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Alabama Hills Arch Trail

Alabama Hills Recreational Area, California

The Alabama Hills lie on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada—consisting of golden-brown boulders of all sizes, scattered about in amazing patterns that create the perfect foreground for the jagged peaks of Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak. Hidden within these warm colored rocks is an arch perfect for framing Mount Whitney—the highest peak in the continental United States.

This arch is known by many names (Movie Road Arch, Mobius and/or Moebius Arch, Galen Arch) but regardless of what you call it, you will forever remember its grandeur. In order to find this fantastic formation, you must drive along the Whitney Portal Road about 3 miles until you reach Movie Road, leading off to your right—follow this road for a short distance, about 1.5 miles, until you reach a T-intersection, to your right is a small pull-off—park at this location.

From this point, you are about to embark on an out-and-back, cross-country day hike (about 0.5 miles roundtrip) through the brilliant Alabama Hills, but as of this writing, the trail is unmarked and you must rely on visual landmarks to find the arch. From your vantage point at the pull-off, scan the surroundings for a rock aptly named, The Nipple, this will be directly north. Once you have located this landmark, proceed down the obvious old cattle trail in a westerly direction, this will take you down into a wash. Once in the wash, cross to the other side and scramble up the trail that leads to a ridge top view—from this point, you should be able to see the arch, which lies to the north about 200 yards away.

When you reach the base of the arch, you will be witness to one of the most dramatic scenes in the western United States—the cool gray granite peak of Mount Whitney perfectly framed by a natural golden colored arch. The arch has a span of 17 feet, and is 6 feet in height. If you make this journey, be sure to bring a variety of lenses in order to best capture this magnificent scene.

Update September 2008: A well-marked trail now leads hikers to the arch—a GPS will still come in handy though.

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