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Guide To Alabama Hills, California (Camping, Hiking, etc)

Jake and Emily kissing on top of the van with Inyo Mountains and Alabama Hills in the background

The Alabama Hills are undoubtedly one of the coolest places to visit in California. This area is famously know for camping, hiking, biking, and photography. Or you might recognize this area from old western movies or simply from new-age technology apps such as Instagram.

The Alabama Hills are a unique wonder because there are desert vibes and unique rock formations below with legendary views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains above.

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about visiting The Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. From where to camp, best hiking trails, and even where to stock up on groceries or freshen up with a nice hot shower.

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Alabama Hills Google Maps
Alabama Hills Google Maps

The Alabama Hills are located just West of Lone Pine, CA. And about an hour Northwest of Death Valley National Park

Best Time To Visit Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills can be visited year round.

The most popular time to visit Alabama Hills is during Spring (March-May) & Fall (Sep-Nov). The temperatures will be comfortable around 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit (18-29 Celsius).

During the winter months (Dec-Feb) temperatures will range from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 Celsius). Winter can be a great time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.

Summer (June-Aug) temperatures can reach into 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit (32-37 Celsius) making it rather uncomfortable for some.

Where To Get The Famous Movie Road Shot in Alabama Hills:

a girl hanging out her camper van window with the Famous Shot At Movie Road in Alabama Hills
Famous Movie Road Shot At Alabama Hills

Maybe one of the main reasons why you have any interest in this place is because of the famous photos you have been seeing on the internet. You can use these coordinates to find the famous Movie Road location. 

Personally, you really can’t take a bad photo in this area. Jake and I found it more fun to find a few different spots to snap some good photos. It can be nice to change it up from the original famous shot! So we challenge you to find your perfect shot at Alabama Hills.

How Movie Road Get It’s Name:

You might be wondering why is this road named Movie Road? Over 400 different movies and TV shows have been filmed here (including Iron Man, Star Trek, Django Unchained, etc). It’s stark contrast is the great place for many different adventure films.

To learn more about these famous film sites, check out the museum of western film history in the town of Lone Pine.

a camper van in front of the Alabama Hills Mountain Range at Sunrise
Alpine Glow at Sunrise in Alabama Hills

Best Hiking Trails Near Alabama Hills:

There are many different hikes in the area, but we are going to cover the top 3 in the area: Lone Pine Lake, Mt. Whitney and Mobius Arch. 

Lone Pine Lake:

Lone Pine Lake in the Inyo Mountains
Lone Pine Lake

This was our favorite hike of The Ultimate Guide To The Alabama Hills. Lone Pine Lake is a beautiful hike that is 6.5 miles with 1876 feet elevation change. It is a gradual climb the whole route, but the view at the end makes it all worth it. It gave off very similar vibes to Yosemite National Park. 

The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. There are many signs guiding you in the right direction when there becomes a fork in the road.

We visited during winter, so the lake was frozen over. But as the ice heated up from the winter sun, the cracking ice was singing to us. This hike is beautiful any time of the year, but the best time to visit might be in summer so you can take a refreshing swim.

Do note the Whitney Portal Road might be closed during winter storms, so be sure to keep an eye on road conditions when visiting Alabama Hills.

Mt. Whitney:

Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash

Mt. Whitney stands 14,505 feet high making it the tallest mountain peak in the contiguous United States. This famous mountain range in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range can be seen anywhere in the area with it’s striking beauty.

The hike up to the top of Mt. Whitney is definitely not for everyone! Adventurous hikers should have hiking experience, and be acclimated to high elevation climbing.

The hike is 22.5 miles with 6,656 feet elevation change. It’s best done as a backpacking trip or ambitious trail runners.

You do need a permit to hike to the top of Mount Whitney, so be sure to pick that up at Hikers will need to plan in advance, because these permits are hard to secure. The climb will be a full on adventure, but at the end you can say you climbed the highest peak in the Contiguous United States, which to me, is pretty cool. 

Mobius Arch Loop:

Mobius Arch in Alabama Hills
Emily sitting under the Mobius Arch with Mt. Whitney in the background

Mobius Arch is one of the most stunning natural arches in the area. Not only will you spot Mobius Arch along this trail, there are also a handful of other natural arches to spot. Lathe Arch is located right behind Mobius Arch. Along the trail, you might also spot heart arch which is obviously an arch in the shape of a heart.

The trail is a short .6 mile hike with 42 feet elevation change. This hike takes basically no extra time and you can snag a famous photo of the mountains through the arch. 

Camping in Alabama Hills:

Parking the van amongst the rocks of Alabama Hills
Parking the van amongst the rocks of Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills is one of the best places for camping. There are what feels like endless dirt roads leading you to a private oasis in the rock formations.

Plus camping is free on the BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) along Movie Road. Meaning it is public land and we are free to use it.

Follow these coordinates (36.595622, -118.108823) to the camping area, and find whatever spot suits your fancy.

There are TONS of campsites and dirt roads in the area, so find one that is already established. (“The best campsites are found, not made”). There are a few remote spots that require four-wheel drive and a high clearance vehicle.

The BLM staff does a pretty good job of leaving signs in areas where camping isn’t allowed. Campers can stay up to 14 days in The Alabama Hills Recreation Area.

As always, LEAVE NO TRACE while staying in this area. If we do our part and keep it clean, then it will remain free of charge for us to stay! 

Sunrise at Alabama Hills
Sunrise at Alabama Hills

Getting Water in Alabama Hills:

There are three free sources that we know of where you can get water in the area. One is near the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, another at the Portuguese Joe Campground, and lastly, one being at the Mt. Whitney Trailhead

The Visitor Center was closed when we were traveling through due to Covid-19, but depending on when you are reading this, it might be back open again! 

If you are okay with city water, then filling up at the Portugese Joe Campground is easy and only about a 5-10 minute drive from the Alabama Hills free camping area. The spigot is located near the drop toilets. 

And for the third water source, is in the overflow parking lot for Mt. Whitney. We noticed a spigot near the drop toilets, but there might be more spigots up at the main parking lot as well.

If you plan to do any of the hikes up in the Inyo National Forest Area, then you can plan to fill up there. 

And if you want filtered water, then you can stop in the town of Lone Pine at the Local Market.

What To Do With Trash & Recycling:

In this ultimate guide to Alabama Hills, I want to cover everything so you have a successful camping trip. So what should campers, vanlifers, RV’ers do with their trash and recycling?

There is a garbage can and recycling bin at the Portuguese Campground. Obviously, this is not meant for dropping multiple bags of trash in, but as a complementary few things here and there.

There is also a public park with trash and recycling you could use to get rid of a few pieces or trash and recycling. Or as always, you can pack out your trash and dispose of it somewhere out of town. Alabama Hills is a remote area, so it can only handle small amounts of trash and recycling.

Is There Internet in Alabama Hills:

Dose of Fall Colors near Alabama Hills
Dose of Fall Colors near Alabama Hills

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any campsites with usable cell signal. But we have Verizon, so maybe there is better luck with other carriers. We were lucky to use our cell-signal booster to get texts and notifications here and there, but not well enough to use as a hotspot or get much done with our phones.

So where can you get a good internet connection? If coming from the town of Lone Pine, the turn right before Movie Flat Road (aka Movie Road) is a trailhead with 1-2 bar LTE. Again we used our cell-signal booster to get a stable connection to use our hotspots. 

Another great spot is The Spainhower Park. It has a great internet connection for Verizon and they even have 1-hour free wifi along Main Street which reaches into the park parking lot. If you want wifi all day, you can pay $5 or the town has a 7-day pass for $25.

So if you need to get work done or need to connect, this park is a great option. They also have restrooms, but they are your typical park bathrooms, so plan on bringing your own TP. 

Are There Bathrooms in Alabama Hills:

Jake and I travel in our self-converted camper van, and we don’t have a toilet for going #2. So in this ultimate guide for the Alabama Hills, we want to covering everything so you can enjoy your time there. There is no bathroom around the rock formations of Alabama Hills.

The closest bathroom is at Portuguese Campground (do note it is a drop toilet).

Otherwise you could head into town where there are various gas stations or you could head to Spainhower Park where there are public bathrooms. 

If you must go #2 at camp, you can follow the How To Poop In The Woods REI guide. But it could be a challenge to find a spot that is 200 feet from each campsite. Therefore, we suggest having a wage bag or similar for going #2 at camp.

Or check out some of the Best Portable Toilet Options For Camping

Are There Showers Near Alabama Hills:

If you plan to camp in Alabama Hills but don’t have you own portable camping shower, then you will probably be seeking a shower near Alabama Hills.

Jake and I were lucky enough to have decent weather to use our solar shower while visiting in November.

If you are looking for a real shower, you can head up to Whitney’s Portal Hostel. It is quite the climb up the road, but if you plan to do one of the hikes we listed above, you might be heading up there anyways. Showers cost $7 and they provide a towel and soap.

Best Hotels in Alabama Hills:

If camping isn’t your style there are some decent hotels in the town of Lone Pine. While this town doesn’t offer any 5-star luxury hotels, there are some great hotels to catch some sleep. There is so much to do outdoors in this area, that all you will need is a place to stay for the night.

Best Vacation Rentals Near Alabama Hills:

Some of the hotels listed above leave much to be desired. There are some awesome vacation home rentals near Alabama Hills that offer that million dollar view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Where To Get Food in Alabama Hills:

There is a small market in town, Lone Pine Market. Because this town is rather remote, plan to pay high prices.

They have a decent variety of fresh vegetables and fruits for it being a small market but don’t come searching for specific food brands.

We also did notice they have a decent selection of craft brews which gains at least 1 extra star in our book! 

But if you can plan far enough in advance, try to get your groceries elsewhere before arriving. And only plan to get a few things here and there in the market if possible. 


Alabama Hills Camping Area
Alabama Hills Camping Area

The Alabama Hills is one of the most mesmerizing geologic features in California.

We highly suggest adding Alabama Hills to your bucket list. It blew us away with the stunning panoramic views and is perfect for nature lovers. Don’t forget to get up early for a sunrise one of the mornings as the golden sun peering down on the mountains is absolutely breathtaking! Additionally, because of the remote location of this area, you might also be able to spot the milky way at night. There are endless options to enjoy your time in Alabama Hills.

If you have more time, you should definitely check out Death Valley National Park as it is only 1 hour away! Or Joshua Tree National Park is another awesome place to visit nearby.

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