Disney' and Jerry Bruckheimer's new twist on the classic action Western film The Lone Ranger opened nationwide yesterday, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
Most of the film's scenes were shot in the wild and vast landscapes of Utah. So trekking through this great Western state is as close as you can get to feeling like you were actually in the movie. (That and walking around with a black mask on. Or face paint.) Monument Valley, Arches National Park, the Colorado River, Canyonlands National Park, and the outdoor-adventure lovers' city of Moab—not to mention the state's gorgeous red-rock arches and boulders—are thrust into the spotlight in this film. It's easy to see why: this state is home to five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, and 43 state parks.
The Utah Office of Tourism has put together a five-day itinerary throughout the state that takes travelers to The Lone Ranger's filming locations. This itinerary is not for the pampered traveler. Instead it's for curious, adventurous minds unafraid of wandering down dirt and gravel roads, and possibly getting wet or dirty. River rafting, hiking, bouldering, mountain climbing, and cycling are the best ways to see this gorgeous, unspoiled region although the view from the safety of your car isn't all that bad either.
Day 1: Highway 128, Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, and Arches National Park
This highway is not only a practical route—as the gateway to the Colorado River, Negro Bill Canyon, and Big Bend—it's also scenic. Whip out your cameras along the ride, which provides jaw-dropping views of cliffs, canyons, and the Colorado River. There's even a winery: Castle Creek Winery, at the entrance to Castle Valley and Professor Valley, which hosted The Lone Ranger for filming.
Day 2: Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands National Park
Even if you're leery of hairpin points along the road, you will want to suck it up just this once because the view from Dead Horse Point (hint: this is where the spirit platform scene was filmed) is well worth it. Inside Dead Horse Point State Park, which carries a modest $10 entrance fee, lies a trail system perfectly suited for both hikes and mountain-biking excursions that are as easy as one mile and as difficult as nine miles. There is also a $10 entrance fee at another recommended park stop—Canyonlands National Park—packed with opportunities to take photos and hike.
Day 3: Colorado River Drive along Scenic Byway US-279
Petroglyphs carved hundreds of years ago by Anasazi, Fremont, or Ute Indians are a natural wonder that would be a shame to miss while in Utah. To find them, look for the "Indian Writing" sign along Scenic Byway US-279. Once you're there, you have three recommended hike options: Corona Arch up Bootlegger Canyon (across the trailhead is a filming location for The Lone Ranger: the Gold Bar Campground), up the Moab Rim Trail, or a trek to the top of Moab Rim (the gorgeous views of the Colorado River and La Sal Mountains are your reward).
Day 4: Monument Valley
Have you ever craved feeling like you're in a Hollywood Western? Make like a location scout and cruise into Monument Valley just before dawn. As the sun rises you'll see why this is a prime time for shooting. Many commercials and movie scenes, including a few in The Lone Ranger, have been shot here at this exact time of day. For a $5 entrance fee, plus a little bit more for a half- or full-day jeep tour, you will be in the the hands of a tour guide who can dish about the region's archeology and history, much of it linked to Navajos.
Day 5: Return To Moab
The last leg is often the saddest. Not on this trip. In driving from Monument Valley to Moab, you're traveling through not only filming sites for The Lone Ranger, but many other movies too as this is a popular location for stellar backdrop shots. You'll probably see the exact scenery again—in some other movie.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo credits: Courtesy of The Utah Office of Tourism