In Lone Pine, unassuming little town closest to the Alabama Hills, we arrived late when darkness swallowed up Sierra Nevada mountains and famous rock formations. Only a few restaurants open on Thanksgiving evening were lit up. Next day we started late with scrambled eggs, coffee and the breathtaking view of white Sierra caps and a sharp crown of Mount Whitney. Why hurry, we already got the best picture.
The Alabama Hills whimsical rocks are one of Hollywood’s favorite filming locations. The first movie was shot there in 1920 and made this area the icon of American West. Since then the Alabama Hills appeared in hundreds of movies and TV shows such as Star Trek, Gladiator, Iron Man, The Lone Ranger.
These stones and plains, nestled in the shadow of Sierra Nevada, stood in for India, the Middle East, the Gobi Desert, Africa and even other planets.
To get there is easy – just take Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine and drive till you see the face of Alabama Hills. It’s time to leave a car and start exploring by feet.
It was a hot day and soon we started to dream about cool shadows and conifer trees of Sierra. The same road after vertiginous switchbacks took us halfway up Mount Whitney. We stopped in the middle of ascent to take a look at Owens Valley, distant rock formation, and the Panamint Range. Far-far away behind that ridge is Death Valey and Teakettle Junction.
As we draw closer to the mountains the view changed dramatically, cliffs seemed more and more massive until suddenly they overwhelmed us. It was such a beautiful drive up and a nice switch up from the rocky desert below.
The road ends at Whitney Portal surrounded by huge granite walls. Mount Whitney Trail starts its steep climb nearby to take you up to the highest mountain in lower 48 states. It was not our ambition this time – we enjoyed the chilly air and jolly sound of multiple tiny streams.
The biggest waterfall in the area is almost frozen, it gives you strong hint what to expect on the summit of the 14,496 mountain peak.
Late afternoon we went back to noticeably hotter Alabama Hills and turn to an unpaved road that took us deep into the valley. If you had to pick a road in California with the most movie connections, what will come to your mind? Sunset Boulevard? Maybe Mulholland or Melrose? They’re all good, but another road exists in California with much history and it is called The Movie Road.
The rounded rocks along the road appear in sharp contrast to the chiseled peaks of the Sierra Nevada. They were formed at the same time and are geologically part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Percolating water molded the sharp granite blocks and sculpted the many unusual formations of the Alabama Hills.
Meanwhile, the sun was slipping away behind the high peaks of the Sierra, the last sunrays highlighted the Panamint Range.
Sunset did not bring expected colors. After sun completely disappeared everything became bluish without any red hues.
Next day started early – we were heading for sunrise.Waking up was a struggle – it always is for me. What the blessing that in November “early” is around 7 AM.
Soon the day’s first rays painted the mountains with warm light and the highest peaks were colored rose by alpenglow. There is something magical about this place.
Often peculiar rock shapes remind you of something. I saw a skull on the below picture, Alex said it reminds him a bad tooth.
Once the sun was fully up, the rocks lit up in amazing shades of gold, yellow and orange.
After taking one more photo of the yellow cottonwood we headed back to Lone Pine for breakfast.
We drove to Alabama Hills one more time for some more exploring. This time we choose Hogback Creek Road. It brought us to tiny creek almost completely hidden among the bushes.
Eventually, the road carried us to the other side of the Movie Road, a little bit more rough and bumpier.
For now, it’s time for our Starship to head to the more civilized part of California.
Lone Pine Smokehouse had some great reviews on Yelp, so we stopped there for some pulled pork and enjoyed the beautiful red sunset. The restaurant is located just across historic Dow Villa Motel that hosted Hollywood producers, directors, and stars – John Wayne, Gene Autry, Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum and Clayton Moore.
The Alabama Hills, you’re the surreal and wildly beautiful place. We’ll be back again soon.
In conclusion, let take a couple of roads in the Alabama Hills.