Alabama Hills and the Eastern California Museum

Lone Pine, CA

Lone Pine is a little town (pop. 2,035) sitting in the Owens Valley just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Looking west from our site in Boulder Creek RV Park

The mountains directly to the west are some of the highest in the Sierras.  In the photo below Lone Pine Peak (12,949′) is on the left and Mt. Whitney is the far peak near the center.  At 14, 505′ Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.

Between Lone Pine and the Sierra’s is a rocky area known as the Alabama Hills.  The Alabama Hills were named for the Confederate warship CSS Alabama by prospectors in the area sympathetic to Confederacy.  The Alabama Hills are a popular filming location for television and movie productions, especially Westerns set in an archetypical “rugged” environment.  Since the early 1920s, 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here.  We spent a few hours locating some of the many arches located in the hills.

The Shark Fin

Two arches are located near the formation called the Shark Fin.

Rancher Arch #2

Rancher Arch #1

The Shark Fin is a popular spot for rock climbers.

Lone Pine Peak on the left and Mt. Whitney in the center

We left the Shark Fin and drove deeper into the hills to check out some more arches.

Ram’s Head Arch

Rebel Arch

As we searched in one area we passed a formation that looked very much like a foot with four toes sticking out of the sand.

We call this the “Four Toes Formation”

Graffiti Arch (we didn’t see any graffiti)

Cave Arch

Little Heart Arch

Face Rock

West of Face Rock Arch

Another popular climbing spot

In the southern section of the Alabama Hills sits a marker identifying the location of filming for the movie Gunga Din.

Two nice arches sit up in the rocks just behind the marker.

Gunga Din Arch

Eagle’s Head Arch

Most of the arches pictured above are small and very difficult to spot.  We were aided by the book Arches of the Alabama Hills.  Many are so hidden we needed to use GPS coordinates to locate them.

One afternoon we drove north 20 miles up US 395 to the little town of Independence for a visit to the Eastern California Museum.  Founded in 1928, the museum has been operated by the County of Inyo since 1968.  The museum has a nice collection of artifacts and photos tracing the history of the Owens Valley.

Image result for eastern california museum

Artifacts Collection

One of the main exhibits is on the WWII, Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp, located between Independence and Lone Pine.

One of the main exhibits deals with the life of a local climbing legend, Norman Clyde (1885-1972).  Clyde was a mountaineer, mountain guide, freelance writer, nature photographer, and self trained naturalist.  He is well known for achieving over 130 first ascents, many in the Sierra Nevada Range and Glacier National Park.

Behind the museum building they have preserved many of the buildings from the earlier years of Independence.

Double Freight Wagon

Old Farm Implements

Just outside the museum is a garden that displays many of the plants found in the area.

A young botanist surveys the garden

We have one more hiking adventure planned before we leave Lone Pine.  More on that later . . .

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36 Responses to Alabama Hills and the Eastern California Museum

  1. Cindy Pond says:

    I would love to wake up to those mountains every day. Gorgeous. Do those climbers always have a spotter at the bottom? Cindy

  2. Sherry says:

    Really beautiful picture of the peaks. Nice that you had the book to help you in your arch hunting. You sure found a lot. Face arch made me laugh. So did your toes formation. Glad to hear there was no graffiti. If that’s its real name, seems to be asking for trouble. Isn’t that a famous Hollywood star in the window at cave arch?

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad you recognized that “famous” star hanging out the window in the cave! Yes, Sherry, the book made the exploration of the Alabama Hills so much fun. We did most of the book two years ago, but I needed to finish the last two parts.

  3. Susan Bank says:

    I was surprised that there are that many people living in Lone Pine (2,035), it seems so much smaller. Scrambling around looking for the various arches really takes you everywhere, seeing places most people just pass by, I love it!

  4. Another place I would love to go and I think the Cowboy would even enjoy! Great photos of the mountains topped with snow.

  5. We spent a week there and used it as a base to go to Death Valley. Love that area!

  6. Gay says:

    It looks like so much fun scrambling on rocks searching for the arches! The mountains in the background are beautiful. We just got snow on the LaSals!

  7. Jeff Pierce says:

    So much fun info here this could be 3 blogs! We’ve used Boulder Creek RV Park on several occasions and always find it clean and friendly with one of the best gift shops of any park. To finish your history lesson, the CSS Alabama was sunk by the USS Kearsarge and the Union prospectors named Kearsarge Pass.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for the additional information, Jeff! We hiked Kearsarge Pass during our last visit and John included this information in that post. There is so much to do around the Lone Pine area that we extended our week visit into two weeks during our last visit and still found new things to do this visit. You are right about the gift shop.

  8. Jacquie says:

    Great blog and amazing pics! Locating the arches looked like fun and you certainly found your fair share of them. Good job! Keep enjoying your travels – we are!

  9. Jodee Gravel says:

    I still think we could do better naming the arches :-))) The toes are the best!! Great peak pics. It takes me a while to figure out which one’s Whitney when I’m standing in front of it! That museum has so much information in it, it would take weeks to cover it all. And we missed the large outdoor pieces so must return :-))

    • placestheygo says:

      I do think we could we do a much better job naming the arches. I’m not sure who named them. The author of the book only named ones he found himself. He marks those in the book. I had to figure out which was Whitney again this trip. It doesn’t stand out like some of the other peaks.

  10. Jim and Barb says:

    Awesome rock formations. You guys have a knack at making your adventures into a treasure hunt…arches, crested saguaros…. Great pics!

  11. We love that area but haven’t been to the museum. Can’t wait to hear about your last hike!

  12. pmbweaver says:

    Oh my gosh…what beauty. Alabama Hills are fantastic. We would have never known about all the arches. Thanks so much for takings along. Y’all have been finding the most beautiful places this summer.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! During my research for our first 395 trip, I came across this book on the arches. Luckily, I found the last copy in the film museum in Lone Pine. The book provided hours of fun for Dave, Sue, John and me two years ago and gave us couple fun days this stop. We had one of the best summers since being on the road.

  13. Looks like you had perfect weather for your explorations. So how many arches have you found from the book so far in all your visits??? The museum looks like a good one!

    • placestheygo says:

      We had perfect weather for each of our activities in Lone Pine. The book has 72 arches and 23 other unique features. I can now say that John and I have now found all of them! We also found a few arches that weren’t in the book. Having the book sure did make exploring the Hills so more fun.

  14. Steve & Dianne Colibaba says:

    Great pics of one of our most favourite places. We missed the museum so I guess we have to go back!
    Safe travels!

  15. Debbie L says:

    Wow, was this amazing or what?? What fun and a great little museum, just our type….so guess this is another one we must do one day….

  16. geogypsy2u says:

    You definitely found the off the beaten path arches. I camped near the Gunga Din site. I will most certainly return to this area with only one visit last winter. I thought Lone Pine Peak was Whitney most of my visit. I drove by the old buildings and such but somehow missed the museum in Independence.

    • placestheygo says:

      There were a couple great campsites for smaller units in the Gunga Din area. I can see how you would think Lone Pine Peak was Mt Whitney. Mt Whitney looks so small from below. The museum is kind of hidden so it would be easy to miss but definitely worth a couple hours.

  17. Laurel says:

    Wow, what a gorgeous view you had at the RV Park! My favorite arch photo is the one of that cute little critter poking her head out of Cave Arch. :-))) That museum looks like a great find — I wonder how old Norman Clyde was when he stopped hiking? I hope he was really old. (Gives me something to aspire to.)

  18. LuAnn says:

    I am not surprised that you and John have found all the arches listed in the Hills. You two are nothing short of tenacious!

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