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!
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”!
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!
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!
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.
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!!