For those who love an adventure in nature with a dose of Hollywood nostaglia, Lone Pine is a sweet gem of paradise. It's alpine, desert and ancient, and it holds Hollywood lore in its walls and landscape. Lone Pine and the surrounding nature has welcomed movie stars from Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne to Robert Downey, Jr.
Lone Pine is a launch point to tackle nearby Mt. Whitney at more than 14,500 feet and the depths of Death Valley, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The many trails and roads winding through the area make it an amazing location for auto touring, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, trail running, horseback riding, fishing, and camping.
The routes for this mountain road trip are among the most scenic anywhere, with the preferred route in summer taking you east from San Francisco through Yosemite National Park, and south past hot springs and Sequoia National Park.
To pass through Yosemite Valley, take Hwy 120 east to connect with U.S. Hwy. 395, then drive south to Alabama Hills and the nearby town of Lone Pine. (6 hrs 20 mins).
When the season is right, another beautiful drive is over the Sonora Pass, along Highway 108 (6 hrs 8 mins), or using Highway 89 over Monitor Pass.
When winter comes and the snow settles in, you can loop northeast through Sacramento on Highway 50 to catch Highway 395 south (~8 hrs).
Want a southerly, year-round route? Bakersfield is your bet. Take Interstate 5 south to Highway 58 east. Then take Highway 14 north until it turns into Highway 395. (~7 hrs)
**Make sure to check highway closures in the fall, winter and spring months, due to snow.
The Historic Dow Hotel was built in 1923 to cater to the film industry, along with its sister location, the Dow Villa Motel. Both buildings are within walking distance of more or less everything in town. The motel has modern amenities, while the hotel has an Old West feel, containing antique furniture and pictures of John Wayne, who stayed at the hotel, and nearby Mt. Whitney.
The Dow Villa Motel in nearby Lone Pine is steeped in Hollywood lore, with the likes of John Wayne and Errol Flynn creating history here. Guests tell of hearing cowboys' spurs jangling up and down the hallways at night. The Dow Villa is highly reviewed for its views, location and service.
The Comfort Inn in Lone Pine is pet-friendly and includes free breakfast for guests, and a heated swimming pool (seasonal). Located only two miles from Alabama Hills and 14 miles from Mt. Whitney, the Comfort Inn provides stellar views and location.
The Grill hits the spot for American food like steak, mashed potatoes and green beans with a cold beer. It's called the Grill, after all. But the food, service and value have earned stacks of top reviews across the board. Steak not your taste or mood? Chances are The Grill has you covered, from salmon and salads to seasonal veggie options, sandwiches and french fries. The Grill is known for its hot breakfasts, too.
The Bonanza is as authentic as Mexican food comes, connecting with its deep Southwestern roots and Old West history. The staff is friendly and the platters are heaped. It's a must-stop when in Lone Pine.
The Totem Cafe is especially known for its omelets and great pancakes and breakfast burritos. It's also a steak and rib joint, when a hearty dinner calls ... The Totem has it all, including friendly service and, in summer, outdoor seating to take in the amazing views of the Alabama Hills.
Alabama Hills is a natural paradise, with its rock formations and natural arches. Mobius Arch is one of the Alabama Hills National Recreation Area's highlights, and incredibly easy to access on a .25-mile loop trail off of Movie Road.
History is full of tremendous ups and downs, and lessons not to be forgotten. The Manzanar National Historic Site marks the history of the World War Two internment camps, where Japanese Americans -- men, women and children -- were uprooted from their homes and placed during the war. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of 10 such camps in the U.S. during the 1940s.
If the Hollywood history and big-name stars who have steeped Lone Pine in big- and small-screen fame is your focus, head out on Movie Road and take in the scenes. (A stop at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine first will serve you well.)
The Museum of Western Film History stands in a town full of Hollywood history. Pay the five bucks to get the biggest bang for you buck, soaking up as much of the history and as many of the stories as you can all in one fascinating spot.