Every year, in October, Lone Pine has its Film Festival. Hundreds of people come to this small town to see again the movies, that were shot in the Alabama Hills.
I think, that you have to book accomodation in advance, then. The campground had no place for us:-( But there was room in the RV park across the street.
The picture is from this website:
The Owens River originates above Bishop and accounts for most of the drainage from the eastern Sierra. The river is a true Great Basin river in that it has no outlet to the sea, ending instead in the flat sink that once was a vast lake - Owens Lake. At one time, there used to be enough water in the lake to support steamboat travel. Now, with most of the water in the Owens system being taken south to the LA metroplex, what was Owens Lake is now a huge desiccated salt pan. One can find water in the lake’s middle interior - depending on the winter snow levels. Local rock shops offer gorgeous crystals that have been taken out form within the lake. Realize that if you wish to rockhound within the lake that your clothes and boots will probably be seeing their last days within that abrasive and dangerous environment - it is also easy to punch one’s foot through a salt layer.
The best view of the lakebed is from CA 136, which leads to the east and Death Valley from Lone Pine. Even better is the view from near Al’s Point - 21 miles from Lone Pine up the Cottonwood Road, at about 9000 feet high.
At 14,496', Mount Whitney is the highest point in the Continental US. It is located just outside Lone Pine and is visible just to the right of the sun-spot in this picture. Look for the 2 narrow peaks which are close together.
Mount Whitney is also the start of the John Muir Trail which winds its way through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. It continues for 211 miles, ending at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park.
When you visit Lone Pine, take a couple of hours and drive up the switchback which takes you up Cottonwood Mountain. At around 9,000', you come to Walt's Point where you will find a bunch of cars and vans, all with roof racks for their Hang gliders! The California coast has their surfers, inland you will find Hang gliders.
During the hot summer months, the conditions for hang gliding are near perfect. The 'lift' generated by the thermals emanating from the desert floor can lift a glider to an altitude of 18,000', where cold and lack of oxygen become serious concerns. If you're a rookie, you're better off visiting in the Spring or Fall, when conditions are a little more forgiving. You can also take a Tandem flight, where you're strapped on to somebody with experience.
This particular area holds the world record for the longest flight - over 200 miles from this point to Austin, Nevada. In town, many of the shops have posted signs from people willing to drive into the desert to pick up the gliders where they land. All for a fee, of course
Whitney Portal is located partway up Mt. Whitney, at an elevation of around 8,400'. It is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the US. From the trailhead, you can take one of a number of hikes along the trails, and see panoramic views and granite cliffs. The one I took lead to Whitney Portal Falls, pictured here.
Due to the high altitude, it's nice & cool on a hot summer day, but remember to pace yourself - there's also less oxygen and you may find you breathing laboured, and you might feel a headache coming on.
From the same road up Cottonwood Mountain where you found the Hang gliders, you will also see the fabulous view of Owens Lake, which is now dry.
Water was first diverted from the Owens River to Los Angeles in 1913, and by 1926, Owens Lake was completely dry.
Running parallel to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range are the Alabama Hills. If you've ever watched a Spaghetti Western, or a John Wayne movie, you've seen them. You can take any number of side roads through them, and you fully expect to see a cowboy ride through any minute.
On another movie note - the film Tremors with Kevin Bacon was filmed in this area.
With all of the attention upon the Whitney Portal trail and the Cottonwood Lakes - on the other Sierran roadhead out of Lone Pine - it pays to have other options, sometimes. Meysan Lakes trail goes up 3 miles along the north side of Meysan Creek with grand views of Lone Pine Peak. Once up to the lake, you can easily walk around in the upper part of the basin. One grand view can be obtained by wandering a few hundred feet above the upper lake through grassy slopes to a shoulder of Mt Irvine. From here you can see - and hear - the Whitney Portal trail. You can gain a super perspective over most of the trail watching people below sweating their way up that trail. You also have a fantastic view over Mt Whitney and the whole Whitney Creek drainage.
From Trail Camp, at 12039 feet, you begin a long climb up to the summit ridge of the Whitney range at Trail Crest, 13480 feet. Most of the trail is well-constructed switchbacks, 99 or so, with occasional problems up higher due to lingering snow or ice. Just as the altitude and the drudgery of counting switchbacks begins to get to you, you reach the crest with its magical view over the Hitchcock Lakes, Guitar Lake (look close and you will see why it is so-named), Mt Hitchcock and farther beyond to the Kaweah Ranges in the central part of the Sequoia National Park. From Trail Crest, the route up Whitney takes on an aery aspect with occasional views to the east between pinnacles along the Muir-Whitney crest. Views to the west are everpresent. The immense aspects of the upper Kern Canyon are obvious.
Lone Pine and the Owens Valley area a long ways away from the top of Mt Whitney. This picture shows Iceberg Lake below and the Whitney Creek canyon leading eventually to the little green spot that is Lone Pine. The Inyo Mountains look small further east.
Mount Whitney is what must hikers come for. The highest point in United States outside of Alaska at 14495 feet. To dayhike from the Whitney Portal, you have to obtain a day permit (Backpackers have to obtain a backcountry permit) from the Lone Pine Ranger Station in Independence. Take lots of water and figure on refilling - highest available water is at Trail Camp, a long ways from the top! This is not a hard trail, but with the altitude, the elevation gain, trail condition (ice or snow), and 22 miles you need to be in shape. There are several more demanding routes on Whitney but those are off-trail. The view from atop is magic and the payoff is grand.
The road up to the Whitney Portal goes west out of Lone Pine, first, winding through the Alabama Hills and then moving up deceiving upward sloping terrain to the base of the eastern Sierra wall itself. There the road ascends in a couple mammoth hairpins to the mouth of the Whitney Creek canyon. You are now in canyon walls so deep that you cnanot see the top of Mt Whitney anymore. The road ends at a busy campground and a little store/fast food concession. Bears also enjoy the campground so be bearwise with your camp. From the road's end, 8300 feet, begins the 11 mile trail to the top of Mt Whitney - over 6000 feet higher at 14495 feet high. Other campgrounds are further down towards Lone Pine along the Whitney Creek.
Another wonderful trail option takes you to the Meysan Lakes
There are some great nooks and crannies in the hills to steal a kiss or two, if you're with someone you'd like to kiss. It is a great place to hang out with you favorite person, the scenery makes it very romantic and mysterious!
Hiking here is great. Lots of scrambling on the rocks, with no specific direction. If you would draw a line of the paths I have hiked in this area, it would look like one of those stupid "Family Circus" cartoons. There are no specific paths, but lot sof places to run around.
Mount Whitney is the highest point in the Continental US, take a drive up to Whitney portal and at least start hiking on the trails near by. To hike up to Mt Whitney you need to make a reservation in like February for the following summer/fall, so plan ahead. I saw a ranger on the trail checking for reservations when I went!