The Most Majestic Locations Used In Popular Westerns

There are a myriad of reasons why people love watching Westerns. Not only do they have a ton of action, skilled acting performances, and great costumes, but they are usually set at a picturesque location. Whether it be the desert, mountains, or plains, here are the exact locations of the most memorable Westerns.

The Meaning Behind “Spaghetti” Westerns

a still from il grande silencio
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The term spaghetti Western refers to Westerns that were filmed in Italy. These movies were usually cheaper to make but still looked as though they were shot in America.

For example, the location of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Veneto, Italy was used as the filming location for the spaghetti Western Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence).

Ghost Ranch Hosted Numerous Westerns

cowboy on a horse in cowboys & aliens
Dreamworks Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Dreamworks Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Ghost Ranch is a popular filming location for dozens of Westerns such as City Slickers, No Country for Old Men, Cowboys & Aliens, and many more.

The 21,000-acre center can be found in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Also, artist Georgia O’Keefe used to live there and the location inspired many of her paintings.

Why Moab Is Used So Frequently

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in Rio Grande
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Westerns such as 1950’s Rio Grande and 1964’s Cheyenne Autumn were filmed in Moab, Utah. Moab is located in Utah and is often used as a Western backdrop due to its red-rock formations.

Not only have Westerns been shot here, but other films such as Thelma & Louise and 127 Hours used Moab as a primary location.

La Calahorra Showed A Realistic Western Backdrop

a still from once upon a time in the west
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

La Calahorra, Granada, Spain was used as a frequent shooting location for many Westerns because of its proximity to the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Western fans may recognize it from films such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and For a Few Dollars More.

Lake Powell Provided A Sense Of Adventure

Clint Eastwood in the outlaw josey wales
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

Not only is Lake Powell a popular vacation spot, but it has been used as a realistic Western filming location for dozens of films.

Lake Powell can be found along the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona and can be seen in movies such as The Outlaw Josey Wales, Gravity, John Carter, and Planet of the Apes.

Heading Out To Lone Pine

how the west was won movie still with a train and cowboy on a horse
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/MovieStillsDB

Lone Pine in Alabama Hills, California provides a rugged desert and snow-capped mountains that make it an excellent choice for hosting Westerns.

Western fans may remember Lone Pine from films such as How the West Was Won, Nevada Smith, and Joe Kidd. Those who visit Lone Pine may want to check out their Museum of Western Film History.

John Ford Loved Filming In Monument Valley

John Wayne in the searchers
C.V. Whitney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
C.V. Whitney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

The rock formations in Monument Valley made it one of the greatest locations for a Western. Monument Valley is right along the border of Arizona and Utah and is usually thought of as a quintessential Wild West area.

Famed director John Ford made 10 films here including The Searchers, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Chimayó Is A Southwest Gem

Sophia Bush in the hitcher
Focus Features/MovieStillsDB
Focus Features/MovieStillsDB

Chimayó, New Mexico is more of a lucrative Western filming location and their Plazo del Cherro is one of the last standing fortified Spanish settlements in the United States.

Not too many films have been shot here, but some include The Hitcher and Late for Dinner. Robert Redford wanted to film The Milagro Beanfield in Chimayó, but the locals thought it would bring too much attention.

Jackson Hole Continues To Be Used For Westerns

movie still from django unchained
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Westerns such as Django Unchained, Dances with Wolves, and Shane used the city of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as their picturesque filming location. The towering peaks of the Teton Range make Jackson Hole the perfect place to shoot a Western.

Fans of Django Unchained may not know that Leonardo DiCaprio struggled to play such as ruthless villain. He had to take pauses while filming his scenes to apologize for how he was acting.

Kanab Earned The Nickname “Little Hollywood”

the lone ranger still from the tv show
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Western TV fans probably remember the hit 1940s and 1950s show The Lone Ranger. That and several other Westerns were filmed in the town of Kanab, Utah.

Since it became a place favored by actors and directors, it earned the nickname “Little Hollywood.” The Lone Ranger fans should know that the “Hi-Yo Silver!” shout at the beginning of each episode was actually recorded from a radio broadcast in the 1930s.

Filming At Actual Native American Reservations

star wars return of the jedi scene in the desert
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB
Twentieth Century Fox/MovieStillsDB

The Hopi Native American village of Walpi dates back to 900 AD and it has been used as a scenic backdrop for a select few films. It’s now extremely difficult to be given permission to film there.

Filmmakers wanted to film in Walpi because of its dramatic cliffs and panoramic views. Not just an ideal spot for Westerns, films such as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were shot there.

Many Spaghetti Westerns Were Filmed At Cinecittà Studios

Cinecittà Studios exterior in Rome
Laurent Emmanuel/Getty Images
Laurent Emmanuel/Getty Images

One of the most popular filming locations for spaghetti Westerns was Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. Starting in the 1930s, spaghetti Westerns such as Once Upon a Time in the West and Seven Pistols for a Massacre got to film there.

Other well-known movies made at Cinecittà Studios include Romeo and Juliet, Zoolander 2, and Gangs of New York.

Cabo De Gata-Níjar Showed Off The Spanish Mountains

a fistfull of dollars still with Clint Eastwood
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The Cabo de Gata-Níjar National Park in Andalusia, Spain provided both a look of arid deserts and rugged mountains. Cabo de Gata-Níjar happened to be a favorite shooting location for director Sergio Leone.

Popular Westerns filmed at this Spanish national park include A Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven.

Westerns Filmed In This Ancient Spanish City

a still from duck you sucker
United Artists/MovieStillsDB
United Artists/MovieStillsDB

Guadix, Granada, Spain is centered on a high plain across the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Not only does this city have some breathtaking views, but it’s also the shooting location of some famous Westerns. Fans may recognize the town in films such as Duck, You Sucker! or A Fistful of Dynamite.

This Spanish Village Pays Homage To Spaghetti Westerns

for a few dollars more still with Clint Eastwood
United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The small Spanish village of Los Albaricoques pays homage to the iconic spaghetti Westerns of the past. Two of the most well-known filmmakers to work in Los Albaricoques are Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

They shot scenes from their Dollars trilogy and made sure to employ many of the locals.

A Historical Landmark Became A Fun Filming Location

for a few dollars more still with Clint Eastwood
United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Only in Andalusia, Spain will people find the Torre de los Alumbres. This historical landmark was built in 1510 and was made to protect the town of Rodalquilar from pirate raids.

Western fans may have spotted it in Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s movie For a Few Dollars More. It was used as the hideout for the antagonist, Indio.

What’s Special About Tampico

the treasure of the sierra madre with Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Something that sets Tampico, Mexico apart from other Western filming locations was that it was part of a historical cinematic moment.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was released in 1948 and was one of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location outside of the United States. Directed by John Huston, the film starred Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt as two outlaws joining forces with an old prospector (Walter Huston).

Westerns Go Hollywood

high noon still black and white Gary Cooper
United Artists/MovieStillsDB
United Artists/MovieStillsDB

While several Westerns were shot across the United States and all over the world, the majority were actually filmed in Hollywood.

The Iverson Movie Ranch and the Columbia Movie Ranch were just a couple of the special sets made to look like the Wild West. Some may remember that even the notorious Manson family lived in one of these types of sets at Spahn Ranch.

A Favorite Spot Of Clint Eastwood

unforgiven still with Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB
Warner Bros./MovieStillsDB

One of Clint Eastwood’s most successful Westerns was 1992’s Unforgiven. He played an aging outlaw alongside Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris.

While the movie is set in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, it was actually filmed mostly in Brooks, Alberta, Canada. Many parts of the town look like they’ve gone back centuries in time.

Going Down To Santa Fe

true grit still with Jeff Bridges
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Santa Fe, New Mexico has become a top location for Westerns. Films such as True Grit, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and No Country for Old Men were all made there.

There is plenty of vintage Spanish and Pueblo-style architecture and gorgeous views of the mountains. It also has a rich culture with plenty of art, museums, and more.