Nearly 15 miles of High Sierra views and Wild West terrain
Photos and words by Parker Amstutz
A climber’s paradise and one of Hollywood’s favorite backdrops, Alabama Hills doesn’t typically come to mind when you think about your next destination for mountain biking. You might be surprised, though. With its close proximity to Highway 395 and legendary backdrop of High Sierra fourteeners, the Alabama Hills Loop is deﬁnitely worth a ride.
Where to start
Just outside of Lone Pine on the Whitney Portal Road, you’ll see a sign reading “Alabama Hills Information Next Right” with an arrow. Follow the sign and park in the small parking lot along the main road. This is the traditional starting point for your ride, but the loop has strong “Choose Your Own Adventure” characteristics. Parking anywhere (legal) along the side of Whitney Portal Road is a viable starting point. For those taking advantage of Alabama Hills’ dispersed camping, riding from your campsite is more than likely your best option, as the loop passes through the Mobius Arch Loop Trailhead and continues along Movie Road at one point. More on that later.
The route begins with a steady climb up the Whitney Portal Road. The ﬁrst 4.4 miles utilize the pavement for nothing more than gaining elevation. If you prefer to suﬀer less and have a willing friend, you can shuttle this portion of the route and skip about 1,400’ of climbing.
At an altitude of 5,200’ and approximately 4.4 miles from the informational parking area, a small dirt road heads oﬀ to your right at a 45 degree angle. Say goodbye to the pavement and ride about 100 yards on the dirt road where you’ll come to a break in the fence. If you’re on Whitney Portal Road and you come to Olivas Ranch Road, you’ve gone about 0.4 miles too far.
Head through the break in the fence, across the bridge, and get riding. Bask in the incredible views of Lone Pine Peak and Mount Whitney. Stay on this until a singletrack crosses the trail about 4.8 miles from the bridge. Take this singletrack, aptly named Sandy Trail, to the right. You’ll encounter signiﬁcant sand here and eventually be spit out at the Mobius Arch Loop Trailhead. From there, make a left onto Movie Road.
After about 0.5 miles, the Movie Road makes a sharp left. As you make the left, look for a trailhead marker signifying the start of the Horse Trail. Continue on the Horse Trail until you descend beneath the iconic “LP” made of white rocks high above on the hills. Be sure to look back periodically as the views of iconic fourteeners are breathtaking. Follow the dirt road out to Whitney Portal Road. This may be the end of your ride (if you parked a car or have a friend shuttling you), or you may need to climb up Whitney Portal Road if you’re headed back to your campsite.
Sand can be prevalent along certain parts of the trail. Skinny tires are not recommended (especially along Sandy Trail). If you’re planning to tackle this route during a warmer part of the year, be sure to start early as there is essentially no shade along the route during midday, and the heat can often linger into the evenings. It is highly recommended to download the route on MTB Project to avoid any wrong turns. Signage along the route is extremely limited, so having smartphone guidance is invaluable. The ride itself is not technical, though the climb up Whitney Portal Road can be a wind-sucking experience if you’re coming from sea level.
Regardless of how you string together this route, cutting through Alabama Hills on two wheels is an experience every mountain biker should have at least once.