The Alabama Hills, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada just west of Lone Pine, is one of Hollywood’s favorite filming locations. This monumental landscape provides a myriad of settings for movie backgrounds and evocative scenes. The beautiful rock formations of the hills bordered by a vast open plain rising majestically to the snow capped mountains beyond has been a prime filming location since the early 1900s.
The rounded contours of the Alabama Hills appear in stark contrast to the chiseled peaks of the Sierra Nevada and, although considered geographically a separate range of hills, they were formed at the same time and are geologically part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Percolating water rounded the granite blocks and sculpted the many outstanding formations of the Alabama Hills.
The Mobius Arch, the largest and most picturesquely situated of the many natural arches in the Alabama Hills, almost perfectly frames Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous USA. It is the result of chemical weathering when the hills were still covered with soil.
What Makes It Great
The stunning rock formations with numerous roads and trails winding through the area are a great place for auto touring, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, trail running, horseback riding, and fishing. Photographic opportunities abound and the Mobius Arch is a favorite place for picture taking. Sunsets are often astoundingly beautiful.
Although only a few miles from town this 18,600-acre National Scenic Area can give one the feeling of being ‘way out there.’ Hidden coves and arches rocks with awesome views of Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada can provide hours of contemplative solitude or a great place for plein-air painting. A mountain bike ride on the rough and ready trails can be challenging and exciting. A ramble around the monoliths or scramble to the top yields ever-changing views.
Who Is Going to Love It
The Alabama Hills is a great place for families – especially those that have different wants and needs. If grandma and grandpa want a leisurely drive or an easy chair in a quiet camping spot, while mom, dad and the kids go for a hike or bike ride, this is the place. Developed campgrounds are plentiful providing tent camping or multi-family RV camp sites. Perching your overnight accommodations in developed campgrounds also safeguards the Scenic Area’s plants, solitude and unobstructed viewsheds.
It’s only minutes from town and the Museum of Western Film History, where everyone can explore the museum’s extensive collection of real movie costumes, movie cars, props, posters, and other memorabilia. Then take a self guided tour (a brochure is available at the museum) of Movie Road in the Alabama Hills and get an up close view of the actual locations of so many pictures filmed here.
Spring and fall are unbeatable in this high desert region with temperatures in the moderate range most days and nights. Summer days are hot and winter nights are cold, but each day of the year will offer special something for someone.
It’s vast. It’s safe. It’s inspirational. It’s a place where folks can enjoy a few hours, a day, or a weekend and each person can do just what makes them feel happiest.
Directions. Parking. Regulations.
From the heart of Lone Pine (a beautiful 60 minute drive south of Bishop) go west on Whitney Portal road then, 2.7 miles along, turn right onto Movie Flat road. Many dirt roads and trails intersect with Movie Flat road leading into the hills and among the boulders. Movie Flat road is a graded dirt road maintained for passenger vehicles. Other roads may be sandy and soft requiring 4-wheel drive capability.
Vehicle and mountain bike use is restricted to existing roads and trails. Like other good stewards who protect the Scenic Area, camp in designated campgrounds located along the edge of the Scenic Area to protect the area’s unique values. Don’t crush the brush!
There are no services or facilities on site and the nearest hospital is located in Lone Pine. Remember inclement weather can occur at any time and often rapidly. Be prepared with layers of protective clothing, a hat and sunscreen for the hot and sunny days. Always bring plenty of water with you.
The Alabama Hills Recreation Area is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a protected habitat for public enjoyment. For more information visit the BLM website or stop in at the Bishop Visitor Center, at 690 N. Main St in Bishop, for maps to this and other great local destinations.