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You are treated to a remarkable display of nature’s handiwork in the Alabama Hills Recreational Area. There are incredible rock formations dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. You can’t help but be overcome by the sense of wonder and amazement at the sea of golden granite boulders rising up from the desert floor. Tucked away here and there are rock arches formed by time and the elements.

These massive boulders have been chiseled away leaving impressive holes through the center forming perfect archways. Most of the arches that have been found have and East/West view.

The Alabama Hills have become a popular setting for many movies and numerous commercials. Movie Road intersects with Whitney Portal Road about 3 miles west of Lone Pine.

Camping Restrictions In Alabama Hills

To really take in the jaw dropping scenery especially at sunrise or sunset you need to spend more than a day. Due to the increasing love of it the Bureau of Land Management has implemented new camping regulations. Desert flora and fauna takes a LONG time to grow and to ensure that future generations can enjoy it they’re enacting new camping regulations. Any area with a no camping sign, as well as the west side of Movie Road in the Movie Flat area, will be restricted to day use only. 

Permits And More

In addition, if you do decide to camp in the recreation area you are required to get a FREE permit. Eventually, camping will be limited as shown in this map. As there will be upcoming changes, please check the BLM’s official Alabama Hills page for recent updates if you are planning to visit and/or camp in the area.

Better Bet For Camping

Instead of risking destruction of the wildflowers and natural splendor we ask you to be a recreate responsible and pitch your tent in the nearby campgrounds:

How They Were Formed

The Alabama Hills are a golden-brown wonderland of rounded hills and twisted rock formations lying between Lone Pine and the Sierra. The Alabama Hills, once incorrectly touted as “the earth’s oldest hills,” are now known to be the same age as the Sierra, both being formed a “few million years ago” by faulting.

Identical in composition, their difference in appearance comes from different weathering processes. Up high, the freezing, expanding and thawing of rainwater and melting snow has caused the more chiseled splintering of the granite. Down in the warmer valley, the “Alabamas” took shape when “the climate was more moist and the rock was covered with soil,” according to a recent geologist’s report printed in “California’s Eastern Sierra” by Sue Irwin. As the climate became drier, erosion slowly stripped away the soil mantle, exposing and shaping the piles of boulders we see today. Water and wind continue the shaping process. The beige and blacks in the mottled coloring are the result of being stained for millions of years by the oxidation of the iron minerals in the rock.

How They Were Named

The unusual name Alabama Hills came about during the Civil War. In 1864 Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine discovered gold “in them thar hills.” When they heard that a Confederate cruiser named the Alabama had burned, sunk or captured more than 60 Federal ships in less than two years they named their mining claims after the cruiser o celebrate. Before long the name applied to the whole area. Coincidentally, while Southerners were prospecting around Lone Pine, there were Union sympathizers 15 miles north near Independence. And when the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsarge in 1864, the Independence people struck back. They not only named their mining claims “Kearsarge” but a mountain peak, a mountain pass, and a whole town as well.

Interpretive Hikes and Films

The Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office, Alabama Hills Stewardship Group and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association offer interpretive hikes and films of the Alabama Hills. You can see the schedule on the BLM website.