Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills

Lone Pine 53Lone Pine 60Lone Pine 59Our route north was originally going to include stays in Lake Mead, Death Valley National Park and Zion National Park. But since we had to spend an extra month in San Diego due to Angel’s surgery, our time to get to the Canadian border was cut short so our friend Nina suggested we drive up U.S. 395, towards Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills.

As we considered that, an early spring and rising temperatures ruled out a stay in Death Valley. And we had planned to get on 395 once we left Death Valley anyway, so we opted to change our route yet again and drive on this scenic highway from its southern point.

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Visitor Center Display

Visitor Center Display

Our first destination was in the Owens Valley, and as we entered the valley, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and west of the White Mountains, I began to realize why this drive is loved by so many. The peaks surrounding the valley tower over 14,000 feet, and include Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, making the Owens Valley the deepest valley in the United States.

Lone Pine 55Lone Pine 51As we approached our campground, the Alabama Hills added yet more diversity to the landscape. The hills look as if giants have tossed and stacked giant rounded rocks all around. The beautiful colors of the earth and the jagged peaks as backdrops make this a spectacular place.Lone Pine 3

Both the Alabama Hills and the peaks surrounding them were the result of uplifting over 100 million years ago. But freezing rainwater and melting snow created the more jagged look of the higher mountain ranges, while warmer weather and drier climate in the valley caused wind and water to erode the earth, unveiling the sculpted rocks.Lone Pine 42

Lone Pine 40Lone Pine 58The Alabama Hills were named by miners who were Confederate sympathizers. They named their claims after the Confederate vessel Alabama, famous for having sunk and captured many Federal ships during the Civil War, and the name remained.

Later, when the Alabama was sunk by the U.S.S. Kearsage, Union sympathizers in the area named a nearby pass, a mountain and a town (now a ghost town) after the Union vessel as reprisal.

We stayed in a very nice BLM campground wIth lovely views of the surrounding scenery. Check out our review of the Tuttle Creek Campground here.Lone Pine 57

Lone Pine 2The adjacent town of Lone Pine is best known for the many movies, particularly Westerns, that have been filmed in the area. Over 400 of them since 1920.  Yes, this landscape looked very familiar.Lone Pine 49

Our stay in Lone Pine was short but memorable. We hiked a bit around the Alabama Hills, also known for the arches large and small hidden amidst the rock formations.

We rose early to catch first light at Mobius Arch, which gracefully frames a beautiful view of Mount Whitney and its surrounding peaks. There are lots of interesting places to hike around there.Lone Pine 48Lone Pine 47Lone Pine 5Lone Pine 46

Lone Pine 33We paid a short visit to the Film History Museum, full of beautiful old movie posters, a few vintage cars, costumes, and other artifacts. I love movies but was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t familiar with as many of the westerns as I thought I would be.Lone Pine 35Lone Pine 36

So it seems I didn’t watch that many Westerns after all. For those who are fans of Westerns, this museum is absolutely a must see.

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And many other types of movies were filmed in the area, including a genre known as Easterns. In the Eastern Gunga Din, for example, the Sierras stood in for the Himalayas.  In others. the Alabama Hills stood in for other middle eastern locales.

Two of our favorite displays featured the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy and their corresponding creeds, shown below, worth a closer look.

One of the classic RV movies

One of the classic RV movies

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There are tours throughout the Alabama Hills that identify the specific places where different movies were filmed. These places are identified by little markers. I can definitely see the appeal of visiting the specific place where one of your favorite movies was filmed.

And there is lots more to explore in this area, we are hoping to come back this way on our return to southern California.

~ BrendaLone Pine 45

20 thoughts on “Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills

  1. Nina has really introduced to us this hidden gem in the Sierras. We boon docked at Alabama Hills and like you we enjoyed the area. Hector’s photos brought back lots of beautiful memories especially the morning captures.

    • Yes, Nina is a huge proponent of the Eastern Sierras. Hector was here years ago on business and samples a little piece of the area and loved it. He was dying to come back. We may drive down this way from the north in the fall too.

  2. Great impressions of a locale not familiar to me. Your account and pics made me feel like it’s a place I can check off and not even have to visit. Love the Hopalong Cassidy bicycle!

  3. Those are words to live by. Maybe those poster creeds should be up in every school for this younger generation to read and know. It might lose a little if they just read it on their phone. : ( I love old posters. Old posters old soul.
    Hope everyone enjoys their day! ( :

    • Yes, I thought those were pretty cool. We love old posters too. I love that honesty is a big part of both of those.

  4. I was glad to read your review of Tuttle Creek Campground as we boon docked in the Alabama Hills the last time we were there. It was beautiful but I was missing my cell service. We will have to check out Tuttle Creek when we get to the hills. I am not a big western film fan (my apologies to the die hards) so the museum was not as exciting as many we have been to. But the scenery and hiking is pretty sweet!

    • Yes, you may not have to deal with the leveling since you are more compact :). I had the same reaction to the museum, but the old posters, costumes and cars were cool, just couldn’t relate to some of the movies. Next time we’re in the area I hope to do more hiking.

  5. This is a trip we are thinking about taking in the fall. We haven’t seen any of this area as of yet. It looks like our kind of journey with all the beautiful rocks for us to explore. Love all the gorgeous photos, Hector:) What is the white light in the second to the last photo? Very interesting shot. Looking forward to the Mono Lake post…hint, hint:)

    • Oh yes Pam … you are gonna love this area. Too many choices almost. We kinda blew through quickly and look forward to the next chance to visit. Loving your Arches pics! H

    • Hey, Pam, Hector forgot to let you know that the white light are sun rays at sunset during high winds. It was really hazy and I suspect that sand blown about by the wind created kind of a filter. Hector didn’t think he could capture the moment but he did. Pretty cool, huh?

    • Did you catch the sun rays in the next to last photo during that last windy, hazy day? It was a really cool sunset!

  6. Just got back from camping at Sage Flats north of Big Pine. We live fairly locally, but because of everyone’s blogs, we are learning more and more. The winds driving up there Friday were ridiculous! On our way home, there was a semi trailer on it’s side. Can’t wait until I retire, 28 more school days, so we can go up and explore for more than just a few days.

    On our way to Alaska in June. 🙂

    • We’ve had some crazy winds in this area. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement! We are heading to Alaska in June too!

  7. We loved the time we spent in the Alabama Hills last October. We enjoyed boondocking in the hills more than our first few days at Tuttle Creek. We had great cell service at our boondock spot, too. We did all the hikes and even took a drive described in the movie site brochure to see all the movie locations. Mike went nuts in the museum because he is such a western movie fan. He knew them all. We loved it there so much, yet I didn’t do a blog post on it. That was right before we went to stay with the kids for 2 months and I just got swept up in other activities, rather than blogging. By the way, October is a fantastic time to be there.

    • We heard there is some ATT signal but no Verizon in the Alabama Hills. If you have Verizon, let us know where you camped and we’ll stay there next time. We may return on the way south, probably November. So great that Mike saw all those movies and got to see the museum.

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