lone pine california lone pine california

Discovering Lone Pine, CA: 9 Captivating Attractions

Are you a person who relishes both nature and adventure? There are some amazing things to look out for in Lone Pine, California. Lone Pine is a census-designated place (CDP) located 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Independence at an elevation of 3,727 ft (1,136 m).

lone pine
From(Joshua GreshamUnsplash)

Here, you will find the beautiful rock formations of the Alabama Hills, the exciting drive up to Whitney Portal, and the Museum of Western Film History in town. Lone Pine, California’s western vibe is undeniably appealing!

The town located in the Owens Valley, near the Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney, is between the eastern peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the east.

1. Why is the Town Known as Lone Pine California?

The town of Lone Pine is named after the lonely pine tree found at the mouth of the Lone Pine Canyon.

However, the town has a storied history, with a deadly earthquake in 1906 and the shameful housing of Japanese Americans in the Manzanar National Historic Site relocation camp during World War II.

In 1942, not even a complete year had passed after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American government relocated 120,000 Japanese Americans to military compounds across the West.

Despite its excruciating history, Lone Pine is a fantabulous place to visit, with 20 square miles of natural beauty between the Inyo Mountains to the east and the eastern peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west.

Most parts of Lone Pine, California, and Owens Valley have cold desert climate conditions characterized by hot summers and cold winters. January temperatures range from the middle fifties °F to the upper twenties °F and July temperatures range from the upper nineties °F to the lower sixties °F.

Mostly low humidity is prevalent in these regions, with average annual precipitation of fewer than 6 inches (150 mm).

2. Explore the Alabama Hills

Exploring the Alabama Hills!

The Alabama Hills are a must-see destination if you’re heading to California or planning a road trip around the United States.

A stupendous playground for hikers, climbers, landscape photographers, plein air painters, and nature lovers, the Alabama Hills has served as the location for hundreds of Western movies and TV shows, from The Lone Ranger to The Gene Autry Show.

Although the red dirt Alabama Hills share no resemblance to the nearby snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains, they both formed around the same time – around 85 million years ago.

Here are a few things that can help you decide which side of the Alabama Hills you would want to visit:

2.1. Go, Arc Hunting

The Mobius Arch is Alabama Hills’ most famous arch. It even has its trail, the Mobius Arch Loop Trail, which will take you on a tour of three breathtaking arches. The track is just over half a mile long, and if crowds aren’t of your genre, then try heading out to one of these most popular arches:

  • Boot Arch: The Boot Arch, you guessed it, resembles exactly a boot! Most people flock to the Boot Arch at night; once the Sun sets, the Milky Way rewards lucky viewers with an indescribable light show.
  • Heart Arch: You can see the Heart Arch from the Mobius Arch Trail parking area. Turn right instead of turning left on the Mobius Arch Trail to visit Mobius. Along the route, you’ll see a few other unnamed arches that are worth posting on your Instagram feed on their way.
  • Lathe Arch: The Lathe Arch is relatively small and close to the ground. But if you bend down, it has the prettiest encompassed view of the Sierra Nevada. There are over a hundred other unnamed arches and formations you can see apart from those mentioned above three. You will find something beautiful in the Alabama Hills with every step and turn.

2.2. Tour those Famous Movie Locations

Alabama Hills is a popular Hollywood filming location.

Some of the most recent and well-known movies to be shot on film sites here are Django Unchained, Gladiator, and Iron Man, amongst many others, notably Western movies.

Some of the most popular stops on the movie location tour are the Gunga Din Canyon, Lone Ranger Canyon, and the Roy Rogers Movie Flats.

2.3. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Stars!

best of all sights
Image Source: depositphotos

The hills are away from light pollution, and come nightfall, the skies light up with a huge collection of stars from the Milky Way that puts you stargazing.

The moon takes center stage, and you can get some spectacular photos through the arches that capture the natural beauty of our world and the phenomena of outer space.

The best time to observe the Milky Way is in the late summer.

We recommend bringing along some binoculars or a telescope if you have one. If you don’t, there is no need to worry; you can still see the constellations without any equipment–although, with so many stars, you may find even the Big Dipper getting lost among the cosmos.

3. Hike on the Mount Whitney Trail

The Mount Whitney Trail is a hiking trail that climbs Mount Whitney. It starts at Whitney Portal, 13 miles west of Lone Pine, California.

This 11-mile-long trail is non-technical when free of snow and ice, usually from July to late September, but is a strenuous hike that requires good physical fitness. The round-trip hike for healthy, fit individuals generally lasts about 12 to 14 hours.

There’s another trail through a wooded canyon along Lone Pine Creek, after which you can grab lunch or breakfast at the Whitney Portal Store and glimpse the Lone Pine Creek Falls.

This trail from above Lone Pine Lake to Trail Crest lies within the special Mount Whitney Zone of the Inyo National Forest. Due to the high volume of trail users, the Forest Services enforces special regulations to preserve Mt Whitney’s wild character.

You can hike into the Golden Trout Wilderness area or take a pack trip to fish for golden trout. There are many creeks, lakes, streams, and ponds around Lone Pine where you can fish for rainbow trout, brown trout, bass, and catfish. You will need a California fishing license to fish in the Eastern Sierra.

3.1. Camping

Camping is allowed along most of the trail on Mount Whitney, more than 100 ft from the water, but level ground that meets the description is extremely limited, so most backpackers congregate in two camps:

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From(Dominik Jirovsky/Unspalsh)

The Outpost Camp, which is on the lower of the two camps, is 3.8 miles by trail from Whitney Portal. It is sheltered by trees near a waterfall and Bighorn Meadow.

The second camp is the Trail Camp, which is 6.3 miles from the trailhead in a rocky, often windy, alpine basin. This is also the last place where there is a reliable water source.

Depending on conditions, clean water may be found in springs on the switchbacks. Most overnight backpackers will take between 2 and 4 days to complete this trip.

3.2. Human Waste

Human Waste management was a huge problem at Mount Whitney, and in 2006, the Inyo National Forest instituted a mandatory “pack it out” program.

The Forest Service removed the solar latrines at Outpost Camp and Trail Camp and instead began issuing “WAG Bags” (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) to trail users for human waste.

3.3. Bear Canisters

Due to the danger of Bears in Mount Whitney, backpackers must carry a bear-resistant canister; these can be rented at the Interagency Visitor Center south of Lone Pine or the Whitney Portal Store for a nominal fee.

Black bears are common along the Mount Whitney Trail, and the night sightings of these bears are quite usual. When traveling at night, hikers are advised to wield a bright headlight and a shrill whistle, making many strange, loud noises that will alert the bears to human presence.

If possible, hikers should travel in a larger group as bears are much less likely to approach a group than a single person.

4. Here’s an Easier Trek to Lone Pine Lake


The trek to Lone Pine Lake is quite difficult, so we have covered the short route to Lone Pine Lake.

The Lone Pine Lake hike is 6.5 miles with about 1900 feet of elevation gain, making for a fairly moderate trek. During the colder months, Whitney Portal Road is closed before the trailhead, adding 4 miles and 700 feet of elevation gain, thus increasing the difficulty level.

  • Now, From the Whitney Portal Campground, look for the trailhead across the street. You will walk through a metal structure with posted hiking and backpacking information to start the hike.
  • From here, you’ll begin the steady and consistent 3.25-mile ascent to the lake. As you make your way towards Lone Pine Lake, take in the awesome views down the valley to the desert below.
  • After about 3.2 miles, you will see a sign directing you to depart the trail to the left and head to Lone Pine Lake. It will be hard to miss the spur over to the lake.
  • Once there, take your time to have a snack or lunch and explore the area. Make sure you head to the far side of the lake to see the best views of the Eastern Sierra rising above the lake and the Alabama Hills below.

Once you finish exploring the lake, retrace your steps to the trail and continue down the same way you came. Enjoy the views you may have missed on the hike up!

5. Cool Things to Try in Eastern Sierras?

5.1. Discover the High Sierra Spotlight: The Mammoth Lakes

  • The high-alpine beauty and all-seasons adventure in this laidback mountain enclave. Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the West, residents of this Eastern Sierra town know they’ve got a good thing going.
  • It’s known for the Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain ski areas and the nearby trails.
  • This is also a base for The Devil’s Postpile National Monument, a formation of basalt columns, and the soaring Rainbow Falls.
  • To the north, saltwater Mono Lake is dotted with limestone towers

5.2. Manzanar National Historic Site

  • There is no fee to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site. Horseshoe Meadow Road is a scenic drive for visitors who enjoy mountain driving. It is located 10,000 feet above sea level, so the road to get there climbs about 6,000 feet via a series of steep switchbacks, with beautiful views along the way.
  • A stark wooden guard tower alerts drivers to one of US history’s darkest chapters, which unfolded on a barren, windy sweep of land some 5 miles south of Independence.
  • Little remains of the infamous war concentration camp, a dusty square mile where more than 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry were corralled during World War II. The camp’s lone remaining building, the former high school auditorium, houses a superb interpretive center. A visit is one of California’s historical highlights and should not be missed.

5.3. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

(Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest)
From(Ross Stone on Unsplash)

  • To visit some of the earth’s oldest living things, budget a half-day for the thrilling drive up to this thrilling forest.
  • These otherworldly-looking trees are found above 10,000ft on the slopes of the parched White Mountains, where you’d think nothing could grow.
  • The oldest tree, Methuselah – is around 4700 years old. The area has picnic tables, trails, and vault toilets, but no water. While the trails are open year-round, the roads are weather-dependent.

6. Visit California Historical Landmark 507

The 1872 Owens Valley Earthquake – also known as the Lone Pine earthquake – struck on March 26 at 02:30 local time in the Owens Valley (California, along the east side of the Sierra Nevada), with the epicenter near the town of Lone Pine.

It was one of the largest earthquakes to hit California in recorded history and was similar in size to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Twenty-seven people were killed, and fifty-six were injured.

Researchers later estimated that similar earthquakes occur on the Lone Pine fault every 3,000–4,000 years. The common grave of the earthquake’s victims is now registered as California Historical Landmark #507.

The California Historical Landmark reads:

NO. 507 GRAVE OF 1872 EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS– “On March 26, 1872, a major earthquake shook Owens Valley, nearly destroying the town of Lone Pine. About fourteen of its victims (the exact number is not known) were interred in a common grave, enclosed by this fence.”

7. Highway 395 Road Trip

The US Highway 395 is the backbone of the state of California.

Running east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it’s also a road of superlatives: highest, lowest, hottest, deepest, oldest – the Highway 395 passes close by a whole host of ‘-ests.’

And then there are the ghost towns, living towns, ski resorts, tufa formations, film locations, and much more.

Find out a few of them below:

7.1. Explore Lake Tahoe along the Road Trip

San Francisco to Lake Tahoe Road Trip Stops

Start your adventure in Tahoe, a year-round destination for almost every other outdoor enthusiast; with skiing in winter and just about every other activity the rest of the year, the east shore’s Flume Trail is a must for mountain bikers.

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket list essential. Lake Tahoe is the calmest centerpiece of the action, famous as the largest alpine lake in North America.

For its amazingly clear water – given its height (6225ft above sea level) and the water’s depth (1644ft in places), algae can’t grow here, allowing unparalleled underwater views.

Summer brings out the water toys—sailing boats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and almost anything that floats. Autumn paints the hills with golden aspen leaves. But no matter what the season, this is the place that makes you plan the next trip back before you even leave.

7.2. Visit the Eastern California Museum in Independence

While driving up Highway 395 in Lone Pine, California, in the small town of Independence, a fantastic-fancy little museum houses the area’s history and displays it beautifully. This spot is known as the Eastern Sierra Museum.

Founded in 1928 by a group of volunteers, the museum’s collection reflects the valley’s diversity. The museum houses more than 25,000 photos and a selection of Native American baskets from the tribes of Inyo County.

The museum is broken into two rooms, one that focuses on Native American artifacts and another that focuses on more recent area history. In the middle of the two rooms is a small central room serving as the gift shop.

Be sure to check it out on your Highway 395 road trip!

7.3. Tour the Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park straddles eastern California and Nevada. It’s known for Titus Canyon, a ghost town with colorful rocks, and Badwater Basin’s salt flats, North America’s lowest point.

Above, the Telescope Peak Trail weaves past pine trees. Rattlesnakes reside in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, North of the spiky salt mounds known as the Devil’s Golf Course.

It is also the third-largest national park in the United States (5,270 square miles), so to see everything, it is best to go for at least two days. There are many campground spots within Death Valley National Park.

Spring is the most popular time to visit Death Valley. Apart from the warm and sunny days, the possibility of spring wildflowers is a big attraction. If the previous winter brought rain, the desert can put on an impressive floral display, usually peaking in late March to early April.

8. Where to stay at Lone Pine California?

8.1. Dow Villa Motel in Lone Pine

Dow Villa Motel is the top-rated hotel in Lone Pine, per Booking.com and Google reviewers. Although the motel is located directly next to the Historic Dow Hotel, it is separate.

From(Down Villa Motel)

They also have a seasonal outdoor swimming pool with a hot tub and sun loungers. Apart from these amenities, the best part is that you can see the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range from here.

The motel provides a king, queen, and Queen room with two double family beds. Their major amenities include WiFi, an outdoor seasonal pool, a hot tub, and free parking.

8.2. The Portal Motel in Lone Pine

The top-rated alternative to Dow Villa Motel is Portal Motel, which has respectable reviews and typically costs just under $100 per night in the off-season.

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From(Portal Motel )

The rooms are basic but functional, and previous guest reviews are solid. It has easy access to the Alabama Hills and the main restaurants in town.

This motel provides a king and queen room with two double beds for families. Their major amenities include WiFi, an outdoor seasonal pool, a hot tub, and free parking.

8.3. Historic Dow Hotel

Historic Dow Hotel is a 2-star property located in Lone Pine. This hotel offers a shared lounge and an outdoor pool, and guests can use free WiFi and free private parking.

From(Historic Dow Hotel)

The private bathroom has a shower, free toiletries, and a hairdryer. At Historic Dow Hotel, the rooms are equipped with a desk and a flat-screen TV. The accommodation offers 2-star accommodations with a hot tub in Lone Pine, California.

9. Best Time to Visit Lone Pine

The weather in Lone Pine, California, is favorable, and the best activities are available during the summertime.

Lone Pine’s best months for good weather are from May to October.

On average, the warmest months are July and August, September the driest month, and December is the coldest month. Once the snow has gone from the mountains, you can go climbing, hiking, and fishing in the Sierra Nevada high-elevation wildernesses.

You can also drive scenic mountain roads and enjoy thawed lakes from late spring to early fall. Wildflowers create bright colors in late spring and summer, and some blooms continue into the fall.


With this, we end our amazing list of things you can explore in Lone Pine, California, that you can plan for a fabulous weekend getaway.

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USA Tales


Jossil Johnson

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