California’s Eastern Sierra Itinerary: Hot Springs and Movie Scenes

Looking for an epic weekend getaway from Los Angeles? Head up scenic highway 395 and explore the Eastern Sierras. This area has plenty of amazing things to do year-round, including world-class skiing, scenic hiking & backpacking, natural hot springs, and awesome dispersed camping. Use my guide to plan your weekend adventure! 

Friday: Los Angeles to Alabama Hills

Pick up your Cabana from the Los Angeles location and hit the road in style! It’s about a 3.5-hour drive from LA to Lone Pine/Alabama Hills, which will be your home base for the night.

Once you get out of LA and onto the 395, it’s an open road with a scenic mountain view in the background. This drive is one of my favorites in California! The views are unmatched, and there are quite a few fun stops you can make along the way.

Once you reach Lone Pine, turn left onto Whitney Portal Road, drive for about 2.5 miles before turning right onto Movie Road for the entrance to Alabama Hills. 

Alabama Hills scenery

The iconic area of Alabama Hills is one of the most incredible spots to camp in California. The unique geological rock formations in the foreground contrasting with the Eastern Sierra mountains in the background has made this spot famous among photographers and nature-lovers. Alabama Hills is also a popular filming location for old western films, as well as more modern movies such as Iron Man. Because Alabama Hills is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), that means you can camp here for free! Just make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles, and check back frequently on the BLM site for updates on the rules and regulations for this area before your trip. 

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Camping on Bureau of Land Management Land

Pick your spot to camp, park your Cabana, and soak in the scenery! Take a short hike to the iconic Mobius Arch: a natural rock arch formation that perfectly frames Mt. Whitney in the background. Take some photos at the famous Movie Road spot. Cook dinner with a view, relax on the queen bed, take a hot shower, and settle in to your amazing spot for the night. The stargazing in Alabama Hills is incredible. 

Want more details? Check out Ready, Set PTO’s blog post: The Ultimate Guide to an Alabama Hills Camping Trip

Saturday: Alabama Hills to Benton Hot Springs

I highly recommend waking up for the sunrise on Saturday morning. Alabama Hills is one of the best sunrise spots in California! Cook breakfast with a view, check out a few more of the natural rock arches, and then time to get back on the road! 

Instead of backtracking from the road you arrived on, keep on driving through the other side of Alabama Hills so that you can see all of it before reconnecting back on the 395. From here, it’s about a 1.5-hour drive to your next destination: Benton Hot Springs.

Hot spring campsite

There are many natural hot springs in this area, but often (especially on the weekends) you’ll have to share the hot spring tub with several other people. Sometimes you may even have to wait for people to leave before there is enough room for you to get in. 

However, this is not the case at Benton Hot Springs! Benton Hot Springs is an inn and a campground. The campsites each come with their own private natural hot spring tub. You must reserve your campsite ahead of time, but this means that you won’t have to share your hot spring tub with strangers. You’ll have the whole spot to yourself! 

Each of the campsites are spread out enough to ensure privacy, and the hot spring tubs are kept super clean. The views from the hot springs are incredible! The campsites themselves are equipped with picnic tables and a fire ring. It’s a great spot to relax with friends, soak in a natural hot spring, and enjoy the incredible views of the Eastern Sierras. 

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Eastern Sierra camping views

The closest town is Bishop, about 40 miles away. Make sure you stop here for food beforehand if needed! There is a Vons to pick up groceries. If you’re looking for restaurants, check out Looney Bean for delicious and healthy breakfast/lunch options and Bishop Burger Barn for some of the best grass-fed burgers ever. 

Benton Hot Springs is also only 1 hour away from Mammoth Mountain. If you find yourself with extra time, head up to Mammoth for skiing, or to check out the beautiful Convict Lake and Twin Lakes. 

Sunday: Back to LA! 

After a luxurious morning hot spring soak, it’s time to hit the road back home. Don’t forget to stop at the famous Schat’s Bakery in Bishop to bring home some delicious baked goods (or to eat as a road trip snack!)

If you’re looking to break up the 5-hour drive back to Los Angeles with some exciting stops, you’ve got options. Consider stopping at Fossil Falls if you’re interested in seeing some crazy cool volcanic rock formations. Buy some beef jerky at the little white shack covered in stickers called Gus’s Jerky (it may look sketchy, but trust me – the beef jerky is legit!)  Admire the beautiful colored formations at Red Rock Canyon State Park. 

So, what are you waiting for? Book your Cabana and hit the road for this epic California adventure. 

If you loved this itinerary, read more on Lauren's blog and follow @readysetPTO on Instagram and TikTok. Want to take this trip? Add Trip Planning to your Cabana booking for a complimentary curated itinerary.

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