Whitney Portal Arch

Trek Date: October 10, 2015

It was a great day for a hike.

The day before:

I spent the night in Lone Pine, one of my favorite towns on US 395. Had I known it was a movie festival weekend I might have gotten there a day early to see exactly what that was all about. Maybe next year. The town was filled, but I was able to find a room at the Timberline Motel. It was located within walking distance of downtown Lone Pine. Of course, anywhere in Lone Pine is within walking distance of downtown Lone Pine. 

Earlier in the evening, I stopped by the Lone Pine Films History Museum, something everyone with an interest in Western movies should do. After wandering through several rooms of amazing Western movie memorabilia, I bought an Alabama Hills T-Shirt and a book entitled, Arches of the Alabama Hills by Orlyn Fordham. I read through most of the book later that night and picked out a couple arches to visit, from the 72 contained in the book. The actual total number of arches in the Alabama Hills is well over 300.

The day after the day before:

I had decided to visit two of the "Big Three" arches of the Alabama Hills; Whitney Portal Arch and Mobius Arch. Fordham's book easily guided me to the trailhead for Whitney Portal Arch. T-Red was the only car in the area; I got my gear and set off to Find The Arch.

The first portion of the trail is quite easy to follow.

Almost immediately after leaving the parking area, the trail dips down a shallow ravine and a footbridge crosses Lone Pine Creek.

After crossing the creek and climbing up the other side of the ravine, the trail heads northwest, with amazing views of the Sierra Nevada and Mt. Whitney (at an elevation of 14,494' at the summit, it is the highest mountain in the continental United States). 

Whitney Portal Arch is actually visible from Whitney Portal Road, if you can spot it. As I hiked along the trail, it would tend to blend into the rocks around it, but a focused look would bring it right back into view.

When I reached the point on the trail where I was nearly due south of the arch, I struck off across the desert floor directly towards the arch. I was careful to follow the advice of movie directors of old, which was "Don't crush the brush."

The ground soon began to rise a bit and the rocks in the distance began to become more distinct and alien.

One last small ravine to descend and then climb. The arch seemed to be keeping its eye on me as I made my way closer.

I was almost to the base of the arch. Fordham stated in his book that someone had left an aluminum ladder at the arch, which could be used to get a great shot of Mt. Whitney through the arch opening. I was eager to get there and get that shot.

Whitney Portal Arch from the west. The opening is approximately 7 feet across.

Whitney Portal Arch from the easterly-ish. Upon arriving at the base of the arch, I searched in vain for the ladder, but it was nowhere to be found.

A view of the valley. Hard to believe I once climbed the trail to the top of that mountain, many years ago.

Without the ladder (and without risking all the bones in my body), this was as close as I could come to capturing the arch and Mt. Whitney in the background. Somewhat disappointed at not being able to get the "money shot," I began my return trek to T-Red.

Even though I wasn't able to capture the Whitney view through the arch, it was still an excellent hike and I was glad to have seen Whitney Portal Arch in person. The hike is approximately 1-1/2 miles, roundtrip and took less than an hour. Definitely worth a visit. BYOL.

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