2018 Alabama Hills Trip Report
Whelp, it’s been said before, and I’m here to confirm Alabama Hills is the Best Camping ever! A bold statement for sure….. but true… at least it’s true for a certain demographic. Vanlifers, Overlanders, Truck Campers Airstreamers, Glampers, Fulltime RVers, weekend warriors and most others will enjoy this spot, located just minutes off of the Eastern Sierra’s beautiful US Highway 395 in full awe of Lone Pine Peak and the legendary Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the in the lower 48, with an elevation of 14,494 ft. However, many confuse Lone Pine Peak with Mt Whitney as the former stands prominently at the eastern edge of the range, while Whitney is deeper within the range.
Lathe Arch with Lone Pine Peak and Mt Whitney
For quite some time I’ve been following (i.e., Insta-Stalking) several vanlifers, airstreamers, minimalists, gypsies and other 21st century nomads who have posted such interesting yet somehow quite familiar photos of their stays in Alabama Hills. Inevitably the pictures are of a beautiful vast landscape with oddly shape granite features with the subject in awe, soaking in all of the scenery. Aside from the wonderful aesthetics, I find myself interested in these wandering subcultures where I try to learn or at least envision how they make their lifestyles work, allowing them extended stays in these amazing locations. The freedom to roam and freedom from the societal strings likes bills and STUFF that keep most of us tethered to just a few miles from our homes. Certainly there’s a romantic quality to this lifestyle evident in the posted pictures, but I find myself most interested in the mechanics of these lifestyles, the challenges and the endless creative solutions. With several decades experience as a traditional conformist, though reluctant, I test the waters by attempting to experience it, albeit to a much more limited degree, striving to be more of a traveler than a tourist. As for Alabama Hills, I learned over 400 movies have been shot in the area, mostly Westerns and SciFi, which likely explains the deja view feeling I was experiencing when seeing all of these Insta posts prior to knowing the location.
I had a few days free up, so I made the trek. This was a scouting trip for mw, just a quick out and back as I suspected I would want to spend an extend amount of time in the area with Susan and Willy, so I could justify a little reconnaissance. I pack up with the Springbar Canvas Tent, the Inergy Kodiak Power Generator, Rockagator backpack and, most comfortable Olukai footware for the trip. I headed west on I-80 from Park City, UT past the Bonneville Speedway to West Wendover where I found Nevada’s US 93 (Alt). I had never been on this two lane stretch and found it surprisingly beautiful rolling terrain. I may have seen one car on this section. Once arriving in Ely, I turned on to US Highway 6W which I remained on for the bulk of the trip, Tonapah, Benton, Bishop at which point US 6 terminates and joins 395. I continued through Big Pine, Independence and finally Lone Pine. Honestly, I felt like I was stepping back in time a few decades on this trip with the timeless charm these little towns retained, and lack of traffic and hustle.
Since I was arriving on a weekend before prime season, the weather was so nice, I wanted to find a nice site to set up camp, and leave the town for the next day. Once arriving in Lone Pine, I turned right on Whitney Portal, heading towards Mt Whitney, of course, and the road meandered a bit before the right turn at about 2.7 miles on Movie Road. Once on Movie Road, the road is a hard pack graded road. There are numerous unnamed dirt road turnoffs but as you continue on Movie Road, it’s easy to find spots that will work for your style of camping. Along the way, I passed Arch Loop trail head. This is how you access Mobius Arch which is an easy hike with high scenic rewards. If desired you can follow Movie Rd until it turns into Moffatt Ranch RD for about 6 miles before returning to US 395. Frankly, there’s not a whole lot to see in this area and it puts you out well north of the town of Lone Pine. Lone Pine is such a cool little town there’s no good reason to circumvent it.
I found a nice spot with a beautiful view to the west of the valley leading up to Lone Pine Peak, Mt Whitney and the Eastern Sierra range. It was a dark clear night for a little more astrophotography dabbling before turning in for a peaceful night’s rest. I woke up to a beautiful day and set out to explore a bit. I dove back into town where I discovered Big Willi’s Mountain Company, one of the coolest gear shops I’ve been in quite sometime. The owner recommended checking out the waterfall near the trail head for Mt Whitney which was a beautiful spot to cool off on hot day, picnic, and check out the concessionaire. Along the way there were two established campgrounds I scouted for a future trip and noticed the seriousness in which black bear management protocols. The upper campground was cool and shady and a real possibility should I return with the airstream in hot conditions. However, for tent or truck camping, there’s nothing better than the Alabama Hills BLM stretch.
I returned to camp as winds were building in advance of rain predicted for the next day. I spent time reading and have a little footage of the Springbar swaying in the wind. As I mentioned this was just a quick trip, so I prepped for an early departure the following morning knowing that I’ll be returning just as soon as possible.
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