Everything you could ever want is just a short drive away from Lone Pine. To drive to hell, turn right onto State Route 190 at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center, to drive into a granite wall, take a left at Whitney Portal Road toward the tallest mountain in the lower 48. The town is a confluence of extremes; Death Valley to the east, Mt. Whitney to the west and the vast expanse of the Owens Valley floor.
In the 1870s, Lone Pine was a supply town for mining operations in Keeler, Swansea, Kearsarge and Cerro Gordo, one of the biggest silver producers California in the 1870s. Paddle boats carried charcoal across Owens Lake to the mines. The Owens Lake in now the Owens Dry Lake, emptied by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the early 1900s. After decades of lawsuits, the department has now spent over $1 billion to keep the dust down on the lake that produced the most unhealthy air conditions in the world.
Check out the Southern Inyo Museum on West Bush Street for old photos, natural history and mining exhibits.
Hollywood found the Alabama Hills in 1919 as the ideal Western setting for cowboy movies; giant orange colored rocks, rolling hills and the jagged peaks of the Sierra in the background. Hundreds of movies have been shot near Lone Pine, from Hopalong Cassidy and Gunga Din to Iron Man and Django Unchained.
Walter Dow saw Hollywood coming and built the Dow Villa Hotel in the 1920s to accommodate the rush, and has been recently remodeled. There is plenty of modest lodging in town from the Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Budget Inn to the Comfort Inn and the Whitney Portal Hostel located in the center of town.
The Alabama Hills is a destination to itself. The giant, blocky statues of stone stretch on for miles and miles, offering rock climbing, horse and bicycle trails, movie locations and spectacular wildflower blooms.
The Museum of Western Film History has maps to locations and props from the movies like a worm from the cult-classic Tremors. It hosts the annual Film Festival in October and movies on the weekends in the summer.
Mt. Whitney, at 14,495 is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the biggest attraction in Lone Pine. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people attempt to reach the summit every year. The drive to the Whitney Portal and the trailhead is just as majestic as the climb. The portal is a great place for picnic but be mindful of the bears.
The town is situated at about 3,700-feet elevation and lies in the shadow of Mount Whitney to the west and the Inyo Range to the east. About 2,000 currently reside there.