Being east of Sierras and not visit Alabama Hills is time spent wrong. The place became so well known and Instagrammed these years. I think almost everyone can name the location from the first glimpse that this bouldery landscape over cragged mountains background.
However, I know so many who just drove the road to Mt. Whitney Portal or just stopped/hiked to Mobius Arch, and never explored any other spots all around the area. And we were the same. Two visits we just drove around the Mobius and Lathe arches area and never tried to check anything beyond.
So this time we did something new.
Let me start with the plan I had. We drove from Death Valley, and I wanted to spend the afternoon driving Movie Road and stop at mt. Whitney Portal for sunrise shooting. But as all my plans this year, the weather changed everything.
We got to the mountains to be met with snow dust in the air and clouds all over Sierra. We still drove all over to Portal. Of course, the top section of the road was closed, and the parking lot before it was filled with parked cars. People did selfies with grey nothing, some tried to hike further. But I didn’t even want to try. I felt sooooo cold!
We turned around and drove to the area with the most arches concentration. I found this map with all the arches on it and wanted to see everyone. But the weather, ugh!
I got Eugene’s jacket over my sweater, my vest on top of it, the warmest socks I had, and the beanie on the head. Yeap, I didn’t pack for winter weather. But I wanted to explore.
I never realized that the arch we saw previous times from a distance is Heart Arch.
There are actually two arches: Heart and another arch that looks almost like Eye of Alabama Arch. Both are very close to the Mobius Arch, and you can hike from the same trailhead. Also, there is a trailhead further on Movie Road which is closer to the Heart Arch and has different views of the valley.
Heart Arch is visible from Mobius Arch, what you didn’t realize that it looks fantastic from another side too.
And from the side, it looks like a character from Star Wars.
Movie Road Arch
The next one was really close to the road, but you will not see it until you know it’s there.
From there we decided to drove further (okay, I was wet and afraid to get cold). The view starts to change from the main section, at first it becomes level and more distant from Sierra.
When road exits Alabama Hills, views become more Eastern Sierran: high snow-covered mountains with a yellowish valley in the foreground. The weather calmed a bit, and we started to see blue of the skies. You can drive to hwy 395 from there.
Sunrise from Horseshoe Meadow Road
So I still wanted to get this fiery shot of Whitney Portal. I checked the forecast and looked like a storm should pass before the morning. So sunrise shooting sounded like a plan.
Hour before the sun rises we left our hotel room to realize that there is a huge cloud somewhere over Whitney. We still drove, and I hoped in my heart that I could get at least some colors. The closer we moved, the sadder I felt.
It was a second decision to turn around and turn on Horseshoe Meadow Rd. We drove it a bit towards boulders on both sides of a road and Sierra at the background. It looked marvelous.
So we stopped there. Skies become pink, and I loved what I saw.
We almost turned back when I saw this orange sunlight on the mountains. It looked so unusual I turned tripod right and proceed shooting. It was unbelievable.
Links and info
See americansouthwest.net page on Alabama Hills. It’s the most informative and useful site I found.
Here is my other post on Alabama Hills