Michael Kunde

5 Days   •   1005 Miles

Southwest Silver Screen

See silver screen cowboys and real ones, too. This five-day itinerary will take you to famous film backdrops and to the real Old West.

Even if you haven’t been to Utah before, chances are you’re familiar with Utah’s vistas from the silver screen. Utah has been the backdrop to numerous Hollywood flicks for almost 100 years, from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “Indiana Jones.” This five-day itinerary for film fiends will take you to famous locations and put you in the saddle like you’re in a Western.    

It’s hard not to imagine yourself on horseback chasing down outlaws or hiding away from the marshal when you’re scrambling around the red rocks and canyons in Moab. If you want to have your very own “City Slickers” experience, you can hop in the saddle for a few days at Tavaputs Ranch or Rockin’ R Ranch.

You can see John Ford’s most famous backdrop in Monument Valley, where you can imagine John Wayne riding across the vista or you can find the exact point where Forrest Gump stopped running. You’ll be transported to another planet in Goblin Valley’s Martian landscape. Then, be taken back in time at Gifford Homestead, a striking 110-year-old farm framed by cliffs.

The last two days of your trip are all about the spirit of the Old West. Go to an amateur rodeo where the real cowboys ride or drive through Johnson Canyon and its rugged backcountry scenery. If you’re in town at the right time you can brush elbows with Western film stars at the Western Legends Roundup or with 1,000 sheep at the Cedar City Livestock Festival. After this week you’ll have lived the West, not just watched it.

See day-by-day options in Base Camp Kanab or explore more itineraries.

Day 1

City Slicker or Road Tripper

130 Miles

If you’re inspired by the rugged frontier legacy of the American West, you may choose to head for a Southern Utah dude ranch and learn the traditional ways of the men and women who shaped this land. In that case, save a week and call ahead for Tavaputs Ranch or Rockin’ R (details on day 5). For the rest of you, this road trip through the best of the Hollywood West and the real West begins in Moab. You can orient yourself to the region’s history at the Moab Museum of Film and Western History at Red Cliffs Lodge then head for the sites. Overnight in Moab.

Day 2

Canyonlands to Monument Valley

225 Miles

Imagine running your cattle on this land. Before Canyonlands was a national park, folks surely tried. Cave Springs is a small, family-friendly loop trail that goes by ruins of historic ranching operations. As you drive toward Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on U.S. 163, something about the scene in your windshield may be familiar. Suddenly, it hits you. Forrest Gump Point. We hope you’re not so tired you opt to return home. In Monument Valley proper, book a Jeep tour to see the iconic West as John Ford and John Wayne saw it. Overnight in Monument Valley.

Day 3

Monument Valley to Capitol Reef

300 Miles

Today pays respect to the natural backdrops of "Galaxy Quest" and "127 Hours." You’ll also revel in the archaeological significance of Horseshoe Canyon and enjoy the hikes through the whimsical Valley of Goblins. Regular cars can tackle the unpaved road to Horseshoe Canyon in good conditions, but it is slow going regardless. Campers may elect to overnight at the BLM campground. Because Horseshoe Canyon is remote, you may opt to bypass it for a longer stay in Goblin Valley before a stop at the Gifford Homestead for a taste of pioneer living and homemade pie. Overnight in Torrey.

Day 4

Capitol Reef to Kanab

200 Miles

Heritage celebrations fill most weekends in Southern Utah during the season of long days and warm evenings. July is a popular month for amateur rodeos thanks to Independence Day (July 4) and Utah’s Pioneer Day (July 24), which marks the day settlers first arrived in the territory. Fireworks regularly brighten the night skies. In August, it’s all classic Westerns at the Western Legends Roundup. No matter the day, a road trip up Johnson Canyon takes you through the scenic American West, including an old movie set where “Gunsmoke” was filmed. Overnight in Kanab.

Day 5

Kanab to Cedar City

150 Miles

Follow Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Snow Canyon, and stay for the spectacular geology and diverse outdoor adventure. Grab a meal in St. George (see additional experiences below) or head for Cedar City where, if you’ve timed your vacation right, you’ll find yourself amid the Cedar City Livestock Festival, which is exactly what it sounds like and so much more. It's a true Western heritage celebration.

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