Southwest Silver Screen
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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.
- Moab Movie Locations
- Fisher Towers
- Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Creek Winery
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.
It’s difficult to pick a single filming location in Moab given its popularity with Hollywood. Better to just invite you to explore one of Utah’s — and the nation’s — top outdoor adventure towns and provide a checklist of Moab Movie Locations from which you can pick your favorite. Learn more about all Moab has to offer below.
The Fisher Towers are centerpieces of one of Southeastern Utah’s most bizarre landscapes. The 2.6-mile trail twists through the towers, dipping into sharp canyons and traversing beneath vertical cliffs to its far southern terminus, forming a 5.2-mile round-trip hike.
The rustic and comfortable lodge is 14 miles up the Colorado River on scenic Hwy 128 in a classic, rugged Western landscape worthy of Hollywood. It’s also an adventure base camp and is home to both the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage and the award-winning Castle Creek Winery.
- Cave Spring Hike
- Forrest Gump Point
- Monument Valley Jeep Tour
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.
Take a journey through the ancient past and slickrock flats on this small, family-friendly loop trail that goes by ruins of historic ranching operations and rock art of Ancestral Puebloans. A couple of safety ladders may make the trail unsuitable for smaller children. Photo courtesy Casey Schreiner / Modern Hiker
Sometimes a memorable movie scene becomes so iconic it makes it onto the map. With Monument Valley as the backdrop, this is the point on U.S. 163 where Forrest Gump finally stopped running after three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours. You’re going to want to grab a snap.
Book a tour of Valley Drive (which you can also drive on your own if you have the right vehicle) or a longer trek such as Mystery Valley, accessible only with a licensed guide. A Jeep tour visits the iconic sites, but is accompanied by a Navajo narrative.
- Horseshoe Canyon
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Gifford Homestead
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.
The remote Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park contains some of the most significant rock art in North America. Check road conditions before traveling the long, graded dirt road. There’s camping on BLM land and a strenuous but rewarding hike into the canyon. Portions of the movie "127 Hours" were filmed here.
Goblin Valley is unlike any other place in the world, and it's a place that captures and stretches the imagination, challenging you with its geologic whimsy. Bring the family and experience this amazing place by hiking, camping, mountain biking, and exploring the surrounding canyons. "Galaxy Quest" fans may recognize the landscape too.
Take a walk back in time and learn about Capitol Reef’s early pioneer life at the Gifford Homestead Museum and store. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a freshly-baked piece of pie — your taste buds will thank you. Open March through November.
- Amateur Rodeos
- Western Legends Roundup
- Johnson Canyon Road
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.
For many Southern Utah residents, rodeo is not just about nostalgia for the Wild West’s cowboy days — it’s a way of life. Come see what the excitement is all about!
The last weekend in August, celebrate the history of classic Western movies at this annual round-up where you can enjoy all things Western from cowboy music and autograph sessions with movie stars to tractor pulls and quick draw contests.
One of Southern Utah’s great scenic drives, the Johnson Canyon Road showcases remnants of the Old West including the old "Gunsmoke" film set and excellent views into the colorful Grand Staircase. Drive the 18 paved miles or continue down the dirt road to access recreational areas.
- Snow Canyon State Park
- Cedar City Livestock Festival
- Rockin R Ranch
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.
Cut by water, sculpted by wind and time, Snow Canyon’s Navajo sandstone cliffs share the same history and geology as Zion National Park, one hour to the east. It is a national park-caliber destination in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve that is popular with road cyclists, hikers, climbers and families.
Cedar City’s tranquil downtown gets a little wild and wooly late in October when the annual Sheep Parade herds its way through town and 1,200 sheep follow the historic Cedar Livestock Trail from Cedar Mountain to their winter home in the Cedar Valley. It’s part of a multi-day Western heritage celebration. Photo courtesy Roxanne Sutton on Flickr.
The rejuvenating atmosphere of this real-life dude ranch is the experience of a lifetime. If you visit the ranch, you’re sure to have a rockin’ good time! In all truth, Rockin' R is a full vacation destination, so if following this Western itinerary seems like a hassle, book your full stay here.