A favorite subject of photographers and filmmakers, the Alabama Hills Natural Arch, also known as Mobius Arch, can be found off Movie Road in Lone Pine, California. A lovely contrast to the towering escarpment of the eastern Sierra Nevada, the massive boulders scattered throughout the Alabama Hills have been chiseled away leaving impressive holes through the center forming perfect archways.
While the rocks of Alabama Hills are identical in composition to the 14,000 foot peaks looming above, the difference in appearance is the result of the weathering processes. Up high, the freezing, expanding and thawing of rainwater and melting snow has caused the more chiseled splintering of the granite seen at Mount Whitney. Down in the warmer Owens Valley, the Alabamas took shape when the climate became drier, and erosion slowly stripped away the soil mantle, exposing and shaping the piles of boulders. Water and wind continue to shape the landscape and rocks to this day. The beige and blacks in the mottled coloring are the result of being stained for millions of years by the oxidation of the iron minerals in the rock.
The Alabama Hills have become a popular setting for many movies and numerous commercials. The Alabama Hills Natural Arch is easily accessed via a drive down the famous Movie Road that intersects with Whitney Portal Road about 3 miles west of Lone Pine. Following a sharp turn to the east, the Alabama Hills Stewardship Partnership has placed a small sign and constructed an easy-to-follow trail to the arch. With Mt. Whitney visible through the arch, this spectacular natural landmark provides a picture-perfect setting in a tumbled landscape.
The unusual name Alabama Hills came about during the Civil War. In 1864 Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine discovered gold "in them thar hills." When they heard that a Confederate cruiser named the Alabama had burned, sunk or captured more than 60 Federal ships in less than two years they named their mining claims after the cruiser o celebrate. Before long the name applied to the whole area. Coincidentally, while Southerners were prospecting around Lone Pine, there were Union sympathizers 15 miles north near Independence. And when the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsarge in 1864, the Independence people struck back. They not only named their mining claims "Kearsarge" but a mountain peak, a mountain pass, and a whole town as well.