The other Alabama…

Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills in the shadow of Mt Whitney

In the shadow of Mt Whitney stands a group of rocky outcroppings with a southern-sounding name known as Alabama Hills.  It is located just west of Lone Pine off of scenic Highway 395.  The Alabama Hills got their name from Confederate sympathizers who prospected and mined the area during the Civil war.  They were honoring the CSS Alabama, a propeller-driven sloop-of-war that burned or captured 65 Union ships before being sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864.

This area, which encompasses 30,000 acres is designated as Alabama Hills Recreation Area and a public BLM land.  It was where Betsy resided for a few days.  A shout out to our friends at Wheeling It who blazed this boondocking trail for us.  You see, we had been following their route along Highway 395 during the past few weeks and they introduced us to this very interesting landscape.

Entering the Alabama Hills makes you feel you’re entering a different world.  The amazing scenery of oddly rounded rocks backed by the jagged high peaks of the Sierra seemed otherworldly.  Here we witnessed big boulders piled upon bigger boulders, and balancing acts rarely seen.   Their unusual shapes have been created by many years of wind erosion and other forces.  Approximately 300 natural arches and canyons have formed in this area.  Due to this amazing setting with the high sierra as a backdrop, the Alabama Hills have been a favorite for movie companies, especially Westerns.  Hundreds of car commercials and short films have been created here as well.

Alabama Hills
Betsy on her way to a spot among the rocks

Driving along the dirt road called Movie Road, we found our boondocking spot for the next few days.  We tucked ourselves behind some large rocks and enjoyed the serenity and blackness of the starry, starry night while listening to the howling of coyotes.

Alabama Hills
Betsy’s digs among the towering rocks

Being late in the season, we pretty much had the entire Alabama Hills to ourselves – well almost.  Our next door neighbor was parked about a quarter mile across from us. This was our first real boondocking and the perfect spot to experience it.

Alabama Hills
Our next neighbor, a quarter-mile away

Using a copy of the Movie Road self-guided tour we picked up from the Museum of Lone Pine Film History, we explored film sets of some of the over 300 movies that were made in the beautiful and photogenic Alabama Hills.  Although the majority of movies made here were westerns, the more recent “Tremors” and “Ironman” used the Alabama Hills as their backdrop.  The latest western movie called “Django Unchained” stars Jamie Foxx and Leo de Caprio and  directed by Quentin Tarantino was filmed here.  It is due for release on Dec 25, 2012.

Museum of Lone Pine Film History
Museum of Lone Pine Film History

Dentist Wagon used in Django Unchained
Dentist Wagon of soon to be released movie “Django Unchained”

James Arness of GunSmoke
Steve next to his hero from “Gunsmoke”, James Arness

While here, it wasn’t just movie locations we explored.  The Alabama Hills is also known for their various natural rock arches and many interesting formations.  We managed to find natural arches like Mobius Arch and Heart Arch.  Face Rock is someone’s idea of art and is right next to the road as you approach Movie Road.

Lone Cowboy cruising around the movie flats

Face Rock

Mobius Arch
Mobius Arch

Heart Arch
Heart Arch

Indiana Jones
Wannabe Indiana Jones

Canyon in Alabama Hills
Driving around in the canyon

Alabama Hills
Admiring the long view

Alabama Hills
Neatly arranged rocks
Listening in for the news

During this time we were totally off the grid – no cell, no internet, no TV. We ran our generator once each morning so we could make coffee and to keep the batteries topped off.  So how did we learn about the election results?  Our good friend Ben gave us a solar radio as a gift, and we turned it on for the first time.  We were really impressed and did not realize what a little gem we had!  Being solar-powered, it is perfect for boondocking.  So, that’s how we heard the election results the morning after and also found out about impending bad weather the following day.

Sunrise at Alabama Hills is magnificent, the sun illuminating the Eastern Sierras with a reddish glow.

Eastern Sierras
Sunrise at the Eastern Sierras




  1. Great photos. It is so neat to have someone else post about a place you have been. I always learn something new and see the area from a different vantage point. Love the heart arch. 🙂

    • I know, we just found out that the movie “North to Alaska” was filmed here. When we watched that movie while in BC we did not recognize Mt Whitney. Then we stumbled the same film shown on TV and both of us jumped and pointed at Mt. Whitney. Interesting !

  2. Discovered this place about two after you all were through. I was camped in Death Valley and ran across another photog who touted it to me. So on my way up to Mono Lake I stopped in for a day and a half. The odd thing to me was never having ever heard of the place and yet finding so much of the terrain vaguely familiar because it had been the backdrop of most of the TV shows I grew up with, and of course quite a few movies. Thanks for the reprise.

  3. Whilst you’re right that I would love the amazing rocks here, The arches once again caught my attention the most.There is actually a notable one in Joshua Tree National Park but I didn’t know about when I was there. It’s a regret for me, I was never the kind who plans for my travels. 😦 The Film Museum is cool. Sometimes, with these locations where you have plenty of things to do during the day but when you start wondering what now during the night. Watching movies at night that are associated with your travel location would be so cool.

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