The Alabama Hills, a recreation area located in the shadow of Mt Whitney and the Eastern Sierras, was a favorite movie location for old Hollywood and a staple of more cowboy movies then you can count. Throughout the last century, the Alabama Hills have appeared in hundreds of films with even a recent Quintin Tarantino project being shot here. When you visit the Alabama Hills though it is easy to see why it has become so popular; the surrounding mountains and sweeping desert give way to this small plot of majestic rocks that can’t cover more than a couple of square miles of the area. Other than this section, there is nothing like them to the north or south, and because of that, they make for a unique day of exploration.
The park has a lot of famous spots, but nothing is marked, and the uniqueness of this makes it feel like you are exploring something new every time you go. The only signs I have seen in the entire area are for the trailhead to Mobius Arch, other than that the Alabama Hills are a collection of dirt roads and rocks, allowing the explorer to craft whatever adventure their mind creates. However, if you are looking for some of the main attractions and movie locations, what follows are some of the most well known spots in this Alabama Hill.
The Face of Alabama Hills
This face is the first thing you will notice while driving up to Whitney Portal road to the Alabama Hills, as it’s pretty hard to miss. It is a great first stop and gives the Alabama Hills a little personality. I usually am not a fan of graffiti, but this little face is fun. I haven’t been able to find out any history on this face, so let me know if you are aware why it’s here.
Update 2020: I went back and saw the face again in June 2020 and it was painted different now, which you can see above.
Lone Ranger Ambush Point
When we were at the Lone Pine Museum, they told us one of the most famous spots in the Alabama Hills was that of the Lone Ranger Ambush Point. This area is down a dirt road that is washboard but is a cool place to get out and explore. Like I said before, it is hard to find as there are no signs, so you have to take a map and look around. After finding it, I loved seeing the video of this pivotal scene on YouTube as it was fun to have been there.
Gene Autry Rock
Next to that is the large and unique rock known as Gene Autry Rock. Its name stems from the fact that Gene Autry was one of the most famous cowboys to grace the Alabama Hills. This rock sticks out of the landscape at the top of a small little dirt road and provides a view of the area you came from as well as Mt Whitney on a clear day.
Gary Cooper Rock
Now I am not 100% on this one, but based on the map I had, I believe this is the rock known as Gary Cooper Rock. It is a giant monolith that juts up from the landscape and can be seen from Movie Flats Road. You can get a feel for the scale by seeing my dad next to it in the above picture. If this is not the rock, feel free to let me know.
The arch that frames Mt Whitney is also a must see. It is accessible via a half-mile walk and provides a perfect place to relax or just take some beautiful pictures. I detailed how to get there in this post on the Mobius Arch.
This small and flat rock is much tinier then Mobius Arch but still unique. It has a straight rock that connects the two pieces and provides a small arch for the passerby.
Heart Arch is one of the easiest to find of the Alabama Hills arches. One of the best viewpoints is just from the parking lot for Mobius Arch. I haven’t walked any closer to it then this myself, but you can get an excellent shot from here if you have a zoom lens.
Eye of the Alabama Hills Arch
After heading past the Mobius Arch parking area, you will continue down and up a small hill before the road bends to the left. Along this stretch of road, you will see the Eye of the Alabama Hills arch up in the hill to the right. There is a small parking lot past it if you want to park and walk up to the arch as well or you can take a picture from the road.
This is the view through the arch if you climb up to it.
After heading past Eye of the Alabama Hills, the road will bend right, go up a hill then turn left again. After this long stretch, the road will curve left, and you will notice that the rocks are much more sparse down here.
Heading down and bending right, you will see the Boot Arch off to your left. There is a small dirt road that takes you to a little turn out which you can park at for the arch. The arch is a 5-minute walk from here.
This is the hardest one to describe how to get there, but basically, you drive past the Boot Arch turnout on the same road then after about a half mile you will see the below rock finger to your right.
From here, you will walk past the finger then past two large boulder clusters. The arch is on the back of the second cluster.
Lone Pine is an amazing California town to explore, and the Alabama Hills are one of those highlights. An easy stop on a road trip up Highway 395, the Alabama Hills are fun for the whole family and can be explored in an hour or a week, whatever you decide. Make sure to bring water though, as the summer makes this place get really hot.
If you want more information, you can check out this post from a friend of mine’s blog.