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12 Fun & Best Things to Do in Lone Pine, California

12 Fun & Best Things to Do in Lone Pine, California

If you’re wondering, the tiny town of Lone Pine, California, was named after a lonely little pine tree found at the mouth of the (now) Lone Pine Canyon. Unfortunately, a flood eventually destroyed the town’s namesake, but the eponymous town was already growing due to the gold rush.

The search for gold allowed Lone Pine to become a supplier to the nearby mining communities of Darwin, Cerro Gordo, and Kearsarge. However, the town has a storied history, with a deadly earthquake in 1906 and the shameful housing of Japanese Americans in the Manzanar relocation camp during WWII.

Despite its history, Lone Pine is a fantastic place to visit, with 20 square miles of natural beauty between the Inyo Mountains to the east and the eastern peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west. It’s hard to believe that Lone Pine is only a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco.

When you visit Lone Pine, you can hunt for massive ancient trees and natural arches. In addition, you can go mountain biking, scope out hiking trails, camp at Lone Pine campground, and fish for rainbow trout at the numerous national parks nearby.

With so many fun things to do in Lone Pine, California, it’s hard to believe that the town’s population is barely 1,500. Even with the small population, you can enjoy Lone Pine things, such as Alabama Hills, the Whitney Portal Store, or the Western Film History Museum when you visit.

 TLDR

If you’re visiting Lone Pine and need a few quick ideas of fun things to do, look no further. This quick list should get you started!

  • Most significant landmark – Mount Whitney
  • Best park – Alabama Hills
  • Best free activity – Nightmare Rock
  • Best activity for kids – Museum of Western Film History
  • Best activity for adults – Mt. Whitney Golf Club
  • Best food – Seasons Restaurant
  • Best nightlife – Jake’s Saloon
  • Best all-around accommodation – Dow Villa AAA Motel & Historic Hotel

Best & Fun Things to do in Lone Pine, California

1. Mount Whitney Trail and Lone Pine Lake

Mount Whitney Trail and Skyline
image by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: Located in Inyo national forest @ Mount Whitney Trailhead

The Mount Whitney Trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 23-mile hike climbing the tallest mountain in the continental United States and the highest mountain in California at over 14,000 feet.

Beginning at Whitney Portal, the hike has an elevation gain of over 6,000 feet. Those that are prone to altitude sickness may have problems with the quick altitude increase. Because of this, some people hike in the lower trails for a few days to acclimate to the altitude and then go slowly up the mountain.

If you want to hike Mount Whitney, you must first obtain a permit from the Visitor Center or book ahead right here. In addition, make sure you bring a basic medical kit and plenty of water.

If you are not up for Mount Whitney, the Lone Pine Lake Hike is a beautiful and less strenuous hike. To do this moderate hike, start at the same trailhead as the Mount Whitney trail.

It is the same path as Mount Whitney for a few miles. While there is a slight elevation gain, most hikers won’t have problems with altitude sickness as with the Mount Whitney trail.

The Lone Pine Lake trail will take you through streams and beautiful scenery to Lone Pine Lake, which is a perfect spot for a picnic.

See Related: Best California Road Trips

2. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Scenery

Address: In Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, CA 92328

Death Valley is a two-hour drive from Lone Pine, but the sand dunes are worth every minute in the car.

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are an excellent place to study nature and have fun in Death Valley National Park. However, all of the dunes in Death Valley are protected, so off-roading on the dunes is not allowed.

While offroading may not be allowed, the National Park Service allows sledding or sandboarding down the dunes. This is a must-do item for kids and families! While the view across the dunes is expansive, the tallest dune is only about 100 feet.

These sand dunes are the most well-known dunes in Death Valley, with multiple types of dunes covering a vast area. This area’s three types of dunes include star-shaped, crescent, and linear.

Pro tips: Bring plenty of water! Also, expect to walk at least two miles along the dunes. While it may not seem difficult, hiking in the sand differs from other terrains. If it’s a windy day, be prepared with eye protection, as moving sand can sting the eyes and skin.

Death Valley National Park has an entrance fee, but no permit is required to hike on the dunes.

There are several tours (self-guided and group tours) of Death Valley National Park that include the dunes:

3. Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site Monument
image by MPSharwood is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: 5001 Highway 395 Independence, CA 93526

The Manzanar National Historic Site is a necessary stop if you want to learn more about the history of Japanese Americans in World War II. Located near Lone Pine, Manzanar is off Highway 395 in Independence.

While the town of Manzanar (Spanish for “apple orchard”) began as an agricultural settlement in the early 20th Century, it was only a few decades before the town became an internment camp for Japanese Americans.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the military to imprison Japanese Americans for having “foreign enemy ancestry.”

Under this order, the military took the liberty to imprison over 120,000 Japanese American people under armed guard, forcing them to leave their homes and businesses behind.

The Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of ten Japanese internment camps during World War II. Almost all the internment camps were located in deserted areas on the west coast.

Manzanar imprisoned roughly 10,000 Japanese Americans for 3 1/2 years, from March 1942to November 1945. In 1992 Manzanar was named a California Historical Landmark as a reminder of this shameful chapter of US history.

In May of 1942, the first of what would be 150 Japanese prisoners died at Manzanar. A total of 15 prisoners were buried in the Manzanar cemetery in an old peach orchard, while the others were cremated. Manzanar now houses one of many World War II memorials.

Travel groups can request a ranger-led tour if planning to visit Manzanar National Historic Site.

See Related: Best Place to Visit in the US

4. Dow Villa AAA & Historic Hotel

Historic Dow Hotel Building
image by Booking.com

Address: 310 S Main St, Lone Pine, CA 93545

In Hollywood’s early days, Lone Pine was a beautiful backdrop for many western movies with the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Alabama Hills. With the sudden influx of movies coming to the area, actors, directors, and producers needed a place to stay. Enter the Dow Hotel in Lone Pine.

Built in the early 1920s, this historic Lone Pine hotel served as lodging for the Hollywood western moviemakers. In the 1950s, the owners built a large addition using the old church next door. The new addition became known as the Dow Villa Hotel.

The Dow Villa AAA & Historic Hotel in Lone Pine has been family-owned since 1957 and still shows some old, refined Hollywood design.

Many people credit the original owner of the hotel, Mr. Walter Dow, for bringing prosperity to the small town of Lone Pine. Without available lodging, many western movies would’ve been produced elsewhere, and Lone Pine may not be where it is today.

Interested? Book tickets to the Historic Lone Pine Hotel for your next getaway to Lone Pine!

5. Mobius Arch Loop Trail

Mobius Arch Loop Trailhead
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: Movie Flat Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545

If you came to Lone Pine for the hiking trails but aren’t quite up for the adventure of Mt. Whitney, Mobius Arch Loop Trail might be for you. The area has beautiful views of the Alabama Hills and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

From Lone Pine, take the Whitney Portal for three miles. You’ll see the trailhead for Mobius Arch Loop Trail at the end of Movie Flat Road.

It is just over half a mile on flat land, passing through beautiful views of the Alabama Hills boulders. It is an absolute must to come early to see the sunrise with the glowing yellow and orange mountains. You will likely see many visitors doing sunrise photo tours here.

However, sunrise is not the only time to visit. There is beautiful scenery no matter what time of day you visit, with majestic rock formations and other Alabama Hills arches.

Not quite sure how to get there? Head to the Bureau of Land Management’s site for directions to Mobius Arch Loop Trail.

See Related: Most Exotic Places in California to Visit

6. Museum of Western Film History

Museum of Western Film History Building
image by Paul Hermans is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 701 S Main St, Lone Pine, CA 93545

The city of Lone Pine is known for western movies because of the beauty of the Alabama hills. When Hollywood discovered Lone Pine around 100 years ago, they shot their first feature film, a silent western movie. Between 1920-1950, Hollywood made more than 300 films in Lone Pine, mostly westerns.

So, it’s only natural for Lone Pine to have a Museum of Western Film History. The museum exhibits memorabilia from the earliest silent westerns to some more recent films. The museum highlights the importance of landscapes in film, with the Alabama Hills, Sierra Nevadas, and Owens Valley.

The Museum of Western Film offers a map of western movie locations in Lone Pine and surrounding areas so you can do a self-guided tour of western film history.

Some examples of western movies filmed in Lone Pine are Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, Alias Smith and Jones, How the West Was Won, and North to Alaska.

Interested in seeing some of the movie locations?

Check out the Museum of Western Film’s website for a map.

7. Alabama Hills Cafe

Alabama Hills Cafe and Bakery Shop
image by MrHelper/TripAdvisor

Address: 111 W Post St, Lone Pine, CA 93545

If you’ve worked up an appetite while climbing Alabama Hills’ boulders or hiking Mt. Whitney, the Alabama Hills Cafe in Lone Pine is a great choice for refueling.

The cafe is known for its generous portions and extensive menu, including breakfast, soups, desserts, and snacks.

Don’t be fooled by its low-key exterior, as the food makes up for any lackluster decor.

 If you order the Chicken Fried Steak, it supposedly comes on three plates- one with the steak, another with the sides, and the third one with a biscuit.

Although going to restaurants with kids can be challenging, you will surely find something they will like here. In addition, they have paintings of Alabama Hills on the walls, telling the kids to try to find certain unique rock formations. It’s almost like a game of Where’s Waldo?, but instead, Where’s the Rock Formation?

In short, you’ll likely leave here refueled and ready for an afternoon nap. Check out their menu and hours here.

See Related: Best Holiday Destinations for Couples

8. Eastern California Museum

Eastern California Museum
image by Gitte T/TripAdvisor

Address: 155 N Grant St, Independence, CA 93526

The Eastern California Museum just outside of Lone Pine reflects Inyo County’s rich history and the culture of Owens Valley. A group of knowledgeable volunteers founded the museum in 1928 to showcase the area’s history and culture.

Since 1928, the area’s history has become even more storied, so the collection has become even more significant.

There are many exhibits, including the building of the LA Aqueduct, Manzanar, Native American baskets, and Pioneering Women of Inyo County. However, the big draw for children is usually the big steam locomotive called the Slim Princess.

The Slim Princess traveled daily from Laws to Keeler until 1955, when she was retired. In 2017, the museum brought the refurbished locomotive to the museum’s Historic Equipment Yard.

The Eastern California Museum is definitely a place to go to learn about the Lone Pine culture and history.

Before heading to see the Slim Princess, first, check the museum’s hours.

9. Whitney Portal Area

Whitney Portal Campground
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: located at the end of Whitney portal road in Inyo national forest

Located 13 miles west of Lone Pine, the Whitney Portal area is in a heavily wooded canyon on Whitney Portal Road with a fishing pond, stream, picnic area, and three campgrounds.

If you plan to hike Mt. Whitney, you will start at the Whitney Portal trail. The portal is also the trailhead for trails such as the Mountaineer’s Route and the East Face (Mount Whitney).

In addition to campgrounds and a fishing pond, the Whitney portal also includes a restaurant, store, bearproof storage facilities, and a hotel. Many people who plan to hike and explore the Eastern Sierras start at the Whitney portal.

Whitney Portal Road is a 13-mile scenic drive in California that showcases the Alabama Hills to Owens Valley.

To either refuel after a day outdoors or carb load before a strenuous hike, check out the Whitney Portal Store. Serving up pancakes larger than the plate, the store also provides bear canisters for purchase or rental. They also carry hiking, camping, and fishing supplies for the portal visitors.

Store staff are also knowledgeable about trail conditions, weather, possible hazards, and any other local information.

If you’re ready to plan your Mt. Whitney trip, click here for campsite reservations, apply for a permit here, and book your stay at the Hotel and Hostel here.

See Related: Northern California vs Southern California: What’s the Difference?

10. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Address: 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271

If you’re looking for things to do in Lone Pine, California, you may not think about Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Although it’s located roughly four hours from Lone Pine, Three Rivers is worth the drive.

There is so much to do in the parks, including hiking, giant tree seeking, rock climbing, wildlife watching, picnicking, camping, and backpacking. The giant sequoias are like nothing else you’ve ever seen. You can view them from your car, or you can hike to remote sequoia groves to see less touristy spots.

Climbing up Moro Rock, a large granite dome, gives you a spectacular view of the foothills thousands of feet above the highway. Pro-tip, make sure you wear good shoes, and pack plenty of water.

There are 350 steps to the top of Moro Rock, but thankfully there are handrails to help guide you along. Moro Rock might be too much for young kids, but older kids should enjoy the views and counting the seemingly endless stairs to the top.

Children and adults alike will enjoy watching the wildlife in the park, such as black bears, mountain lions, pikas, mule deer, bats, and birds.

There are plenty of overlooks during the scenic drive through the park, so you don’t have to leave the comfort of your car. Three different scenic drives to consider are:

Generals Highway from the Sequoia Park Entrance to Lodgepole (an hour one-way)

Generals Highway from Lodgepole to Grant Grove (45 minutes to an hour)

Grant Grove to the Kings Canyon and Cedar Grove (45 minutes to an hour)

You can also experience a self-driving audio tour, a private guided hiking tour, or a full day private tour to Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

See Related: California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

11. Golden Trout Wilderness

Golden Trout Wilderness Scenery
image by CaliforniaDFW is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: located in inyo and sequoia national forests Inyokern, CA 93527

Located just 25 miles from Lone Pine, California, Golden Trout Wilderness is an area of over 300,000 acres at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada. The area is located in Inyo and Sequoia National Forests. It is a federally designated wilderness area in Inyo County.

There are hundreds of miles of scenic hiking trails and rivers, with options for overnight camping. The area was named after the state fish of California, the Golden Trout. The fish is native to the Cottonwood Lakes.

The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is a popular trail located between Mount Langley and Cirque Peak. The hike begins with a sandy trail, and after a mile, you will see Cottonwood Creek. There are different trails that shoot off from the loop, so you can head to New Army Pass, South Fork Lake, or Muir Lake.

While you can make a day trip to the area without a permit, any overnight visit requires a permit. Access the overnight permit applicationfor Golden Trout Wilderness here.

See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World

12. Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center

Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center Skyline
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: US-395 & CA-136, Lone Pine, CA 93545

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Lone Pine, California, a visit to the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is a necessity. The Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is located at the junction of Highway 395 and State Route 136 in Lone Pine.

You can obtain any necessary permits for hiking Mt. Whitney and any other trails at the visitor center. It also provides maps, access details, and fire regulations for different trails in Inyo County.

You can also get the most up-to-date information on Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, and Death Valley National Park.

If you want to see Mt. Whitney but don’t plan on climbing it, you can see it at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center. While Mt. Whitney has the highest elevation in the area, you can also see the lowest place in North America at Badwater Basin in Death Valley.

The Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is staffed by various agencies (hence the name) to provide visitor information regarding campgrounds, wilderness, and highway and weather conditions in the Eastern Sierra.

So if you’re looking for fun things to do in Lone Pine make sure to stop here.

Visit the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center website for more information on permits that they provide.

Getting around Lone Pine, California

Mount Whitney in Lone Pine

While there are many ways to get to Lone Pine, California, you may wonder what transportation is like within the city. To explore Lone Pine, you will likely need a car.

Unfortunately, there is no bus service or public transportation in Lone Pine or the surrounding towns. Nor are there private taxis or services like Lyft or Uber.

If you don’t plan on offroading or driving on dirt roads, a standard sedan or SUV should be perfectly suitable. However, if you plan on driving the mountain or dirt roads or going to Death Valley or Alabama Hills, you will need a 4-wheel drive SUV for your trip.

FAQ

What are the best things to do in Lone Pine, California, with kids?

The Lone Pine area has a lot of fun things to do with kids. Probably the most fun thing is the foothills of the Eastern Sierra, also known as the Alabama Hills. The Alabama Hills are large boulders and unique rock formations that are fun to climb.

Kids of all ages can spend hours climbing the rock formations in Alabama Hills. And if you’re wondering,”Is Lone Pine, California, worth visiting?” Absolutely! Families and adults alike will enjoy the gateway to Death Valley and Mount Whitney.

And within an hour’s drive, you can see both the highest and lowest elevations in the United States. 

What are the best places to visit in Lone Pine, California?

Because Lone Pine is located in the eastern Sierras, there are some amazing views and breathtaking spots to hike and camp. If you want more information about fun things to do, check out the Lone Pine Chamber for more information.

The Alabama Hills are a must-see for children and adults, as well as Diaz Lake, Cottonwood Lakes Basin, Furnace Creek, and Horseshoe Meadow Road.

What are some things to do in Lone Pine, California, when it’s raining?

Unfortunately, rain can damper outdoor water activities like Owens Lake, Diaz Lake, or Lake Tahoe. But, the Eastern Sierra town of Lone Pine also offers indoor activities such as the Western Film History Museum.

Western film history celebrates movies made in Lone Pine over a 100-year span. If you visit Lone Pine in October, you can also check out the Lone Pine Film Festival.

What is Lone Pine, California, known for?

If you are an outdoors person that loves nature, Lone Pine is definitely worth visiting. With so many camping, backpacking, hiking, and fishing options, you will find something to do that satisfies your nature needs. 

If you’re looking for free things to do in Lone Pine, check out the following: Horseshoe Meadow Trail, Mobius Arch Loop Trailhead, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Creek, Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, and Owens River. 

What are the best Lone Pine, California, tourist attractions?

Lone Pine is located in the Eastern Sierras, and some of the best tourist attractions include outdoor activities such as Alabama Hills, Lone Pine Lake, Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine Creek, Diaz Lake, and Owens Lake.

If you have your California fishing license, you can also fish for trout and bass in any of the streams, rivers, and lakes. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Lone Pine, California, these tourist attractions will surely be a hit. 

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