike to Heart Arch, however, the closer you get the less it looks like a heart.
For the more intrepid hikers, the “Mt Whitney Trail” begins at the Alabama Hills’ Whitney Portal.
The 22-mile roundtrip hike makes for a grueling day hike but is well worth it for those eager to claim bragging rights on climbing the tallest mountain in the continental United States.
With much of the trail at an elevation of 13,600 feet, it is not a hike to be taken lightly despite being an extraordinarily popular one.
Where there are cool rock formations and spectacular mountains, there is also rock climbing. The granite is good quality, the weather phenomenal and most of the climbs are 100 feet high or less.
This makes it a fun destination for beginner and expert climbers alike. Some of the most popular sites include the Whitney Cave, Cattle Pocket, Alabama Dome, Dinosaur Cracks, Pillar of Toth and the Poodle Wall.
Camping Alabama Hills
For those who want to spend every possible moment amongst the Alabama Hills’ rock formations and ghosts of movies past, stay at the Tuttle Creek Campground.
Visitors can also camp anywhere in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area up to 14 days a year, but campers not in a designated campground are asked to carry out everything and leave no trace.
Getting to Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills are 220 miles from Los Angeles. This trip is best enjoyed with at least a one-night stopover.
Directions from Lone Pine: take US 395 to the town of Lone Pine and turn east onto Whitney Road. The visitors’ center, where there is information and a map of the Recreation Area, is located a mile down the road.
Turn right onto Movie Flat road which is paved for about a mile and then turns into a dirt road. To view Mobius Arch turn right where the road splits and there are a parking lot and trail that leads to the famous arch.
Nearby Attractions Alabama Hills
The Eastern California Museum is one of the few places where you can find pictures of Owens Dry Lake when it still had water.
At one time, the lake covered 100 square miles and at its deepest point was over fifty feet. Outside the Eastern California Museum, visitors will delight in walking through Little Pine Village.