Lone Pine, California

The Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills is a National Recreation Area managed by the BLM just north of Lone Pine, California. It is a land of potato shaped boulders and myriad arches. Over 400 movies and TV shows have been shot in the Alabama Hills. Mount Whitney is just to the west of Alabama Hills and towers almost 10,000 feet above the hills. Many of the Alabama Hills arches frame Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak, also to the west.

Mobius Arch is the most famous of the Alabama Hills arches. The arch is best at sunrise when its better side is lit and it frames the alpenglow on Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak. You are likely to see other photographers at Mobius as well, even at sunrise, and the best area for shooting is small, so get there early, especially on weekends. Getting to Mobius Arch requires a short .25 mile hike over an easy trail. Lathe arch is just to the southwest of Mobius Arch and is best at sunrise as well.

There are over 400 other arches in the Alabama Hills, of which 300 have been documented by Eugene Carsey. His website http://www.eugenecarsey.com/camp/alabamahills/arches2.htm contains GPS coordinates, images, and travel directions for these 300 arches.

When to Go

The high desert of Lone Pine is best visited during the spring or fall though winters are reasonable as well with daytime highs in the mid-fifties. Summers are hot and crowded and should generally be avoided unless you are planning to climb Mount Whitney. For me the best time of the year to visit is during November when the cottonwood trees are changing color, the yellow of the trees contrasts nicely with the darkly colored boulders and arches.

Most visitors combine trips to the Alabama Hills with:

Climate data for the town of Independence, the nearest town to Lone Pine with good historical weather information, can be found by clicking here.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

The Cerro Gordo Mines form the basis of a small ghost town about 45 minutes from Lone Pine. There are several largely intact buildings remaining, of which the American Hotel is the most photogenic, especially the inside. Although the hotel is currently being renovated you may be able to gain access to the interior. Prior to visiting Cerro Gordo call Robert Desmarais, the property manager, at 760 876-5030 and ask if the hotel is open for visits. Also ask about road conditions.

Cerro Gordo ghost town is at 8,500 feet in elevation and is accessed via Cerro Gordo Road. This is a steep packed dirt road. A 2WD vehicle is normally sufficient, except following a rain or in the winter after a snow. While the road is not difficult to drive, it is steep, narrow, and there are drop-offs. Some will be uncomfortable driving it. Cerro Gordo Road continues past the ghost town to Saline Valley Road. 4WD low is required to continue on to Saline Valley as the road becomes very rocky with wash-outs.

To get to Cerro Gordo from Lone Pine drive south on US 395 / Main Street to the intersection with CA 136. Turn left at the intersection and drive 13.0 miles (just past the town of Keeler) to Cerro Gordo Road. Turn left and drive 7.7 miles on Cerro Gordo Road to the ghost town.

Cerro Gordo is privately owned and only gets a few visitors per day. It is open every day from 9AM to 4PM in the winter months, and from 9AM to 5PM when daylight savings time is in effect. Admission is $10 per person and a liability waiver form must be signed. The website cerrogordomines.com contains more information about access.

The interior of the American Hotel is spectacular and by itself is worth the trip. Be sure to photograph the bar and the painting by Sylvia Winslow. Watch for glare on the painting. The poker room is also a good subject, my rushed image does not do it justice. The interiors of the Assay Office and the museum are also worth shooting. The bunkhouse has been renovated and can be skipped. The remains of the Ice House frame dry Owens Lake in the far distance.

Map of the Lone Pine Area

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map.

24K Topo Maps

Alabama Hills is covered by the Lone Pine, Manzanaro, Mount Langley, and Union Wash maps. A merge of these four maps is available below. The Lone Pine GeoTiff on both Topoquest and libremap.org is corrupt so I downloaded the GeoPdf from the USGS National Map Server and converted it to a GeoTiff. All four maps above and the merge map can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right clicking below.

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Lone Pine KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Manzanaro KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Mount Langley KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Union Wash KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all four maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared


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Mount Whitney at Dawn

Mount Whitney at Dawn

Lone Pine Peak at Dawn

Lone Pine Peak

Mobius Arch framing Mount Whitney

Mobius Arch

Lathe Arch

Lathe Arch

Fall color at the Alabama Hills

Fall color at the Alabama Hills

The American HOtel in Cerro Gordo

The Saloon in the American Hotel

The American Hotel Poker Room

The Poker Room in the American Hotel