I was sitting on the rock facing the Mobius Arch, seeing the full moon set in the west. It was a quiet and beautiful morning with solitude in perfection. Being the next day after Thanksgiving Day, there were lot of campers in the Alabama Hills who had spent their nights in the hills, in the lap of nature, cradled between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Alabama Hills. This place is managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and you can camp here for free for a maximum of consecutive seven days. No permits required. During one of my earlier trips to Death Valley, I had attempted to visit Alabama Hills but had to return half-way. This time, however, I was determined to visit and capture the serenity and contour of this place. Alabama Hills is over 100 miles away from Furnace Creek visitor Center in Death Valley National Park, and takes over 2 hours to reach. But this is a good side trip to do when you are exploring this region.
Alabama Hills is an amazing place with many arches, rock formations and small hills to the east of Sierra Nevada mountains. The round boulders of Alabama Hills are in sharp contrast to the sharp ridges of Sierra Nevada mountain to the west. Tall peaks of Sierra Nevada mountains, in the eastern part of California, literally dwarfs the smaller Alabama Hills. Alabama Hills is also home to hundreds of old Hollywood movies which were shot here.
Mobius Arch, largest and most picturesque arches in Alabama Hills, frames the Lone Pine peak and Mount Whitney, tallest mountain in the lower 48 states of USA. As shown in the shot above, this is not a very big arch with the arch window rising to 6.5 feet. Trail to the Mobius Arch is a loop, and the shortest and fastest way to hike to the arch is by starting the hike on the left side of the parking lot. It is 0.25 miles from the parking lot on this well-maintained trail and takes less than 10 minutes. There are over 400 arches in the Alabama Hills. This database link has the listing of around 300 arches in the Alabama Hills.
When to Visit: Summer can be very hot, considering this is a desert environment. Spring and fall are the best time of the year with cottonwood trees changing colors in the month of November. Winter temperature is also suitable for a visit. If you are into photography, sunrise and sunset are the preferred time of the day. I took pictures of this arch at both times of the day, but I prefer sunrise at the Mobius Arch.
Entrance Fees: It is FREE. There is no permit to even camp in Alabama Hills.
Where is it: Alabama Hills is located less than three miles from the town of Lone Pine in Inyo County, California. Visit here for maps and coordinates. From Lone Pine, drive on to Whitney Portal Road for 2.7 miles. Then turn right on Movie Flat road, which is marked. This road starts as a paved road but soon turns into a wide, dirt road, which any car can manage. After driving for about 1.5 miles, you will reach a fork on the road. Take right at the fork, and the parking lot for Mobius Arch trailhead is right there on your left.
Hiking Trail to Arch: It is a mile-long loop. Shortest and easiest way to the arch is to start at the trailhead on the left side of the parking lot. Trail goes downhill for few meters, and then you reach a small wash. You will find a split in the trail. Here stay right on the trail which is also a marked Arch Trail loop sign. Hike becomes slightly uphill for about next 500 yards. You will reach a heap of rocks. If you carefully look on the right side of the trail amidst the rocks, you will first notice the Lathe Arch just besides the trail. Hike further 20 feet, and Mobius Arch will be on your right. This is a quick 10 minutes hike of about 0.25 miles to the arch from the parking lot.
If you start your hike at the trailhead on the right side of the parking lot, this is slightly longer and can be also little confusing.
Things to Do in Alabama Hills:
- You can visit few of the more popular arches in the Alabama Hills, namely, Mobius Arch, Lathe Arch, Heart Arch, Cyclops Arch, Eye of the Alabama Hills, Boot Arch and Gunga Din arch. .
- Camping is free here. You can choose a sweet spot for yourself, tucked amidst the rocks, and spend the night under the zillion stars. This is also a great spot to spend time with your kids.
- Alabama Hills is also the place where hundreds of old Hollywood movies were shot. You can visit these spots as well. If you want to know about the movies shot here, you can stop at the Movie Museum in Lone Pine.
- Horseback riding and mountain biking are also very popular here.
- You can also take a shot at rock climbing, as there is no dearth of rocks here.
- Or like me, indulge in photography, and capture the beauty of this place