A dirt Movie Road meanders through Alabama Hills, leading towards the snow-covered peaks of a mountain range under a clear blue sky with a crescent moon visible above.

How to Elope in Alabama Hills in 2024

Planning Your Alabama Hills Elopement Wedding

Eloping is exciting, but it comes with its fair share of questions, especially when you’re looking at a place like Alabama Hills. Couples often wonder about the nitty-gritty: what it takes to get married in such an epic outdoor spot, how to make it meaningful without a big fuss, and how to navigate the logistics smoothly. This guide is here to help you figure out how to elope in Alabama Hills.

We’ll cover why this desert should be on your radar for an elopement, what you need to know about permits to make it official, and tips for picking the perfect spot and time for your ceremony. By getting into these details, you’ll be better prepared to plan an elopement that’s as chill or adventurous as you want it to be, all while keeping it stress-free.

A dirt Movie Road meanders through Alabama Hills, leading towards the snow-covered peaks of a mountain range under a clear blue sky with a crescent moon visible above.

Is Alabama Hills worth visiting?

If you’re thinking about eloping and love the outdoors, Alabama Hills is a spot you’ll want to check out. It’s got a cool mix of history and nature that makes it different from your usual wedding spots. For starters, the landscape is full of unique rock formations and natural arches.

It’s also been the filming location for tons of movies, like Iron Man and Django Unchained. Plus, it’s pretty accessible, which means you won’t have to hike for hours to find the perfect spot to exchange vows. In short, if you’re into a laid-back vibe and awesome scenery without the fuss, Alabama Hills could be just the right place for your elopement.

Where is Alabama Hills?

A scenic view at dusk with a dirt road leading towards the snow-capped mountains in the background, highlighted by the warm glow of the setting sun. The foreground consists of darker rocky terrain with sparse vegetation.

Alabama Hills is in California, right where the Sierra Nevada mountains meet the Owens Valley and two miles from the town of Lone Pine.

Closest Major Cities/Towns

Lone Pine is your go-to spot for anything you might need since it’s the closest town. Here you’ll find places to eat, sleep, and shop.

If you’re looking for bigger cities nearby, you’ve got a couple of options. Bishop is about an hour north if you’re up for a drive. It has more shops and some cool spots to check out. I recommend visiting Erick Schat’s Bakery for a sandwich or to take home some damn good bread.

For a major city experience, you’re looking at a bit of a trek to Los Angeles, which is about 3.5 hours away by car. It’s perfect for making a road trip part of your elopement adventure. Just remember, Lone Pine is your closest hub for quick trips and essentials.

Closest Airports

If you’re flying in for your Alabama Hills elopement, these are the nearest major airports:

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX / KLAX) – Approximately 220 miles to the southwest of Alabama Hills. LAX is a major international gateway with extensive domestic and international flight options.
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS / KLAS) – Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, about 230 miles east of Alabama Hills. It’s one of the major international airports in the region, offering a wide range of domestic and international flights.
  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT / KFAT) – This airport is around 284 miles northwest of the Alabama Hills in Fresno, California. It provides access to both domestic and limited international flights.
A black SUV is parked on a dirt road amidst a desert landscape with two people leaning on it, one standing by the driver's side door and the other sitting on the hood, both smiling and looking at the camera. Behind them, a backdrop of rugged, rocky terrain gives way to a range of majestic, snow-covered mountains under a clear blue sky.

How to Drive to Alabama Hills

Driving to Alabama Hills is pretty simple. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, you’ll hop on the US-395 N straight to Lone Pine. From there, turn left onto Whitney Portal Road. Turn right onto Movie Road and in just a few minutes, you’ll start seeing those cool rocks and hills.

There’s no big entrance gate or anything, so keep your eyes peeled for the rock formations. They’re hard to miss, but it’s easy to get caught up in the views. Cell service can be spotty, so downloading your directions ahead of time is a smart move. Also, gas up in Lone Pine; you won’t find any stations once you’re in the hills.

As of March 2024, the beginning of Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine is closed due to construction and there is a short detour around it. Check the Inyo County Road Conditions prior to making your trip to Alabama Hills.

Do You Need 4WD or 4X4 for Alabama Hills?

The short answer is, not really, but it depends on what you want to do. Most of the cool spots you’ll want to check out are right off the main road, and you can get to them with any car.

The main road is paved at the start, but it turns into dirt. It’s well-maintained though, and most cars can handle it just fine without a 4WD.

That said, there are a few places where having a 4×4 is required and other areas where AWD is highly recommended. But for the most part, you’ll be just fine without one. Just stick to the main areas, be mindful of your ground clearance, and you won’t miss out on much.

A dirt road cuts through a rugged desert, leading toward a range of towering mountains blanketed in snow, under a vast blue sky with a faint crescent moon visible. Foreground features scattered rocks and boulders typical of a high desert terrain, contrasting the smooth snow-covered mountain surfaces in the distance.

Alabama Hills Wedding & Elopement Permits

Here’s the deal with permits: you’re most likely going to need one. It’s not too complicated, though. The area’s managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and it’s common to ask anyone planning a wedding or elopement there to obtain a Special Recreation Permit.

An infographic illustrating the permit process for Alabama Hills, featuring five steps: 1. Contact the local BLM office, 2. Fill out the application, 3. Submit in advance, 4. Pay the fee, and 5. Wait for approval. The steps are represented by numbered circles with icons for a compass, pencil, lightbulb, gear, and checkmark, connected by a dashed line that winds down the graphic.

Wedding Special Use Permit

Getting information on a Special Use Permit for an elopement in Alabama Hills will involve a few steps. Here’s a breakdown to make it easier:

  1. Contact the Local BLM Office: Start by reaching out to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bishop Field Office responsible for Alabama Hills at 760-872-5000 or BLM_CA_Web_BI@blm.gov.
  2. Request Information: Ask about a Special Use Permit application for weddings or elopements. They will have a digital version to email you.
  3. Fill Out the Application: Complete the application with details about your elopement. This includes your preferred date, the exact location within Alabama Hills you’re eyeing, the number of guests, and any other specifics.
  4. Plan Ahead: Submit your application well in advance. The BLM office might need several weeks (or even months) to process your request, especially during busy seasons. Check with them for current processing times.
  5. Pay the Fee: There’s usually a fee for processing your permit and possibly additional charges based on the size of your group or the specifics of your event. The BLM office will let you know the cost when you apply.
  6. Wait for Approval: After you submit your application and fees, you’ll need to wait for approval.
  7. Receive Your Permit: Once your permit is approved, you’ll receive it from the BLM office. Make sure to keep it on hand during your elopement, as you might need to show it to BLM personnel on site.

Alabama Hills Entry Fees

There is no entry fee to visit Alabama Hills. It’s completely free to visit. Since it’s public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, they don’t charge any fees for you to explore.

Just remember, even though it’s free to enter, some events might still need a permit. But for just wandering around and enjoying the place, you don’t need to worry about paying to get in.

Best Locations for Your Alabama Hills Elopement Ceremony

View my Google Map of locations I have pinned for your Alabama Hills elopement ceremony and wedding portraits.

Use two fingers to explore and move around. Click “View Larger Map” to open up the map on your Google Maps app.

A natural archway of smooth, wind-eroded stone. The arch provides a unique perspective on the landscape, emphasizing the geological features that characterize the area.

Mobius Arch

Mobius Arch is a natural arch rock formation resembling a Möbius strip. If positioned right, you can capture Mount Whitney in the center of the arch. It’s about a 5-10 minute easy walk to Mobius Arch from the parking lot.

A dirt Movie Road meanders through Alabama Hills, leading towards the snow-covered peaks of a mountain range under a clear blue sky with a crescent moon visible above.

Movie Road’s Iconic Spot

Movie Road is the dirt road that winds through Alabama Hills. It’s famous for appearing in tons of movies like Django Unchained and Iron Man.

These are the exact coordinates to the iconic Movie Road spot: 36°37’16.1″N 118°06’59.4″W.

A campsite featuring a wooden picnic table, metal fire pit, and water spout is set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and a partly cloudy sky. To the left, a solitary tree provides shade over the desert vegetation and scattered rocks that dot the landscape.

Tuttle Creek

Tuttle Creek is a campground surrounded by amazing views of the Eastern Sierras.

I stayed at site #7 during my trip to Alabama Hills and enjoyed the picnic tables, fire ring, lantern holder, bathrooms, and comfort knowing there was a camp host on site. It’s a first come, first serve campground at $10 to reserve one of the 83 sites.

Cyclops Rock, a distinctive rock formation in the Alabama Hills, characterized by a large, eye-like arch set against a backdrop of blue sky and distant mountains. Sparse desert vegetation dots the arid landscape around the sandy-hued, weathered stone.

Cyclops Rock

Cyclops Rock is a rock formation resembling a giant eye, giving its name: “Cyclops.”

Elephant Rock, a notable geological formation resembling an elephant, situated in a desert environment with a striking blue sky and sparse clouds overhead. The rock's texture and shapes give the illusion of an elephant's skin and body, with the larger mass representing the head and a portion extending outward as the trunk, set against a backdrop of smaller rocks and distant mountains.

Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock is located near the start of Movie Road and looks like the trunk of an elephant head.

These are just some ideas to get you started. Check out the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce Movie Road Tour Brochure for specific movie locations. Other arches worthy of checking out are: the Eye of Alabama, Boot Arch, Hitching Post Arch, Space Case Arch, and Whitney Portal Arch. Here’s a guide to 72 arches in Alabama Hills, including GPS coordinates.

I also know of a less popular, stone building in the area that would be beautiful for a hike and creative photography moments.

Alabama Hills is an entire area to explore without specific site names. You can’t go wrong anywhere around these unique formations. Your wedding ceremony and portraits are sure to be epic anywhere!

The Best Time of Year to Elope at Alabama Hills

Spring or fall are your best bets for the comfiest weather at Alabama Hills. The weather’s cooler, and you won’t be sweating through your clothes. If you love the heat, summer is for you – but be warned, it gets really hot in the desert.

Winter’s chillier and might even surprise you with some snow, which looks cool against the rocks. But roads might be tougher to navigate. It can get extremely windy in Alabama Hills too, so don’t forget your tent stakes if you’re planning on camping. Or maybe consider camping in your car.

Alabama Hills Through the Seasons

Just remember, weather can change, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast and come prepared. Layers are your friend here since mornings and evenings can get chilly, even in warmer months.

Without limited shade coverage, pack sunscreen and hats to protect yourself from the sun, even on overcast days.

A solitary white cloud hovers above a dense cluster of weathered rocks and boulders in Alabama Hills, set against a clear blue sky.

Where to Stay Near Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills offers camping options on Movie Road, though very limited and some require off-roading to get to. There are nearby campgrounds with first-come, first-serve reservations.

Lone has you covered with many options including hotels, motels, Airbnbs, and VRBOs.

Map of campgrounds in and around Alabama Hills in California.


BLM Tuttle Creek Campground

Inyo National Forest Lone Pine Campground

Inyo County Portuguese Joe Campground

Alabama Hills Movie Road Dispersed Camping (Use this MAP as your guide)

Be sure to secure a campfire permit for free online and at sign the Alabama Hills Camping Agreement.

Alabama Hills Elopement Activity Ideas

Planning Your Timeline and Ceremony

Figuring out your timeline and ceremony for an Alabama Hills elopement doesn’t have to be a headache. Start by thinking about the light. Sunrise and sunset both are notorious for providing the most epic lighting.

Sunrise offers almost complete privacy as you catch the first light of day. As the sun begins to rise, it can create dramatic silhouettes of the rock formations. During the summer the cooler morning temperatures are ideal to escape the heat.

Sunset, on the other hand, is vibrant with oranges and blues as the sun begins to set. The residual heat of the day is enough to keep you comfortable as you explore the land at night. Stargazing can add a completely unique touch to your wedding album, as well as the alpine glow on the Eastern Sierra mountain range.

As your elopement photographer, I’ll take care of the logistics and planning so that you can enjoy stress-free elopement experience. We’ll take into consideration the activities you’re interested in, ceremony length, lighting, weather, and any vendor schedules. Here’s a few examples to help you imagine an elopement in Alabama Hills:

Elopement Timeline Samples

10-HR Elopement Timeline (without guests)

9:30 – 10:30 Share a cozy breakfast at your campsite for two.

10:30 – 2:00 Meet your local guide for a rock climbing excursion.

2:00 – 3:00 Get ready at your campsite.

3:00 – 3:15 Drive to Lone Ranger Ambush Point.

3:15 – 3:30 Exchange first looks.

3:30 – 4:00 Drive/Hike to Mobius Arch.

4:00 – 5:00 Enjoy a packed picnic lunch.

5:00 – 5:50 Explore the area and capture wedding portraits.

5:50 – 6:00 Drive to Movie Road’s Iconic Spot.

6:00 – 6:30 Exchange private vows at sunset.

6:30 – 7:30 Capture wedding portraits and bust out the lanterns!

10-HR Elopement Timeline (with guests)

9:30 – 10:30 Enjoy breakfast with your guests at your Airbnb.

10:30 – 12:00 Get ready separately, with or without vendors.

12:00 – 12:15 Exchange first looks.

12:15 – 3:00 Scenic horseback ride with all of your guests.

3:00 – 4:00 Have lunch in Lone Pine.

4:00 – 4:30 Drive to ceremony location.

4:30 – 5:00 Ceremony with friends and family as guests.

5:00 – 5:30 Capture photos with guests.

5:30 – 6:00 Say farewell to guests and venture off to wedding portrait location.

6:00 – 6:30 Exchange private vows at sunset.

6:30 – 7:30 Capture wedding portraits and night-sky lantern photos.

Rugged rocky outcrops in the foreground give way to a stunning view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, whose jagged peaks are draped in snow and partially shrouded by wisps of cloud against a soft blue sky. The natural contrast in textures between the sharp, craggy rocks and the smooth snow-covered mountains creates a striking and dramatic landscape.

Alabama Hills Elopement Packages

I offer personalized Alabama Hills elopement packages starting $3,800 to help you create the best elopement experience.

  • Experience 4 hours to a day and a half of exploring Alabama Hills
  • Location research to find spots that feel just right for you.
  • Personalized elopement timeline
  • Vendors and activities recommendations
  • High-quality, edited digital gallery
  • Access to a private online gallery with the freedom to print/share
  • Get a sneak peek of your photos within a week after your elopement.
  • Rest easy knowing all photographer travel expenses are covered.
  • Receive assistance in obtaining the necessary permits for your day.

Final Tips for Eloping at Alabama Hills

Here are some final tips to ensure your Alabama Hills elopement goes smoothly and becomes a day to remember:

  • Check the Weather: Alabama Hills can have unpredictable weather depending on the season. Be prepared with clothing options for hot days and cool evenings.
  • Stay Up to Date on Road Conditions: Double check road conditions prior to starting your trip. Whitney Portal Road may be closed due to snow, require chains, or have a detour in place.
  • Secure Necessary Permits: Make sure to obtain any required permits for your ceremony well in advance.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect the natural environment by following Leave No Trace principles. Pack out what you bring in, and be mindful of the delicate desert ecosystem.
    • Don’t crush the brush.
      • Stick to established trails and roads whether by vehicle or on foot, by bicycle or horseback.
    • Pack it in, pack it out.
      • Take out all waste including trash, recycling, dog waste, and human waste. Free dumpsters are located at the Tuttle Creek Campground.
    • Pick up after your pet.
      • Pets are welcome; they must be kept on a leash. Please pick up after your pet.
  • Have a Backup Plan: Nature is unpredictable, so having a plan B for your ceremony location can save you from last-minute stress.
  • Stay Hydrated: The desert can be deceivingly dry. Carry plenty of water.
  • Take Your Time: Don’t rush through your elopement day. Allow yourselves to enjoy every moment, from the vows to the stunning scenery.

Eloping at Alabama Hills offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate your love in one of nature’s most magnificent settings. With a little preparation and these tips in mind, you’re set for an unforgettable experience.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

I help couples by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

Your Southern California Elopement Photographer, planning expert, and adventure pal.

I'm here to empower you to create memories that will last a lifetime.

About Karen

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