This blog post is about a region known as Eastern Sierra – the area just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
We spent a little less than a week in this area and saw some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire trip so far. This area is an incredible gem that I highly recommend to anyone looking for wonderful views, excellent hiking, and easy-to-find free camping. This blog post will focus on the Alabama Hills (not located in Alabama!) and my next post will be for Mammoth Lakes!
To be honest, I had never heard of the Alabama Hills until a couple years ago when it started appearing on my Instagram feed. Once I knew about the Alabama Hills, it seemed like photos of it were popping up all the time. It looked like an amazing place that I needed to check out, but I was a little worried that it would be swarming with Instagrammers and photographers. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all! The Alabama Hills were incredibly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful. We had our pick from dozens of free dispersed campsites scattered all around the dusty hills with unbelievable views of the snow-capped Sierras looming to the west.
Lone Pine, CA
To get to the Alabama Hills, you start at the town of Lone Pine, CA on route 395. We had just come from the harsh desert climate of Death Valley and were thrilled to see snow covered mountains and a river! A man in town told us that due to the record breaking snowfall this year, the skiing was still great (we don’t ski) but that also the river is flowing harder than it has in years!
The town is pretty cute and not too touristy. We had excellent and cheap tacos from Castro’s Taco Truck and had a beer at a quaint western dive bar called Jake’s Saloon. We stocked up on groceries and fuel and checked out the visitor center before heading into the hills.
There was an awesome outdoorsy vibe to this area and I also think a lot of people use this as the starting point to hike Mount Whitney, the highest point in California, which can be seen in the distance.
The roads through the Alabama Hills are dirt roads, but they were pretty easy to navigate in our 2WD high clearance van. We saw only a handful of people during our time there. Despite many movies being filmed here over the years, this is still a pretty unknown spot to those not on Instagram!
Our first stop in the Alabama Hills was Mobius Arch. It was a very easy and quick hike to get to this arch, with lots of wild flowers and beautiful mountain views along the way. The arch was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but it was really neat to see the mountains framed inside the arch.
Camping and Exploring the Alabama Hills
We then drove around checking out the viewpoints before settling on a campsite for the night. We found a great spot with a stone fire ring and incredible views. We set up our pop-up shade tent to shield ourselves from the blazing hot sunshine and cooked a delicious dinner in one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever been.
After a quiet and restful night of sleep, we woke up for sunrise. Watching the first sun rays of the morning light up the Sierras was one of the most surreal moments of my life. We made our way to a famous spot on top of a hill with the road leading down into the mountains for the rest of the morning. After taking photos, I sat sipping coffee and watched as the sunlight slowly spread across the scene in front of me. From the tip of Lone Pine Peak to the jagged summit of Mount Whitney, the whole mountain range looked stunning bathed in golden morning light. If you decide to check out the Alabama Hills, please don’t hesitate to reach out for more specific directions on how to find these spots!
Overall, Eastern Sierra was one of my favorite areas on this trip so far and one of the nicest places I have ever visited. It is very nomad-friendly, has incredible views, and an endless list of awesome and budget-friendly activities. We probably could have spent weeks there, but we have so much more to see! My next blog post will be about Mammoth Lakes, just north of the Alabama Hills. Stay tuned!
Until then, don’t forget to follow along on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors). I have had pretty good cell service in California and have been keeping up with “Instagram Stories” almost on a daily basis! Come say hello!