Famous Alabama Hills of California

We drove straight west from Las Vegas, to the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains—an area called Alabama Hills.  (More on the name below).

Unlike other times when Tracy’s felt confident exploring dirt roads to find just the right spot for us, here we could see campers scattered all over this national scenic area run by the BLM, a bit like the known boondocking spots near Las Vegas. 

We had screenshots of the terrain and possible camping spots sent me by our neighbors in Death Valley who’d just come from here, but as we drove through, my cell signal would blink in and out; our diesel was running low; and our sense of adventure was being countered by a sense of desperation. 

All of the east side of the road had just been declared day-use only by the BLM (which means no camping), and as we pulled over to get our bearings, a dude walking by asked what we knew about where people could camp.  Red Alert! The mass populace is here. 

I’ve complained about overcrowding by campers (and all kinds of related negative stuff), but I’m hiding it in a post that’s accessible only with a password. If you want to read it, click here and enter “Complaints” as the code word. Otherwise, read on for positive stuff.

Alabama Hills

So, our compromise boondocking spot we chose is right off the dirt road, but the views are incredible. 

These are the Sierra Nevadas we can see even from inside of the trailer.

The geography here is unique. The Sierra Nevada range to the west is sharp, dramatic, and snow-covered. Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in my photos, and, indeed, the tallest in the continental U.S.

The rolling, smooth, pale brown boulders and arches of Alabama Hills at the foot of the mountain range contrast beautifully. The hills and the mountains are the same age, but the types of rocks are different. The tan, smooth rocks in the hills erode into these potato shapes and arches, and they look otherworldly on their own, much less in contrast to the ridged, snow-capped peaks beyond them.

I believe I could sit and look out at this landscape indefinitely and continue to be entertained by it.

The Name

Many prospectors here during the Civil War were Confederate sympathizers, and they named the area after the warship, the CSS Alabama. If I were thinking only of myself, I would laugh at how Lynyrd Skynyrd seems to follow us across this country. Maybe not funny, though.

The Films

The conical, huge rock formations and arches make for great shooting locations; my trivia teammate Shannon tells me that photography students are brought here routinely.

It’s the TV shows and movies that the area is most famous for. Many of the old Westerns from the 1930s through the ‘50s were shot here, plus The Lone Ranger TV show, and others.

A movie museum greets you as you pull into town, and our neighbors from Death Valley even suggested we stop in there to get ideas on where we wanted to park. (They’d downloaded all the Lone Rangers and watched them before they arrived to heighten their experience.)

Truthfully, neither of us has watched those movies or shows; I think we’re too young, and now we’re enjoying the views and hikes for their natural beauty only and haven’t been to the museum. (I know that sounds hypocritical considering my last entry was based on Star Wars shooting locations, but I’ve seen that franchise!)

The road we’re parked on is called Movie Road, and there are many short hikes from our trailer to small arches, iconic movie set locations, and much-photographed rocks.

We also sit outside here a lot, allowing the views to mesmerize us. And walk Banjo through the rocks, hike up and down the canyons, and watch the snow line on the mountains each morning, wondering how much snow they got the night before. What a cool place.

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