There is an incredible landscape tucked away in California that you won’t want to miss. Alabama Hills is like wandering into a whole new world. You may not see unicorns, fauns, or a centaur, but the rugged and beautiful terrains are home to many exciting animals.
Today we will learn why Alabama Hills is a bucket list destination for many adventurers looking for a memorable place to camp.
Stumble into a New World at Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills sits west of Lone Pine, California. It is a range of beautiful rock formations including several arches and rocky hills. These formations are near the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas. Found conveniently between Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Death Valley National Park, you can get away from it all yet stay close to some of the state’s most loved parks.
Leave any preconceived notions of what California is like behind; this area is like a whole new world. You will discover a rocky paradise that you may not want to leave. Seeing the colors change on the Alabama Hills with a beautifully dark starry sky may make you feel like you’ve stepped into another realm.
Must-Do Activities in the Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills is a popular place and has many great things to do while visiting. You can easily fill your days exploring here without ever leaving the area. Here are a few of our don’t miss activities.
Drive Down Movie Road
As you might guess, Movie Road gets its name due to its appearance in several films. This gorgeous road gives travelers a fantastic contrast of the rocky desert paired with often snow-filled peaks as a backdrop.
This road also provides excellent views of the 14,000 ft Mt. Whitney. Consider driving the road in the early morning hours to view beautiful pink and orange colors painting the mountains as the sun rises. The road is 17 miles long of mostly dirt and gravel.
See the Mobius Arch
Arches National Park isn’t the only place you find photo-worthy arches. Make your way to the Mobius Arch trailhead and hike the half-mile trail. Here you will wander around the mesmerizing rock formations, including arches.
This is an excellent hike for all ages and abilities due to its short length and slight elevation change. You won’t forget spotting the Mobius Arch and how it perfectly frames the scenery.
Find Your Favorite Movie Location
Many movies have been filmed in the Alabama Hills, as we mentioned before. Some of the more famous ones shot on location here include Gladiator and Iron Man.
Movie buffs will love scouting out some famous movie scenes and seeing places with their own eyes that they previously saw on the big screen.
The Alabama Hills is a popular rock climbing area due to its accessibility and fun scrambles. Due to how easily you can access the area, many describe it as the ultimate lazy man’s crag.
You can get to many of the climbing routes just steps from the road, making it easy to get a quick climb in. You can choose from over 300 documented courses in the area.
Bike the Alabama Hills Trail Loop
If you enjoy biking, the Alabama Hills has that waiting for you as well. Bring along the bike to experience the 14.7-mile scenic loop.
This trail features single and two-track sections giving you about 1,900 ft in elevation changes. People consider the Alabama Hills Trail Loop intermediate in difficulty.
Pro Tip: Want to hike in more unique places like Alabama Hills? You must check out these 11 National Parks You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.
What Kind of Camping is Allowed in Alabama Hills?
Those heading to camp in the Alabama Hills should prepare to boondock. The Bureau of Land Management manages the area and features organized paid camping and dispersed free camping. Remember to practice responsible camping regardless of which you choose.
Our Favorite Alabama Hills Campsites
You truly can’t go wrong no matter where you choose to camp. The area lends itself well to impressive camping experiences. Here are a few of our top picks for camping in the Alabama Hills.
Tuttle Creek Campground
Tuttle Creek Campground is a great option for those looking to stay in an organized campground. With 83 RV and tent sites, you’ll have plenty of room without feeling crowded. It has ten pull-through sites for those just passing through or prefer not to back in. The maximum recommended RV length is 30 ft but we have seen much larger rigs here and our 35 feet fit just fine.
Campsites cost $8 a night, and they don’t accept reservations. Each site comes with a fire pit, picnic table, and a lantern holder. It has no hookups. It has freshwater on-site, but it is subject to seasonal availability. Guests can also dump their tanks at the dump station for a $5 fee.
Lone Pine Campground
Bigger rigs will feel comfortable setting up camp at Lone Pine Campground. You can get sites up to 40 ft long, making them capable of accommodating most RVs. It has 42 single campsites, a double campsite, and a group site.
You can stay for prices starting at $26 a night with an additional $8 vehicle fee. You can make reservations available at Recreation.gov. Some sites may be available as walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis. Lone Pine has no hookups. However, you can use the vault toilets and bear boxes.
Alabama Hills has places to pitch a tent or pull a trailer. If you want a true boondocking experience, this is it. You’ll find plentiful dispersed camping and a place to set up camp either as a group or far from others.
Be sure to check with the Bureau of Land Management office to get a few ideas of where to go and find out if the area has any current restrictions in place. As of Oct 2021 Parts of the alabama hills rocks have been closed to camping.
Pro Tip: We’ll let you in on a secret…our favorite boondocking spot is Alabama Hills, California! Find out why here!
When Is the Best Time to Visit the Alabama Hills?
To best enjoy the Alabama Hills, you should plan to visit in the spring or fall. The spring can still have chilly mornings but warm up nicely by the afternoon. As a bonus, the spring often gives you great snowy mountain views. The fall will have warm days and beautiful foliage nearby.
Summer can get very hot. So if you must visit during the hot summer, bring plenty of water and make sure you have enough fuel to keep your generator running to power your AC if camping in an RV.
Tips for a Successful Camping Trip in the Alabama Hills
Regardless of whether your journey to the Alabama Hills is short or long, you’ll want to make the most of your time there. Take a moment to read some important tips to help you have a successful camping trip to the area.
Leave No Trace
Visitors and campers need to respect the leave no trace practice. This is so important for the continued enjoyment of our beautiful public lands. Leaving an area even better than you found it goes a long way. If you arrive in an area and find trash, go the extra mile and remove it.
Pack out everything you brought in and only set up camp in established places. Never remove vegetation or alter the natural landscape to make a new campsite.
Dress in Layers
Depending on when you visit Alabama Hills, you could find yourself needing to shed a few layers as the day goes on. The morning can get chilly, yet you might break a sweat by late afternoon. Dressing in layers will keep you comfortable all day long.
Stock Up on Water
You may have difficulty getting freshwater when exploring. You don’t want to cut your trip short or find yourself dehydrated because you didn’t grab enough water. Instead of trekking to town every day, stock up on enough water to last you for the duration of your trip.
Remember Your Altitude
While Alabama Hills isn’t too high up, it is over 4,500 ft in elevation. Those sensitive to higher elevations could find difficulties breathing while hiking or participating in other physical activities. Altitude sickness can also cause some to feel nauseous or lightheaded.
Keep in mind that even those not normally sensitive to high elevations can experience altitude sickness when quickly going from sea level to higher altitudes. It is important to give your body time to adjust to ensure you have a fun and safe trip.
Bring the Right Vehicle
Some areas will have rough terrain and gravel roads. Save yourself the tow bill and come prepared with the right tools for the job. While it isn’t essential to have four-wheel-drive, it can certainly help. However, don’t try to access the area with a low-profile vehicle.
Should You Take a Trip to the Alabama Hills of California?
Visiting the Alabama Hills in California is something every traveler should plan on doing at some point. This bucket list adventure may leave you with a lifetime of memories. It has so much to explore that you will likely plan your return trip before you even leave.
California has an abundance of great places to visit, Alabama Hills being one of them. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy some quiet mixed with adventure, this is the place for you.
Will you be adding the Alabama Hills to your travel itinerary? Drop a comment below!
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Wednesday 5th of January 2022
Thanks for the info. I went to BLM management site and it looks like a new plan is being implemented for dispersed camping. The long term plan is camping in designated spots only. Here is a quote from the webpage: “As of October 1, 2021, the west side of Movie Road in the Movie Flat area and any area marked with a "no camping" sign will be day use only areas (see map). Additional changes to dispersed camping will occur throughout the fall and winter. These changes will include a required free permit and further delineation of areas where camping may occur. Eventually, camping will be limited to sites identified with a campsite marker in the areas shown on this map.”
Mortons on the Move
Wednesday 5th of January 2022
Thanks for the heads up, will add this to the article.