The good old days at the dispersed camping playland of Alabama Hills may be gone for good, but things are about to get better than in recent years, thanks to a management plan by the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the site. Something had to be done. Overcrowding has led to problems with human waste and toilet paper, drones buzzing the skies, and noise disturbing the stillness.
The BLM has already installed portable toilets and made a large portion of Alabama Hills (west of Movie Road) for day use only—although photographers will still have access at night. Coming in the future are designated camping spots within the 30,000-acre site, and an online reservation system. Permits most likely will be free.
The fanciful rock formations—enormous bread loaves, potatoes, melons—inspired Hollywood to film more than 400 movies here, beginning in the 1920s. Among the more recent efforts have been Iron Man, Django Unchained, Tremors, and Gladiator. In nearby Lone Pine is the Museum of Western Film History, where you can map out a plan to visit some of the locations.
These days rock climbers flock to the big boulders. Hikers can trek about, taking in several arches, including the twisted curl of Mobius Arch. For everyone, views of Mt. Whitney and its neighboring crags are stupendous.
The dramatic landscape was formed about 100 million years ago, by the same seismic uplifts that brought forth the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains. Most of the shaping of the granite took place underground, as mineral-rich water eroded surfaces over centuries. Just east of Alabama Hills in the Owens Valley is sediment 10,000 feet deep, meaning the hills were once the eastern edge of a grand escarpment.
Range of Light Trailblazer has more on the Alabama Hills, as well as hiking, camping, and dispersed camping nearby.
Before your next visit, check the BLM website for the most up-to-date information or contact the Bishop Field Office at 760-872-5000. Email: BLM_CA_Web_BI@blm.gov.