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Photos From the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

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There haven’t been too many travel  posts lately but this is one I must put up! Chances are many of you will never have heard of the Alabama Hills and will have no idea what or where they are. I certainly had never heard of them before but I make it a point to study Photography Guide books that tell you where the pretties and most photographic places in the country are. Being pretty does not mean it’s photogenic! It takes a special set of qualities to make something work as a spectacular photo, and that’s why so many pictures are taken of the same places!


My campsite along with a friend. Don’t vans just look natural in that setting, like we belonged there!

This was a guide book to the National Parks and in his discussion of Death Valley he mentioned the Alabama Hills which are due west of Death Valley. So my first trip to Death Valley I drove on over to the Alabama Hills and I have to tell you, I was blown away by them!! In my mind they are MUCH more photogenic than Death Valley! If you asked me which is more important to go and see, I’d say the Alabama Hills without any question–it’s a “must-see”, while Death Valley is a “should-see”!

Movie Road through a wash. This is one of the few green places.

What’s so spectacular about them is that you have the very tall and gorgeous Eastern Sierras  rising like a monolithic wall above the desert floor around Lone Pine, CA. The highest peak in the lower 48 is among them, Mt Whitney and its eastern face looking down on Lone Pine is gorgeous!
That's Mt Whitney sent against a monolith.

That’s Mt Whitney sent against a monolith. That’s a stunning mountain!

It’s hard to describe the Alabama Hills themselves; it’s like a giant took these huge, long boulders and piled them in a giant piles directly in front of the  snow-capped Sierras as the perfect foreground for a photo! It really is stunning!

The mountain that dominates in the middle is Lone Pine Peak, it’s only 12,000 feet. Mt Whitney is to the far right. It’s further away so it looks smaller. It’s the tallest mountain in the Lower 48 at 14, 505 feet.

My favorite time to be there is in the Spring when different wildflowers are in bloom, My favorite is Paintbrush when the fire engine red is such a contrast against the brown desert and snow-capped peaks against the blue sky, but I missed that this year.
I missed that this year but there were some yellow flowers in bloom and of course cactus with their brilliant red display–you can’t go wrong with cactus in bloom!
The Alabama Hills themselves are managed by the BLM and there is a huge amount of land available for free dispersed camping. As you can see in the pictures, there were rigs scattered everywhere around the area.

There are two tiny white dots in the center of the picture, those are RVs camping.

Because of its stunning beauty, over 300 movies have been shot here. At the Inter-agency Ranger Office (National Park Service, National Forest and BLM) just a little south of Lone Pine you can pick up a map that shows where every film was shot–there is also a museum in Lone Pine dedicated to the many movies shot in the area.
Most of the movies were shot along what is now called Movie Road where there is also the most free camping, fortunately it is also the prettiest area! To get to it you start at the only traffic light in Lone Pine and turn west toward the mountains on Whitney Portal Road. Drive up it for  a ways until you see Movie Road pulling off to the right. Drive down it until you see a campsite or a photograph you like, it won’t take long! Sadly, there is no internet or cell service there, you’ll have to go into town whenever you need that.
One of the more interesting things in the Alabama Hills are the many arches formed by the constant wind! By far the prettiest and most photogenic is Mobius Arch. Every time I’m there I take another shot of it and I’m never disappointed by it! This time Cody was willing to pose with it–which was very cool! You can get a map at the Inter-agency Center that has all the arches on it, some are nearly as good as Mobius and worth searching for.
As gorgeous as the Alabama Hills are, they aren’t the most beautiful thing in the area! If you continue the drive north on Highway 395 on the East side of the Sierras in California, you’ll come to an incredible and varied amount of stunning natural beauty!

  •  Bishop is a great little town to use as a base of operations. Just take the many roads leading up into the High Sierras from there up into them and you’ll be amazed at all the stunning Alpine beauty you can reach with just a short drive into the mountains and a day hike into the back-country.
  • Mammoth Lakes Ski Area  is just north of Bishop and is a gorgeous National Forest and mountain setting where you can find lots of dispersed camping in a cool setting all summer.
  • Then there is Mono Lake where you have these fascinating formations formed by chemicals in the water. At sunrise and sunset you can get some great photos of them.
  • Then the crown jewel of the National Parks system, you come to Yosemite NP which people come from all over the world to see and admire. A lifetime would never be enough to see and explore it all!
  • At the northern end of 395 in California you come to Lake Tahoe which is also world famous as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, well worth spending some time at!

I hope you’ve been inspired by these photos to consider making the Alabama Hills a destination sometime soon, I think you’ll be very glad you did!!

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  1. Jim and Gayle

    Great photo of Cody by the arch. Alabama Hills is one of our favorite places. We’ve stayed there twice and managed to find campsites where we had a Verizon signal and useable internet. It just takes a little driving around.

    • Bob

      Jim, I need to start following you around! Bob

  2. Lucy

    As usual, very nice pictures, Bob.

    • Bob

      Thanks Lucy! Bob

  3. Al Christensen

    Too bad it was so windy when we were there. But I try to go there every year. I use a photo of Alabama Hills and the Sierras as the header on my blog.

    • Bob

      Al, I think the Owens Valley creates it’s own wind, seems like there is always some there. Still, a good time was had by all! Bob

  4. Cindy

    Very nice. I have never heard of it. So many beautiful unknown/less popular places in the US. Thanks for sharing it Bob.

    • Bob

      Cindy, almost no one has ever heard of it, so I try to get the word out. But I have to wondr how many more am I missing out on? Bob

    • marieanne

      Well… just gave me one more place to see/add to my bucket list/with the several nomads I follow who post their journey, I won’t have time to kick it!! Thank you Bob&fellow travelers for taking time to share.Happy trails to all of you!! ?. ✌. ?

      • Bob

        Thanks Marieanne, I wish you long life, great health, and a checked off bucket list!! Bob

  5. Patrise Henkel

    what beautiful images!! You inspire my dreams of a nomadic life. Ive never seen Mt Whitney before, well, maybe some dim textbook image from grade school, back when they used to teach geography and such old nonsense.
    Thank you Bob for creating beauty in the world. we need it these days.

    • Bob

      It’s my pleasure Patrise, glad you enjoy it! Bob

  6. Patrise Henkel

    PS Cody is adorable! clearly a great copilot, ready for adventure.

    • Bob

      Thanks Patrise, yes he is!! Bob

  7. Veronica

    Beautiful!! Love Cody and the arch so breathtaking.
    Thank you for encouraging us to visit areas that are often missed.

    • Bob

      Thanks Veronica! Bob

  8. Vanholio!

    I’m going to make sure my route passes through there this month. Never woulda thought of it otherwise. Dang! It looks like another planet almost!

    • Bob

      I’m glad to spread the word vanholio. Bob

  9. David Michael

    Great photos Bob. One of my favorite places in the American West.

    • Bob

      Thanks David, you have good taste! Bob

  10. Calvin R

    I was vaguely aware of the Alabama Hills because I get the BLM California newsletter, but I didn’t know much about them. They look very dry and rocky. Mobius Arch is interesting. Of course, I always like cactus blossoms.

    • Bob

      Calvin, it’s the contrast with the snow-capped Sierras that make them spectacular to me! Bob

  11. feelinfroggy

    Beautiful! I’m so hoping to meet up with you all in January.

    • Bob

      We’ll be waiting for you! Bob

  12. Greg

    Thanks for another great post and pics, Bob. I look forward to each and every one, regardless of topic.

    • Bob

      Thanks Greg, that’s very nice of you to say! Bob

  13. Ming

    Beautiful! Thanks to bloggers like you, I am learning about so many beautiful places to explore in the U.S.
    Do you know of anyone who writes about places to explore in Canada? I am planning a trip and don’t know what to look for in each province.

    • Bob

      Ming, I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone like that. Maybe it should be you! Bob

  14. PamP

    Just great Bob. I can see the improvement in your photography since you took the classes. Always glad to see Cody again. Age prevents me from much adventure anymore, but I can ‘see’ the country through your camera. Thanks.

    • Bob

      Thanks Pam, I always strive to improve! Glad I can share my joy of being in nature with you. Bob

  15. Wheelingit

    One of my favorite boondocking spots in the whole wold. You captured it beautifully!

  16. Al Christensen

    “Don’t vans just look natural in that setting, like we belonged there!”
    Someone once told me that white cargo vans look like someone is making a service call. So someone must have had a two-crew sized problem.

    • Bob

      The rocks must have got plugged up big time!! Bob

  17. Cae

    Near Death Valley? What’s the temperature like?

    • Bob

      Cae, in the summer its pretty hot. But remember that DV NP is below sea level, but even it is pleasant in the winter. The Alabama Hills are at 4000 feet so it’s hot in the summer but nothing like DV. I go there in the spring when it’s just right!! Bob

  18. John Dough

    I always wanted to visit the area being that the very highest and lowest points in the lower 48 are in such close proximity, but I didn’t know about Alabama Hills.
    Love the shots of Cody (lucky dog, with his outdoor life, & handsome feller).
    If you look at one of the pics with Cody the right way, there’s the illusion that the arch is in front of him and looks very small.
    Or maybe it’s late and I need to go sleep.

    • Bob

      John, that is one of the very cool things about the area, you can drive from DV NP in just a few hours and go from low to high point in the lower 48. There is something called the Badwater 100 where they run a foot race from one to the other!!!!! That’s unimaginable to me!!
      No, I saw the same thing in the one photo,or almost like Cody was a giant and the arch was a toy size compared to him. Bob

      • John Dough

        I wouldn’t even want to run that race downhill!
        At first I was like, “those are interesting little arches, looks like you could trip over one.” LOL!
        But now looking at it I realize Cody is as big as a dinosaur. He must take a lot of room in the van.

        • Bob

          John, I wouldn’t run that race in my air conditioned van!! Yes, Cody is an optical illusion created by a wide angle lens. Bob

  19. Steven M Veltkamp

    How are the roads? Don’t need any high clearance/4wd?

    • Bob

      Steven, any rig big or little can drive on them. Bob

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