Local photographer Chet Steele shared these photos he took while visiting the Alabama Hills. PHOTO COURTESY of CHET STEELE
Three of the most memorable filming scenes captured during the hey day of old westerns featured the Alabama Hills in the backdrop.
Located off Whitney Portals Road near Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills is where the Lone Ranger was ambushed, Roy Rogers found his trusted horse, Trigger, and that rascal Gene Autry serenaded many cowgirls on the silver screen.
Filming directors first fell in love with the Alabama Hills back in the 1920s and continue to use the unique and surreal landscape as a backdrop in movies, commercials and television shows today.
Each year, Lone Pine celebrates its Western heritage by hosting the Lone Pine Film Festival featuring the Alabama Hills. The Lone Pine Film Museum offers guided tours of the area where visitors can get a first-hand glimpse of the many sites featured in productions.
So, what makes the Alabama Hills so unique?
It is home to over 100 stone arches that were formed due to uplifting and chemical erosion that took place over 100 million years ago. The erosion formed rounded rocks that are nestled between the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Mountains.
Early Native American life in the Alabama Hills dates back 10,000 years. Today, the spectacular views continue to draw visitors by the thousands, and in fact, once served as a preferred shooting location for Ansel Adams, second only to Yosemite.
The area was named after the C.S.S. Alabama, a Confederate warship that was responsible for wreaking havoc during the Civil War. Early, mining prospectors named their mining claims after the warship.
One of the largest arches found in the Alabama Hills is the Mobius Arch located just off Movie Road.
In addition to film buffs, visitors also flock to the Alabama Hills for rock climbing, photography, exploring, horseback riding, bike riding and to see the wildflowers in bloom each spring.
In March 2019, Congress designated the Alabama Hills as a National Scenic Area as a part of the John D. Dingell, Jr Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.
A Visitor Center is available to the public and offers information on wilderness, campground, highway and weather conditions for the Eastern Sierra.
The Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA) bookstore has a comprehensive selection of books and maps of the region. Hours of operation vary on staffing, so it is best to visit the visitor center’s webpage located on the U.S. Forest website when planning a trip to the area. In addition, due to recent flooding, many roads in the surrounding area are closed. Please check the latest road conditions at inyocounty.us/services/public-works/news/inyo-county-road-openclosed-status.
PHOTO COURTESY of CHET STEELE
The best place to camp when you visit the Alabama Hills is at nearby campgrounds, all within a few miles of Movie Road. This includes the BLM Tuttle Creek Campground, the Inyo National Forest Lone Pine Campground, and the Inyo County Portuguese Joe Campground. There are bathrooms, picnic tables and big sites for RVs and trailers.
Six porta potties have been placed in the Alabama Hills for the public to use and are located at the Mobius Arch trailhead and across from the Shark Fin parking area.
Campfire permits are required on BLM managed lands within California. California. Campfire permits are available free online at readyforwildfire.org/permits/campfire-permit/ or at all BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire offices.
Campers are asked to use existing fire rings in an existing campsite. Extinguish fires with water, not dirt. Be sure to have shovels, adequate water, and fire extinguishers on hand at all times. Also, do not build fires next to rock outcrops where the black scars will remain for many years, and do not cut down brush to fuel your fire.
In the near future, BLM will require a camping permit in the Alabama Hills. The permit will be free and will be an acknowledgement that you understand the rules and guidance for dispersed camping. The permit will be found online or at the information kiosks. The permit will not be a reservation of a site.
Directions: Take Hwy 395 to Lone Pine. Turn west at the stoplight onto Whitney Portal Road, drive 2.5 miles to Movie Road, turn right.