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The State Once Called 'Little Hollywood' Celebrates 100 Years of Filming With Roadtrip-Ready Movie Locations

Utah Road Trips
by Alex Bresler May 21, 2024

From Salt Lake City to Zion National Park, Moab to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah is one of America’s most cinematic states. It makes sense, then, that Utah has long served as a filming location for movies and TV shows — so much so that the city of Kanab once bore the nickname “Little Hollywood.” This year marks an impressive milestone for Utah’s connection to the screen: There’s a statewide celebration of Utah’s 100-year impact on film and television underway.

While movies have been shot in Utah since the 1920s, some of the first films to put the state on the cinematic map were Westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. In 1969, the same year that the film was released, Redford bought a 5,000-acre plot of land in Utah and opened the Sundance Mountain Resort, a nod to his titular role. A decade later, the Utah Film Commission launched what’s now known as the Sundance Film Festival to celebrate and market independent films, with Redford as chairman of the board. A couple of years later, the actor started the nonprofit Sundance Institute that now runs the festival, the largest independent film festival in the country.

In addition to celebrating a century of film and TV in Utah, 2024 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Utah Film Commission. Throughout the year, movie buffs will be able to attend a variety of film-centric events in Utah, from exhibitions to screenings. These events will honor classics shot in Utah, from early works like The Covered Wagon, to 1990s icons like Thelma & Louise and The Sandlot, to newer blockbusters like Mission: Impossible II and High School Musical.

TV fans also have their share of content to celebrate, with highly rated projects such as Westworld and Yellowstone using Utah as a backdrop.

That means that 2024 is an especially good year for a Utah road trip. Visit Utah has put together an exhaustive map of filming locations across the state, making it easy for movie buffs to chart an itinerary based around their favorite films and TV shows. If you’re more keen on touring the state while uncovering some big-screen Easter eggs along the way, here are two road trip ideas along the Utah Film Trail to get you started in your celebration of the state’s cinematic centennial.

Northern Utah and the Wasatch Mountains

Brought to you by Visit Utah

Northern Utah is home to both outdoor recreation areas and cities that play double duty as famous Utah destinations and popular filming locations. Start your road trip in Ogden where the first and second seasons of the TV series Yellowstone were shot downtown. Scenes from two memorable 1990s movies were also filmed in Ogden: You may recognize the Lorin Farr Community Pool from The Sandlot while Ogden High School and Kirt’s Family Drive-In in North Ogden both feature in Drive Me Crazy starring Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier.

From Ogden, drive south to Salt Lake City. Several films shot scenes here, including more of The Sandlot, all three High School Musical movies, the fourth and fifth installments of the Halloween franchise, the titular SLC Punk! (1998), Legally Blonde 2 (2003), and Midsommar (2019).

The rest of Salt Lake County and the formidable Wasatch Mountains east of Utah’s capital have featured in their share of movies and TV shows, too. For one, the Aspen mansion where Jim Carrey tracked down his love interest, Mary, in Dumb & Dumber was actually filmed at La Caille Restaurant in Sandy, Utah, near the Alta and Snowbird ski resorts. In winter, you can ski the same slopes as John Cusack’s character in the 1985 film Better Off Dead (1985) at Snowbird or head east to Brighton to see where the cabin in the 2014 adaptation of novelist Lois Lowry’s The Giver was set at the Silver Lake Summer Resort.



Once you’ve had your fill of the mountains, exit via the nearby cities of Payson, Lehi, and American Fork in Utah County to see where parts of the 1984 Footloose film were shot. You’ll pass by a few more filming locations as you head west toward the Bonneville Salt Flats, an otherworldly locale that’s hosted several film crews over the years. Make Skull Valley your first stop to see where Will Smith dragged an alien across the desert in Independence Day. Once you reach the Bonneville Salt Flats area, see how many films you can name with a familiar-looking setting. (Hint: The Tree of Life (2011), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007), and The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) starring Anthony Hopkins all shot scenes there).

To round out your film tour of Northern Utah, head to the city of Wendover on the Nevada border and stop by the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum. Once a training base for the World War II bomber that dropped the first wartime atomic bomb, Enola Gay, the airfield also featured in the 1997 cult classic Con Air and can also be spotted in scenes from Independence Day (1996) and Hulk (2003).

Notable stops: Ogden, Salt Lake City, Utah County, Bonneville Salt Flats, Wendover
Total distance: 272 miles
Total drive time: 4 hours

Southern Utah: East to West

Brought to you by Visit Utah

Southern Utah has been contributing to movie magic for decades. Looking east, you’ll find settings that have featured in both blockbusters and Academy Awards winners and nominees. The southwest corner of the state, on the other hand, is the best place to visit in Utah if you’re charting a course around classic Westerns.

To see it all, start your road trip on I-70 near the Colorado border to see where parts of Thelma and Louise (1991) were shot. South of the interstate, around Moab and Arches National Park, you find more filming locations for Thelma and Louise and many other movies: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1991), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), 127 Hours (2010), and Mission: Impossible II (2000) among them — the opening scene of Mission: Impossible II featuring Tom Cruise’s character free soloing a massive cliff was filmed at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Next, head south toward the Arizona border. In and around Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, you’ll see the desert road where Tom Cruise’s titular character in Forrest Gump (1994) abruptly stops his three-year cross-country run and where Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer filmed scenes for The Lone Ranger (2013). Deep dive into Visit Utah’s map to see what other movies, including Back to the Future Part III (1990) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), also filmed in the area.


Zack Frank/Shutterstock

A few more filming locations skirt the Arizona border en route to Utah’s southwest corner, notably the iconic crash-landing site from Planet of the Apes (1969) at Lake Powell. From there, stop in Kanab (“Little Hollywood”) where both the Gunsmoke and Westworld TV shows set up film crews, as well as the team behind The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). You can still visit what’s left of the historic Kanab Movie Fort film set dating back to the 1950s and swing by the Little Hollywood Movie Museum for Old West nostalgia while you’re in town.

Up next is one of the highlights of this itinerary: Zion National Park where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was filmed, as well as the Grafton ghost town. From there, St. George will be your final stop, with side trips to the surrounding cities and towns — what else to films like The Electric Horseman (1979), Romancing the Stone (1984), and High School Musical 2 (2007) have in common? If you’re a fan of the Disney franchise, play a round of golf at the Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club, just like Troy Bolton did at the fictional Lava Spring Country Club in HSM2.

As an added attraction, stop by the Electric Theater in St. George. Founded in 1911, it was the first theater in Southern Utah dedicated to motion pictures — today, it hosts a variety of exhibits and performances, from art shows to music and comedy.

Notable stops: Moab, Arches National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Lake Powell, Kanab, Zion National Park, St. George
Total distance: 576 miles
Total drive time: 17 hours

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