Arching Toward the Sierras in the Alabama Hills
With dust and dirt as our travel companions, we took the rugged performance of our iconic Targhee boot for men and women to explore the out-of-this-world landscape of the Eastern Sierras.
For those looking to explore the Sierra Nevada mountain range or Mt. Whitney—the tallest mountain in the Lower 48—there’s no better launchpad for adventure than the Alabama Hills. Tucked between US 395 and the Sierras, there’s plenty to explore before hitting the popular Mt. Whitney trailhead.
The strangest thing about Alabama Hills isn’t that some of us hadn’t heard of it—and considering its beauty, it’s odd that it’s not more well-known. The strangest thing is that if you were dropped here, you likely wouldn’t know where “here” is. You could be in Spain. Afghanistan. Nevada. Midwest. Old West. Deep South. Deep space. The mid-Jurassic. Really, the Alabama Hills could be a number of places (though maybe not Alabama). You might even feel like you’ve been here before. And maybe you have. Sort of.
The Alabama Hills area near Lone Pine, California—a 4-hour drive from Fresno or Las Vegas—is both 30,000 acres of sprawling, majestic BLM land and a giant film set. With over 150 movies filmed here (and dozens of TV shows), chances are you’ve seen this view before. But seeing nature at this scale in person—it’s dizzying.
Arches. Canyons. Rolling, rounded stacks of 200-million-year-old volcanic rock. That looming backdrop of the 14,000-foot Sierras. And when the weather is fickle or the light is changing, all we had to do to evoke an entirely different mood was face a different direction. We were floored.
And when we say arches, we mean arches. You could spend days tracking down the 200 or so arches hidden all over the hills (we lost count at 38). And if you’re so inclined, the climbing here is as abundant as it is accessible. Some routes are just feet from the car. The scrambling is also great. There’s nothing like leaping from rock formation to rock formation to feel a bit superhuman. The texture of the rock is like sandpaper, so it feels like you could walk right up a 90º vertical crag. (Especially in our KEEN Targhee hiking boots!)
Our favorite activity, though, just might have been chasing that moody lighting. Dawn and dusk in the Alabama Hills are magical. The movie directors weren’t wrong.