You are here

Reader Participation Day: Which Movie That Incorporates A National Park Setting Is Your Favorite?


National parks have served as backdrops for countless movies. Death Valley National Park played a role in Star Wars, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, of course, was prominently featured in North by Northwest, and Thelma & Louise drove through parts of Canyonlands National Park.

The list rolls on, not unlike credits at the end of a movie:

* Devils Tower was the focal point of Close Encounters of the Third Kind

* Arches National Park was glimpsed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

* Planet of the Apes landed at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

* Denali National Park and Preserve was a backdrop for Into the Wild

* Fans of Westerns know that Shane rode across the Grand Teton National Park landscape

* Dances With Wolves used Badlands National Park

There are more, but you get the idea. So, which movie with a national park backdrop is your favorite, and why?


ISTR part of the Mel Gibson movie Maverick was filmed in Yosemite Valley.

But my favorites are Dances With Wolves and Close Encounters, in this category. I remember in particular being absolutely astonished at how beautiful DWW made South Dakota look, my memories at the time of South Dakota being of the drab landscape you see from I-90.

The Shining didn't really incorporate any NPS setting (or even claim to) and wasn't filmed on any NPS site. The interior shots were patterned after the Ahwahnee Hotel, but were on a soundstage. The exterior shots were from the Timberline Lodge, which is on Forest Service land (Mount Hood NF to be exact).

How about "Jouney to the Center of the Earth" or "King Solomon's Mine, both of which were partially filmed at Carlsbad Caverns?

Don't forget about The Shining.

Although on the screen for a short time, the St Mary's entrance of Glacier Park is shown during Gump's running episode in the movie "Forest Gump".

127 Hours - James Franco plays a hiker who gets trapped in Canyonlands and has to cut off his arm to escape.

A few other movies come to mind:

Wind Across the Everglades

The Far Horizons, which includes views of the Grand Tetons

Yellowstone, which was a B-movie from 1936 and which can be seen at the Internet Archive

Getting back to the original question though, it's a toss up between North by Northwest and Close Encounters. But I also agree with Ranger Paul, and think a national park is no place to film a big budget movie. A few establishing shots with a small scale location crew maybe, as in North by Northwest, but not one that interferes with other visitors' enjoyment of the park.

As far as I'm concerned, few movies can rival the scenery, plot, and acting in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969). Much of it was filmed in and near Zion National Park.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments