Exploring Landscapes, Legends, and Loss in the Owens Valley
The first half of your day is witnessing the heartbreak of the historic World War II internment camp, Manzanar, followed by learning the stories of Westerns filmed here. Then, walking in the footsteps of Hollywood giants. After lunch, experience the remnants of this lava-shaped landscape.
Photo: Justin Meissen
Photo: Justin Meissen
48.3 mi50 min
09:452 hrs 30 min
Wander the grounds where roughly 10,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during most of World War II. The site includes recreated buildings, photographs, oral storytelling, and interactive displays, as well as the 8,000 square feet of exhibits at the Manzanar Visitor Center. There’s a 3-mile looping trail that explores what’s left of orchards, original buildings, and a Buddhist cemetery. If you have the time, the short documentary about the site that plays regularly in the visitor center is worth watching.
10.4 mi15 min
Museum of Western Film History
The Museum of Western Film history has an extensive collection of props, cars, posters, costumes, exhibits, and more that focus on the role the Eastern Sierra landscape played in hundreds of movies, including more than 300 Westerns. The nearby Alabama Hills, the Owens Valley, the Sierra Nevada, and Death Valley all served as backdrops to some of the more iconic films in Hollywood history. Get familiar with the visual storytelling before picking up a copy of the self-guided tour of “Movie Road” in the nearby Alabama Hills.
1.7 mi5 min
Alabama Hills National Scenic Area
Anyone who’s ever seen a Western film has probably seen the Alabama Hills, a stark landscape of rounded rock formations and hills polished smooth by the elements, with the jagged Sierra peaks in the background. Drive up Whitney Portal Road and take the self-guided tour of “Movie Road," exploring the shooting locations featured in more than 400 movies.
1.8 mi5 min
Grilled Meat Restaurant
After all the cowboy scenery, it makes sense to stop here, one of the best stops on Route 395 for classic American fare served with a smile. The menu is seriously meat-focused, including the Grill's pork chops, steak frites, full rack of BBQ pork ribs, or New York steak flambee, all of which are served with your choice of two sides. Seafood and vegan options are also available.
46 mi50 min
16:151 hr 30 min
Oddly enough, Fossil Falls isn't a waterfall. And it doesn't have fossils. The site is a lava field with a deep, winding gorge that was carved and polished by rushing water, granite, and wind from various Ice Ages. Either from above the gorge or down inside it, admire the bizarre shapes — pockets, chambers, loops — as well as the petroglyphs chiseled by indigenous inhabitants as much as 10,000 years ago. Just north of Fossil Falls is another testament to the volcanic nature of the landscape, Red Hill, a cinder cone likely formed 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Experts believe there was volcanic activity at Red Hill as recently as 600 years ago.
36.3 mi40 min
18:301 hr 30 min
French cuisine in the Mojave Desert? Yes, please! Mon Reve serves wonderful "French country" meals, the kind of food the French make for their families. Nearly everything is homemade (not the French bread, however), and the French onion soup, the lamb chops, and the coq au vin are all top-notch.
1.4 mi5 min
20:1511 hrs 30 min
SpringHill Suites Ridgecrest
A modern mid-range property that focuses heavily on amenities, including free Wi-Fi, parking, breakfast, and a pool. The site is central to most shopping and dining in Ridgecrest. The spa tub is a welcome respite after a full day of exploring the Eastern Sierra and the northern end of the Mojave Desert.