f you have hiked Mount Whitney, you surely know about this place. A unique picture-perfect place full of rounded rocks and eroded hills located in the middle of the sharp peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Mountains. First time when I heard the name, I thought “okay, I did not know about the hills in Alabama state”. I think many people thinks it’s in Alabama state. In reality, Alabama hills is in California, to be precise on the eastern side of California. This place is a heaven place for dispersed camping, photography, rock climbing, exploring natural arches and many more activities.
I have been in Alabama hills not only once or twice, so many times that I forgot counting. Somehow this place is close to my heart. That’s why they film several movies here. Kidding, that’s not the reason, but this place is one of the Hollywood’s favorite filming location. There is even a road named ‘Movie Flat Road’ or ‘Movie Road’. The spectacular background with jagged mountains specially with the snow on the peak work perfectly for any evocative scene. The snow on the mountain top make it more dramatic and spectacular. This place has been a prime location for filming since the early ninety. To find the Movie flat road, go west 2.7 miles on Whitney Portal road and turn right- the movie road will be right there. This road is a graded dirt road, even 2WD compatible. Some of the dirt roads are rather sandy and may require a 4WD (wet condition).
So, what is Alabama Hills? This is a place full of stunning rock formations here and there and winding dirt roads. As a result, this place is ideal for cycling, hiking, climbing, trail running, horseback riding, auto touring, etc. If you are a photographer like me, you will love this place. This place is full of opportunity to take various pictures specially during the sunrise and sunsets. The reason behind the rounded shape of the rocks is the penetrating water that sculpted many beautiful formations of Alabama hills. Mobius Arch, the largest and most picturesque natural arch is also the result of chemical weathering when the hills were covered with soil. The famous shot of Mt. Whitney from the arch during the sunset is all time photo favorite. You have to walk around 0.5 mile to get to the arch. There are a lot of other arches such as lathe arch, heart arch, boot arch, etc. Each of them is unique in their own way. Not for the pictures but to enjoy the beauty, a visit to Alabama hills is a must.
This place is really great for camping. I remember exclusively our first time. We reached late night and it was a really dark night, we did not see anything. We were car camping and slept soundly. When the first ray of the sun hit our car, I was in awe. How a place can be this much beautiful. I spent the whole day exploring the place. So many cool formations, arches and specially the sunset and the sunrise time was really very special. In fact, we camped here twice while doing Mt. Whitney. There is no definite camping spot. People can choose wherever they want to camp. There are some really cool places surrounded by rocks, it’s like your own camping spot. But those places are very few and most of the time occupied. Either you have to extremely lucky or wait for someone to leave and grab the spot. I saw many people camping with their kids. Kids will love this place. I would say this is one of the best camping places with a view where you don’t have to hike a few miles. You can simply drive, camp, and enjoy the rock formations and mountains nestling on the foot of Sierra Nevada mountain range. While choosing your camping spot, please make sure to check out the ‘no camping’ signs. There are plenty of spaces, so please don’t camp or drive on the protected sites. Even if you don’t want to camp, you can stay at the hotel in any nearby city Lone Pine or in Bishop and come back for some incredible views. To drive and even for mountain biking, use the existing roads and trails. Remember you are responsible for your action. So please don’t harm the vegetation or any bushes and help to protect the sites.
Also, remember weather can change any time in the mountain. So be prepare for it. If you are visiting summer or winter, weather can be very hot or cold and windy respectively. Dress protectively according to the weather. There is no water source. If you are camping, bring sufficient water.
At a glance/fact
- Location Coordinate: 36.53754444, -118.1087469
- Activity: Camping, Cycling, rock climbing, hiking, horse riding, etc.
- Permit/fee: no fee or permit needed. Camping is free here.
- Best time to go: Spring and fall
- Amenities: none. There is no amenities or washroom or any kind of facilities.
- Check the weather. Mountain weather changes all the time. Be prepare for it.
- Please practice leave no trace and pack out all the trash. This spot is really cool and it’s free. So, try to keep it clean and better. Our action can make worse and also our action can keep any place as beautiful as it is. The choice is on your hand.