Alabama Hills is a recreation area made up of scenic rocks and hills located in the Owen’s Valley. Sitting on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Alabama Hills has some of the most impressive low-elevation views a visitor can hope to see of Mt. Whitney and it’s surrounding peaks. Many people have unwittingly seen Alabama Hills without ever having been there due to it’s use as a set location for many Hollywood films. Under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management, Alabama Hills remains completely free and open to the public for camping and hiking.
The most popular attraction at Alabama Hills is the Mobius Arch, which acts as a natural window frame to view the Eastern Sierra. To see the Mobius Arch, visitors only need to hike a short loop trail from the main Movie Flat Rd. In this post I’ll include instructions for this hike and information on camping at Alabama Hills, along with maps and photos. I recommend visiting the Mobius Arch Loop first and then driving around to find a camping spot after. You can always navigate back to the Arch for photos at sunset or sunrise, but it’s nice to get this hike in before settling in to camp for the night.
- You’ll start this adventure by driving to Lone Pine, CA. From Lone Pine, head west on Whitney Portal Rd for 2 miles and you’ll see the signs for Movie Flat Rd. Take a right and head north on Movie Flat Rd to enter Alabama Hills. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the iconic graffiti face rock.
- To hike the Mobius Arch Loop, drive north on Movie Flat Rd until you approach a fork. Stay right at the fork and you’ll see the parking lot for the trail head on the north side of the dirt road.
- Once you’re within the Alabama Hills recreation area, you can drive around and find a campsite to your liking. On busy weekends, many of the prime spots close to Whitney Portal can be taken, so just keep driving north into the park until you find a vacant spot.
Hiking The Mobius Arch Loop Hike:
- Distance: 0.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 49 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 4612 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 4658 ft
- Time: <1 hour
- Difficulty: (1/5)
- Dog Friendly: Yes
- Permit Required: No
- Parking: Park in the lot just off of Movie Flat Rd
- Trail Condition: Smooth single track with rocky areas occasionally
- Cell Phone Reception: None
- Make sure to hike with the right gear. See my current hiking gear list.
Hike Map And Elevation Profile:
When starting out at the trailhead on Movie Flat Rd you’ll see a sign signifying the trailhead. Start out to the right for a counter-clockwise loop. The views of Alabama Hills open up right away. Alabama Hills was named by Civil War Confederate sympathizers after the CSS Alabama, a Confederate ship that was sunk by the Union’s USS Kearsarge. Just north of Alabama Hills you can find Kearsarge Mines and Kearsarge Pass…a reminder of the Civil War in the hills of the Sierra Nevada!
After a brief downhill section of hiking, you’ll hit a gradual incline and be greeted with spectacular views of the Eastern Sierra. After this stretch, you’ll see a heart shaped rock formation to your right.
There are two main types of exposed rock at Alabama Hills, ranging from 82-200 million years in age. Many of these rocks stand on end due to spheroidal weathering, a phenomena that occurs when chemical weathering and erosion work on bedrock.
Just after passing by the heart shaped rock, you’ll see a junction with a sign pointing you to the left. From here, it’s only a short walk over to the Mobius Arch.
From the Mobius Arch, the trail continues by Lathe Arch before returning to the trailhead. This concludes the short .6 mile hike of the Mobius Arch Loop. From this point you can explore a little more around the area, or get in your car and drive around to find a campsite.
Camping At Alabama Hills
Camping is free at Alabama Hills with the only real restriction being that campers not trample or step on any brush. Many of the side roads branching from Movie Flat Rd have previously used campsites that make for great locations to pitch a tent or set up a trailer. This is also a very popular area for RVs. Keep in mind that this area is primitive camping only, with absolutely not facilities like water or toilettes. Bring in everything you need and leave nothing behind.
Julia and I took Owen to Alabama Hills for Mother’s Day and enjoyed the weekend with some friends of ours. Our main goal when picking a campsite was to find one that was close enough to walk back to the Mobius Arch for sunrise and sunset. We found a great location not too far away after driving around for about 10 minutes and began to set up camp.
After getting camp set up. Julia, Owen, and I joined our friends for a shared dinner before heading back out to Mobius Arch for a few shots at sunset.
We weren’t the only ones with plans of a sunset photoshoot near the arch, but were still able to get some really nice shots.
After catching sunset at Mobius Arch, we made our way back to the campsite and got a campfire started in a stone fire ring that had been left behind by a group of previous campers.
As the sky grew black, I got my tripod out for some night photography. The moon was nearly full on this night, so I had to get my starlight shots in early. I was hoping to catch a full shot of the milky way, but I grew tired and fell asleep before I got the chance.
When we awoke the next morning, we made our way back out to the Arch to do a little more hiking at sunrise. Lilly decided to give me a heart attack when she got it into her mind that she was a rock climber.
After enjoying a little morning hike, we made it back to the campsite to start packing up for the drive home. If you’re looking for an additional activity, you can add a visit to the Lone Pine Film History Museum before or after your stay at Alabama Hills. This also a great day trip to add on for those hiking to the summit of Mt. Whitney or exploring Whitney Portal.