The Academy Awards are just about on us again. It seems like every year the hype gets bigger and the movies less memorable. And when was the last time Hollywood made a good dog movie anyway? But I digress. There are some great movie "sets" out there to go hiking with your dog. Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota where Kevin Costner filmed Dancing With Wolves, Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia where Jon Voight climbed up the rock wall in Deliverance, and Dead Horse State Park in Utah where Susan Sarandon drove her 1966 Thunderbird convertible off the cliff in Thlema and Louise, to name three.
But the one I want to focus on here is Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California. If you've ever watched a western or the opening to the Lone Ranger you wila recognize this place as you hike with your dog. The Alabama Hills consist of rounded, weathered granite boulders placed across a desert flatlands that form a sharp contrast with the sharply sculptured ridges of the nearby Sierra mountains. These majestic backdrops and rugged rock formations began attracting the attention of Hollywood, 212 miles to the west, in the 1920s.
You can hike with your dog along Movie Flat Road, a wide, dusty dirt road that runs through the Alabama Hills and is one of the most recognizable movie sets in Hollywood history. Beginning with Tom Mix in the silent era, every major Western star rode down the road on horseback at one time or another. Roy Rogers appeared here in his first starring role in Under Western Stars and Bill Boyd, known on the screen as Hopalong Cassidy, filmed so many roles in Lone Pine that he moved here.
The Alabama Hills hosted one of the largest location shoots in history when 1200 extras staged the climactic battle scene in Gunga Din. Other notable westerns among the more than 100 films shot here include The Lone Ranger, How The West Was Won, and The Gunfighter.
Although the golden age for Lone Pine has gone the way of the Hollywood western, film crews occasionally still appear. Bad Day at Black Rock (Spencer Tracy/Robert Ryan) used the area to build an entire town along the railroad tracks in 1955 and, more recently, Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon battled giant earthworms in the Alabama Hills in Tremors.
The canine hiking in the Alabama Hills is along wide dirt roads for the most part and you won't find any canine swimming holes so make sure to bring plenty of drinking water, especially in hot weather (you are less than a two-hour drive from Death Valley). And keep an eye out for movie crews. You dog may be the next big star.
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