Free Camping in the Alabama Hills – Lake Tahoe Road Trip



Jason Daniel Shaw

Free Camping in the Alabama Hills

Lake Tahoe Road Trip

Alabama Hills  – Lone Pine, CA

Ok, so, the Alabama Hills are actually in California and not in Alabama.  Now that we have that out of the way, this place is an absolutely must-visit place, no matter where you are coming from.  Located in Lone Pine, CA, it has long been the “western” destination for Hollywood.  Once you see the amazing rock formations at the foot of the eastern Sierras, you will see why the Alabama Hills have served as the backdrop for so many different locations.  It is truly Instagram gold!

Moon Setting at Sunrise Alabama Hills

Lone Pine, CA

You will more than likely arrive in Lone Pine, CA via the famous highway 395 that runs through the Owens Valley, just east of the eastern Sierras.  The mountains are very rugged and the home of the tallest peak in the continental United States, Mt Whitney.  The Alabama Hills lie between Lone Pine and these mountains.  Lone Pine is a great place to stay if you aren’t looking to camp and provides you with a variety of places to eat.  The town shuts down pretty early so make sure that you plan accordingly.

Lone Pine Motel

Must-see in the Alabama Hills

Mobius Arch is one of my favorite features in the Alabama Hills.  It is a rock formation that has a twist to it, resembling the mathematical Mobius Strip.  However, there is so much to explore throughout the area that I recommend planning on spending at least a couple days in the area.  The best time to photograph the Alabama Hills and surroundings is either at sunrise or sunset.  At sunrise, the eastern Sierra ridges will light up with spectacular color as the sun rises over the mountains to the east.  Conversely, at sunset, the mountains will be back-lit and the sky will turn beautiful shades of pinks and purples.

Due to the lack of light pollution in the area, astrophotography is another option in the Alabama Hills.  The last trip I took some night shots at Mobius Arch with the Milky Way and did some light painting.  It was a lot of fun.  This time I just setup the camera on a tripod just outside the Jeep and let it snap photos all night to create a time lapse.  Whatever you do, make sure you take in the area during all times fo the day and night as each one will reward you with something a little different.

One tip that I will offer is that the prominent peak that you see in a lot of my photos on here is not actually Mt. Whitney – it is Lone Pine Peak.  A lot of people confuse the two (including me at first).  You can see Mt. Whitney in the gallery down below, it is in the photo between the two photos of the moon setting over Lone Pine Peak.

Astrophotography Alabama Hills Eastern Sierras

Camping in the Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills are run by the Bureau of Land Management and thus, a free place to camp.  There are so many unique rock formations that you can park near or under to camp for the night.  As you may know, my preferred camping is just folding down the seats in the Jeep and blowing up an air mattress.  While it may be glamping to some, it makes for an quick and easy campsite that is protected from the elements.  One thing to watch out for while out in the Alabama Hills is scorpions. Amanda got stung while we were setting up camp out there and while it didn’t pose any real health risks, it did scare her a bit when her foot swole up.  That didn’t stop us from enjoying the beautiful views.  Oh, and I happen to walk up just as the sun was coming up and noticed that the moon was just getting ready to set just behind Lone Pine Peak.  It was an amazing site and perfect timing.

I highly recommend spending some time in the Lone Pine area if you are passing through or even making a weekend trip out of it.   Check out this link for more ideas and to see more of the stops on our Lake Tahoe Road Trip.  As always, I would love to hear what you think on my Instagram.

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