Home Trips Overland Trip: Alabama Hills, CA
Overland Trip: Alabama Hills, CA

Overland Trip: Alabama Hills, CA


An adventure from the archives complete with pictures of a *very* young Overland Bound rig! We hope this inspires you to think about YOUR next adventure.

Original Date: May 2011image
Destination: Alabama Hills – Lone Pine, CA
Starting Point: Oakland, CA
Total Miles (based on route): 800+
Terrain/Vistas: High Mountains, Desert
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This is a fantastic trip on California’s Picturesque HWY 395 through the High Sierra’s. I did this trip with a couple friends. It took three days, and it felt like a week in paradise. The Alabama Hills have been used on dozens of movies, and it is a great historical trip.

Here is the full route:

Alabama Hills Road Trip Route:

I took this trip with a couple of friends who were gung-ho for this off-road adventure. We had a blast! My passengers lost a few years on a slippery trail clambering up the edge of a cliff (details to follow).

We met up in the suburbs of Pleasanton, CA. All packed up and ready to go:

Packed up

And 45 minutes later as we eased through the rolling hills east of the bay, my work week was left behind and I started to relax.

Heading Out

Fun Stop: Oakdale Hobby in Oakdale is an awesome hobby shop that has everything. They even have high-power rockets! We bought an all-in-one kit with a rocket that would launch to about 1000′. After a snack and trail mix, it was time to hit the road again. Originally we planned to go HWY 120 to 395, but when we got to the Yosemite boundary, we learned HWY 120 was closed. LESSON: CALL AHEAD/GOOGLE to confirm road conditions 😐

We took in the sights, stopped by some vista points. Back tracked…did Jack in the Box in Sonora, CA, then headed down HWY 108. This was an amazing route!

HWY 108


Heading down the east side of the mountain we traveled slow and pulled over to take in this view:


We noticed the brakes on the trusty land cruiser were SMOKING! LESSON: Bring a fire extinguisher. Use your low gears when coming down the mountain! Go slow! HWY 395 was gorgeous! A long drive through the valley while the picturesque mountains give way to southern deserts. Two of my favorite climates.

We arrived at Lone Pines, CA late in the evening after dark. The route to camp is easy enough. From the North, head straight into town and take a right turn at the light on Mt. Whitney Portal Road. We stopped by an informational map to get our bearrings in the “Alabama Hills” of movie fame:

Movie Map

We set up camp at night in the headlights. That was actually not too bad since there were plenty of locations, and open space. We picked a good space between some rocks and lit a fire. After a beer and some good conversation, we hit the hay under a clear sky.

In the morning, I opened my eyes and was STUNNED. The views were amazing, and pictures do not capture it:

After taking in the view, I set up our camp kitchen:

First morning we had a great breakfast with sausage and eggs. Plenty of food for a day in the wilderness! We lightened the trucks load, and prepared for a day off road:

It was great to be in the desert. We headed out for a 1 hour trek up to the Cerro Gordo mining ghost town.


At one point, there was 1 murder per day in Cerro Gordo, hence:

We headed down the mountain and went up the Swansea Trail which has some real challenges for 4X4 vehicles.

Yes…this is a “road”

Remember the part about losing a few years? Well, clambering up this part of the trail, the rear end hit some lose rock and we lost tracktion. The rear slid out toward the cliff quite suddenly and I think we all gasped just a little. Great thing about this cruiser, front and rear differential locks. I just put on the brakes and locked the diffs. After that, the cruiser climbed up the mountain like a tank, never slipping or slowing. LESSON: Lock the diffs BEFORE going up a hill like this. Easier on the heart. We christened this trail, “The Devil’s Backbone”, and you can now find it on facebook.

We headed back down the mountain to give us plenty of time to build our rockets and get in trouble.

Very windy. Does this look like a steep angle to you?

This was the last we saw of the rocket 🙂 We’ll do it again for sure!

Relaxing after another day in the outdoors!

The next morning, we had some fun in the desert checking out the truck and crawling across some rocks. One of the goals on this trip was to check out the new Land Cruiser and get a feel for the capabilities of the new ride. I was very impressed. I think by far it is the most capable off road rig that I have owned.

All packed up and heading home!

After a couple hours drive we stopped in the town of Onyx, CA. This store was a great piece of history. No pictures were allowed inside. We bought some jerky and an energy drink and headed out again. It was WINDY!

The Kern river was ragging and we stopped at a couple locations to check it out. Again, pictures do not do justice to the glory of the mighty Kern. Being next to it was like standing next to a snarling tiger on a chain. It was exhilarating!

We hit the road again. Traveled through Bakersfield and into the Salad Bowl I-5, One of my favorite John Steinbeck locations (don’t ask me if I’ve read the Grapes of Wrath).

…and back in Pleasanton!

All and all a great trip through a beautiful range of California climates, and terrain. It’s amazing how much you can do in three days once you step out your front door!