Many Truck Camper Magazine calendar entries and a few winners have been from the Alabama Hills. Movie Road leads into the main portion of this fascinating area, a low range of mountains about nine miles long and a few miles wide, with an unbelievable view of the Eastern Sierras as a backdrop. The photogenic rocks of the Alabama Hills are granite, and about 90 million years old.
7. See Where Movies Were Filmed
The roads throughout the Alabama Hills are all dirt and offer numerous campsites. There are lots of opportunities to photograph, hike among the outcrops, and see where movies were filmed, including “The Adventures of Marco Polo” with Gary Cooper, (1938), “Tremors” with Kevin Bacon, and “Star Trek Generations” and “Star Trek V, The Final Frontier”. This is a fun and historic place to visit. There is a Movie Museum in town for movie buffs to get their fill.
8. Drive Up Whitney Portal Road and Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns
You can take a drive up Whitney Portal Road into the Inyo National Forest in the Sierra Mountains above 8,000 feet. There you will find campgrounds and trails into the John Muir Wilderness. Note: It’s bear country up there. Be bear aware.
Check out the Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns, on the shores of mostly dry Owens Lake. Ghost and semi-ghost towns in the area include Cerro Gordo, Darwin, and Cartago.
Don’t miss Manzanar War Relocation Center, now a National Historic Site managed by the US National Park System, approximately 20 miles north of Lone Pine. The original auditorium is now the visitor center with displays and information. You can also tour the grounds and see orchards, foundations of the barracks, and roam the streets of Manzanar, the best preserved example of the World War II internment camps.
We’ve camped at different locations in the Alabama Hills. We generally like campsites with far ranging views, so we camp on the higher ground. Finding flat spots in some areas can be tough, so get there early and scout around. Campers generally spread out so it’s easy to find spots with no one else in sight.
Take cameras! Binoculars are good to have, since birders can enjoy viewing around Lone Pine Creek and Tuttle Creek.
As far as books go, “Geology Underfoot” by Robert Sharp and Allen Glazner for anyone interested in the geology of the area. Delorme Maps are very handy, but not necessary for the Alabama Hills. Dress appropriately for heat in the summer; it gets hot with little shade. It can also get very windy. Hiking boots, sunscreen, and a good hat are recommended.
Gary and Gail Possert
1998 GMC K3500
1998 Coachmen Ranger
9. Get close to the Huge Rock Formations
Nestled between Lone Pine, California and the Eastern High Sierras, and in the shadow of Mount Whitney, are some of the wildest rock formations in the country. The Alabama Hills helped define the public image of The West, simply because so many western films and TV shows were shot there.
In the mid to late 1800s, Southern sympathizers searching for gold in the area named the hills in honor of the Confederate War-Sloop, the CSS Alabama, and the name stuck.