While it may be a tiny town, there is definitely no shortage of things to do in Lone Pine. Given its superb location between Mt. Whitney, which is the highest mountain in the lower 48, and the superb Death Valley, the lowest elevation point in the US, Lone Pine attracts outdoor and adventure seekers all year round. It is located off of the famous Highway 395 and is a great place to stop and explore while in Inyo County. Lone Pine is well-known for its historical links to Western films, beautiful hiking trails, and world-renowned fishing locations. It’s a great pitstop if you plan to take a day trip to Death Valley, and worthy of your consideration on your next trip in California.
Best Things to Do in Lone Pine
Get your fix with these incredible outdoor activities in Lone Pine, ranging from hiking to photography to fishing.
But first: Don’t miss the other California guides to the Eastern Sierras!
1. Alabama Hills
Head to Alabama Hills to observe some very funky landscapes; it is one of the best Lone Pine attractions. The giant, eroded rock formations have drawn in visitors for decades due to their beauty and the area has even been used as backdrops of Western movies. As you explore Alabama Hills, you will find groupings of natural arches and a large offering of hiking trails.
If hiking isn’t for you, don’t worry. Even driving through Alabama Hills allows you to soak up the natural beauty and landscape. However, be sure to fuel your car in advance and pack snacks and a sufficient amount of water. While there is a small visitor center at the entrance of Alabama Hills with a few bathrooms, there are no additional amenities. Alabama Hills is also a popular area to camp, with spring and fall being the most popular times as summer and winters tend to waver between extreme heat and cold.
2. Mt. Whitney
One of the most popular Lone Pine attractions is to head to Mt. Whitney, a mountain that stands over 14,000 feet tall hovering over the Eastern Sierras. Its massive height makes it the tallest mountain in the Continental US. Despite its high elevation, it is actually possible to complete a round trip summit within a day! Keep in mind that this is a challenging summit totaling 22-miles (35. 4km) roundtrip. Fortunately, during the beautiful weather in the summer, you don’t even need mountaineering equipment to help you reach the peak.
Be aware that you will need a permit to access the trail. Due to the increased popularity of Mt. Whitney’s trail there is now a permit system to control the access. You’ll need to apply online through the lottery permit system months in advance and you’ll then be notified if you have received a permit or not through email. If approved, you’ll pick up your permit at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center.
3. Lone Pine Lake
If you can’t obtain a permit to Mt. Whitney (or don’t have time for the 22-mile round trip hike), Lone Pine Lake is a great backup option. You actually share the same path as Mt. Whitney for 2.7 miles (4.3km) before reaching Lone Pine Lake, which gives you a taste of the mountain trail. Once at the lake, you’ll need that required permit to continue past the spur trail. Lone Pine Lake itself is stunning; the crystal clear waters show the reflection of the snow-capped mountain backdrop contrasting the sandy desert terrain. Campers will be excited to learn there are a few campgrounds within 20-30 minutes of the trailhead for Lone Pine Lake with a range of cost per night.
4. Mobius Arch Loop Trail
Within the Alabama Hills recreation area, you’ll want to find the Mobius Arch Loop Trail. It is an easy hike that takes about an hour round trip and has a slight elevation increase to 65 feet. There are brown markers and rocks lining a path throughout the trail to let you know you are on the correct path. The 0.6-mile (0.9km) loop leads you to the incredible rock formation of Mobius Arch.
The arch itself is about six feet tall and seventeen across, making it a standout site in the desert. You can also head further down the trail to see other famous arches such as Lathe Arch (a smaller arch off the main trail) and Heart Arch (which has formed into a heart shape). Keep in mind there are no amenities here, so plan ahead to bring water.
5. Whitney Portal Road
Just off of Highway 365, lies Whitney Portal Road, which is a scenic mountain road in the Sierra Nevadas. The drive will take you a portion of the way up Mt. Whitney (13 miles to be exact), providing spectacular, elevated views of Inyo County. While driving through the winding road you’ll have incredible panoramic views of Alabama Hills. There are several pull outs along Whitney Portal, allowing you to safely pull over to enjoy the view and take pictures.
While the road is fully paved, plan to drive the route starting late spring through late fall for the best driving conditions. In the winter the road can get fairly icy and snowy and, if conditions are too extreme, Whitney Portal Road is closed as a safety precaution.
6. The Museum of Western Film History
Howdy! Check out the Museum of Western Film History to learn about Lone Pine’s major role in Hollywood. For years, Alabama Hills was used as the setting and backdrop for hundreds of Western movies and TV shows. The giant rock formations offered the perfect, compelling desert landscape and is even still been utilized for more recent movies!
The museum displays various movie props, posters, set costumes and more to pay homage to the Westerns that made the landscape here so famous. One can easily spend a few hours perusing through this time capsule. For Western film fans, be sure to pick up a map that calls out the locations of where famous Western movies and scenes were filmed.
7. Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center
One of your first things to do in the area will be to stop by the Eastern Sierra Interagency Center. It’s located south of Lone Pine at the cross-section of Highway 395 and State Route 136. Here, you’ll find all of the information and resources you need regarding permit requirements and pick-up. The rangers here are extremely knowledgeable and can assist in providing more information about Lone Pine attractions, ideal trails for your skills level, and any other questions you may have.
Note: this is the only place you can pick up your permit for Mt. Whitney Trail if you received one via the lottery system. In addition to assisting with permits, this is also your go-to spot for any general visitor center questions.
8. Manzanar National Historic Site
One must-see on your list of what to do in Lone Pine is a visit to the Manzanar National Historic Site. It is the site of one of the 10 Japanese concentration camps during World War II. While this is a difficult period of US history to remember, it is important to pay homage and respect to what some of these individuals had to endure, so we never repeat the past.
On-site you can complete self-guided tours and the site also provides itineraries of what to do if you only have time for 1 hour, 2 hours, a full day, etc. Its recommended to spend time walking through the visitor center, where museum exhibits showing snippets of life before and after the war, photographs and artifacts, and a model of the Manzanar Relocation Center recreated by formerly incarcerated people of Manzanar. There are additional buildings on site (the former hospital and the cemetery monument) to visit if you have more time.
9. Death Valley National Park Day Trip
Death Valley is less than a two-hour drive from Lone Pine, making it a perfect day trip or addition to your trip to the Eastern Sierras. Death Valley National Park is massive, covering over three million acres, and is also known as the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. While you are at Death Valley, make sure you head to some of the must-see spots:
- Badwater Basin: These salt flats are located in the lowest point of North America.
- Artists Drive: Enjoy a scenic drive down a one-way road.
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Incredible sand dunes up to 100ft tall.
In addition to incredibly scenic drives, there are a variety of hiking trails. Rangers on-site can provide you with maps and options of easy to difficult hikes. If you’re traveling with children, be sure to look into the Death Valley Junior Ranger program. Your child will grab a booklet from the visitor center, complete some activities, and then have a ranger sign-off and present a badge!
One of the top Lone Pine attractions is fishing: bait, lure or fly! Diaz Lake tends to be one of the most sought-after fishing locations in Inyo County. It is located just west of Highway 395 and offers year-round fishing. Locals brag about the amounts of rainbow trout and largemouth bass. Lake Diaz is also home to the annual Early Opener Trout Derby in March, with a grand prize of $800.
Some additional popular areas to fish include Cottonwood Lakes, the Meysan Lakes, and Taboose Creek. Don’t fret about missing out on the fish; the Lone Pine streams and lakes are stocked with fish often from the California Department of Fish and Game, so no matter where you choose to fish, there should be plenty ready to bite.
Where to Stay in Lone Pine
Given Lone Pine is a small town, there are only a few options for accommodations. Check out these places to stay in-town for convenient access to wake up and enjoy all of the things to do in Lone Pine.