A few miles from the sleepy desert city of Lone Pine, California sits the desert surface of another world. Massive piles of sun-baked boulders give way to endless, winding, dusty paths. Serving as the wild west in countless films, the dramatic landscapes of the Alabama Hills have been playing with our imagination for decades. The iconic Mobius Arch Loop Trail is a quick and easy intro to the mystery of these hills without having to forfeit too much of your time.
A perfect stop for your California Highway 395 road trip, the Mobius Arch Loop Trail is near the city of Lone Pine. From the 395, turn west onto Whitney Portal Road, drive a couple miles, then turn right onto Movie Road. About a mile and half later, the road will fork with no helpful signage. Turn right. You will then see a large smooth dirt parking lot on your left. You made it!
Prepare for rocky, dirt roads. I made the trip in a small sedan, but I would certainly recommend bringing a car with more ground clearance if you have one. While trying to find the trailhead, we accidentally turned down a dead end road. We reversed to turn around, not realizing we were in soft, sandy dirt at that point. Our front left tire dug itself into the sand and could not get enough traction to get itself back out. We were stuck.
My husband first tried pushing the car out to no avail. He then pulled the carpet floor lining out of the trunk and put it behind the wheel to give it traction. I stood there on the side of the open road looking out over the desert and clear blue sky. It was silent except for a slight breeze rummaging through the dry brush and sand. No cars or people for miles. Peaceful when you’re not worrying you’re going be stuck there. The car managed to get some traction and rolled out of the little sand rut. Safe, sound, and with a trunk full of sand dust, we continued our journey to the Mobius Arch Loop Trail.
Two Trailhead Options
After you park in the dirt lot, there are two trailhead options to start the 0.6 mile Mobius Arch Loop Trail. There is one to the far left and one to the far right. I recommend the one to the right. Starting this trail on the right lets you explore the remarkable rock formations and unreal photo spots of the Alabama Hills before ending with a climax at Mobius Arch. Take your time to wander and admire the natural wonders that surround you. Towards the end of the trail, the arch is unmistakable. You can’t miss it. You are able to walk right up to it and climb up on it for your iconic photos. The rock is solid and sturdy, so you can stand on it with assurance that you aren’t damaging the structure.
After the arch, it is a pretty quick walk back to the parking lot. Helpful trail markers are placed throughout the trail so you don’t lose your way. The path is also cleared and lined with small rocks, which makes it very easy to follow. If you’re really short on time and just want to see the Mobius Arch, you can begin your journey at the left trailhead from the parking lot, see the Arch, and then double back to the car and be on your way.
Deserts are notoriously harsh in all seasons, so please do your research and prepare for the weather based on the time of your visit. I visited in September, and it was very hot and dry. Great for exploring, but we didn’t get to see the notorious snowy views of Mount Whitney in the distance. In fact, it was wildfire season and smoky conditions in the distance hid the mountains altogether. If you’re visiting in hot weather, which is very likely, be sure to stick to the trail or open dirt areas to avoid disturbing any sleeping rattlesnakes or desert rodents in the brush and under rocks. I can’t wait to return sometime in the spring to see the desert wildflowers.
Other Activities in the Alabama Hills
The Bureau of Land Management page about the Alabama Hills lists various other activities and trail maps. If you’re looking to see the hills from a different perspective, be sure to check out this List of Classic Climbing Routes. As with any destination, please do your part to leave this beautiful land clean to protect the wildlife and preserve the landscapes for generations to come.