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5 Classic Films Shot in National Parks

Zion National ParkNot all movies use back lots and special effects to get that special outdoors look. National parks have served as a backdrop to Hollywood films since 1910. If you're a movie buff who hasn't explored the great outdoors yet, let this list of classic films shot on National Park Service lands be your gateway into the wider world of camping.

The Quick and the Dead (1987): Parts of this film were shot in Arizona's Wupatki National Monument. The land was originally home to the predecessors of the Hopi and Zuni people and has since been excavated and studied by archaeologists. The pueblos and canyons make for a beautiful landscape -- and it's easy to see why location scouts chose Wupatki as a backdrop for this Western. The film was also shot in the nearby Coconino National Forest and Kaibab National Forest.

North by Northwest (1959): The national memorial Mount Rushmore serves as a pivotal setting for this Alfred Hitchcock adventure. It's not hard to imagine Cary Grant running from spies in a death-and-death chase to freedom across this park. Just make sure you imagine it and don't act it out; Hitchcock himself ran into controversy for his action sequences.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): For this classic Western, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) -- the ultimate criminals on the run -- took advantage of the scenery in Utah's Zion National Park. Once you're there, you'll want to stay for the mind-blowing scenery. Besides the multitude of trails to lead you around the sandstone, there are many naturally occurring arches that are a wonder to behold in person.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940): This John Steinbeck classic novel-turned-film about the Dust Bowl exodus utilizes the Petrified Forest to re-create a journey many have taken through Arizona. The park has some great views and plenty of finds to keep paleontologists, archaeologists, and others -ists busy for a long time. But main attraction is really all the petrified wood, which is some otherworldly mix of logs and stone.

Spartacus (1960): Death Valley National Park has served as a location for multiple films, including Star Wars Episode IV -- A New Hope. In Spartacus, the first sequence in the quarries was filmed in the Nevada park. While it would be no fun to try to reenact labor-intensive scenes, taking advantage of the hiking, biking, and camping opportunities available in this 3-million-acre park could lead to a memorable vacation that becomes a family classic.


-- image courtesy of iStock/lightphoto

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.


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