Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney

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Just 4 1/2 hours north of San Diego lies the Alabama Hills area of California.  A favorite of Hollywood, this area hosts the widest variety of terrain I’ve seen in such a small footprint.  Within minutes you can go from desert scrub lands into giant rock formations and then on up into granite peaks and pine forests.  I skipped researching movie filming locations but this area has been the backdrop to over 400 productions including Iron Man and Django Unchained.

From San Diego I took interstate 8 out to interstate 15 north which will carry you through Escondido and Temecula.  North of Temecula I chose to take 215 and pass by March Airfield again.  215 rejoins 15 just north of San Bernardino and carried me up into the San Bernardino mountains.  After exiting the mountains I picked up highway 395  which took me all the way to Lone Pine just outside the Alabama Hills area.

Little Lake from the overlookLocated off of 395 a short distance south of Lone Pine is the Fossil Falls Scenic Area.  Despite the name no actual waterfall exists here anymore except during brief periods of extreme wet weather during the winter.  The original falls were created by meltwater from glaciers formed in the Sierra Nevada during the last ice age.  This water formed many lakes and rivers in the area which polished and reshaped the volcanic rock here.  Evidence of ancient lava flows and volcanic activity are everywhere and the terrain is quite captivating.  I took the time to drive down several of the washboard roads and explored the overlook for Little Lake.  The wind was so strong at the overlook I could lean into it at times and have it nearly support me.

Continuing north I reached Lubken Canyon Road.  While not the route most people take to get into Alabama Hills I couldn’t pass up this picturesque road.  Several farms line this well worn asphalt path and the Sierras establish a commanding backdrop here.  Lubken Canyon Road intersects Tuttle Creek Road which carried me closer to Alabama Hills.  Tuttle Creek Road passes several homes before reaching the first of many interesting rock formations and the creek that is the road’s namesake.  The weather was warm and pleasant, multiple birds filled the air with song and the creek babbled along.  Finding roads like this is what getting out there and exploring is all about.  On Tuttle Creek Road I came across an opening in the rock face.  Upon closer inspection it appeared to be man made, but I can find no references to it online.  I assume it was built as a backdrop for filming of a movie or TV show.  If anyone has any insight on this local please let me know.

Tuttle Creek Road ultimately intersects Whitney Portal Road which will carry you all the way up into the Sierras to Whitney Portal.  I followed this road to Movie Flat Road and began my tour of the Alabama Hills here.  Movie Road winds it’s way through the area and leads to several trail heads, multiple dispersed campsites and an abundance of film locations.  There are plenty of side roads to take and paths leading off into the rocks.  I recommend downloading topo maps of the area in your favorite navigation app, such as Backcountry Navigator, before exploring the area to maximize your navigation options here.  Google maps will be of little help off the main road.

Flowers along Movie Road in the Alabama Hills area.Movie Flat Road ultimately leads further off into the valley and will carry you to Moffat Ranch Road and ultimately back to 395.  I chose to take Hogback Rd and circle back toward Whitney Portal Road for access to the Sierras.  After exploring this rich desert environment I was itching to get up into the mountains and hit the snowline.

Recent rainfall had caused many of the local plants to burst into bloom and I stopped often to capture photos of the local flora.  The area wasn’t overly busy while I was there.  I passed several day trippers who were exploring the area in their vehicles.  Hikers meandered their way through the standing rock gardens and hugged the shoulder of the road as I passed.  There are numerous established campsites throughout the area and several were occupied.  Every type of mobile dwelling from pusher style RV’s down to Walmart brand tents were scattered across the sites.  I pushed on through the area and continued to eyeball the Sierras towering in the background.

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