Here you will find unusual rock formations and numerous maintained
dirt roads suitable for passenger cars. Movie Flat Road 3 miles
above Lone Pine on the Whitney Portal Road is a good starting point
and you can actually make it all the way back to Highway 395 about
5 miles north of Lone Pine via Moffatt Ranch Road. This side trip
is approximately 13 miles total distance off Highway 395.
scenic rock formations set against the dramatic escarpment of the
High Sierra Crest have made this locale a popular choice for filmmakers
and ad agencies looking for that perfect western scene. The Horseshoe
Meadow Road which leaves the Whitney Portal Road about 1/2 mile
past Movie Flat Road visits the Eastern Ramparts of the Alabama
Hills and by looping back down to Lone Pine via Tuttle Creek Road
you can travel via paved roads through the heart of the hills. Total
mileage for this side trip is about 10 miles.
The Alabama Hills, located near Lone Pine California, is one of the least
known of California's many geological phenomena. Masterpieces of
stone, star standing like silent sentinels, form the gateway to
the snow crowned Mount Whitney.
The rounded, weather contours of the Alabamas form a sharp contrast between the crisply sculptured ridges of the Sierra. This leads the viewer to believe the Alabamas are almost antique in nature. However, their deceiving appearance, in comparison to their regal neighbors, the High Sierra, is misleading. Actually, both were shaped by the same cataclysmic uplifting 100 million years ago. Millennia of wind, snow and eons of wind blown sand have blasted across their contours. These were the tools that sculpted the outstanding formations of weathered granite in the Alabamas.
The Alabama Hills and the surrounding area were not without their share of the Indian-settler fights that marked the westward movement. In the winter of 1861, two years after the first settlers arrived in the Owens Valley, the war between the white man and the Indian was sparked. The hard winter that year forced the Indians to look for food to supplement their dwindling seed and dried venison larder. They found settlers' cattle easy prey as the livestock grazed the Pinon Pines the Indians traditionally used for their hunting grounds. A cowboy shot a Paiute hunter that he caught slaughtering one of the winter-lean animals. The Indians took the life of a white in revenge. This friction flared into a bloody war.
The thin margin between death, and survival over the elements, is dramatically epitomized by the harsh, bone-freezing winters of the eastern Sierra country. The Paiute Natives sought shelter among the crevasses and out-croppings of the Alabamas. This became their winter home. Here, in February 1862, the white settlers attacked and destroyed the remainder of the Indians' sparse food supply, thus concluding the Owens Valley Indian wars. The following spring the Paiute Nation was banished by the United States to Ft. Tejon in the Tehachapi Mountains.
Civil War Heritage
Contrary to their name, the Alabama Hills bear little or no resemblance to the mountains of America's Cotton State. Instead, they were named after the Confederate warship responsible for wreaking havoc to northern shipping during the Civil War. News of her victorious naval exploits reached them across America's frontier. Prospectors, sympathetic to the Southern cause, named their mining claims after the Alabama. Eventually, the name stuck to these unique hills.
The fame of the Alabama was both brilliant and short lived. Yankee warships finally cornered the Alabama off the coast of Normandy. There, in a running gun battle with the Northern steamsailer, Kearsarge, she was sunk in the summer of 1864. This event provided northern sympathetic miners to indulge in the art of "one-up-manship," by naming a whole mining district, mountain pass, a peak and a town, "Kearsarge."
Movie Making at Alabama Hills
With its dramatic High Sierra backdrop, the Alabama Hills has long been a favorite location for television and movie companies. Since the early 1920's, movie stars such as Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger, have been shooting it out with outlaws. Classics such as "Gunga Din", "Springfield Rifle", and " How the West Was Won", were filmed on sites now known as "Movie Flats" and Movie Flat Rd. The area has been used for current movies such as Speilbergs "Tremors" shot in the 80's and more recently "Joshua Tree" and "The Flintstones". Movie making is such a big heritage here in Lone Pine that there is a western festival every year to celebrate and a museum to see all the collected movie props and goods from the various films.
On May 24, 1969, the BLM dedicated nearly 30,000 acres of public land west of Lone Pine, as the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. Management plans are being considered that will eventually include a scenic trail system that people can walk and enjoy this geologic phenomena at a leisurely pace. The full intent of BLM management plan is to preserve the hills in as close a natural state as possible, for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans.
While enjoying the scenic and recreational values of the Alabama Hills, hikers, rock-climbers and sightseers should use utmost caution at all times. The few remaining mine shafts and tunnels in the general area should be avoided because of the extreme hazards they represent. False bottoms might give-way or tunnels collapse because of deteriorated shoring timbers. The Alabama Hills are beautiful, but there are hazards that could injure the unwary or unprepared visitor.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 749, Lone Pine, CA 93545