Movies Shot in Moab

“Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp as Tonto, and Armie Hammer as the ‘masked man,' filmed Summer 2012
See trailer with Moab scenes here

“After Earth”, a sci-fi with Will Smith and son, Jaden Smith

John Wayne:
Stagecoach, 1938
Fort Apache, 1949
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949
The Searchers, 1956
The Comancheros, 1961

Rock Hudson
Taza, Son of Cochise

Maureen O’Hara
Rio Grande


Billy Crystal
City Slicker II

Tom Cruise
Mission Impossible

Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon
Thelma and Louise

Movie details from Where God Put the West, by Bette Stanton. 

All Trails Lead to the Moab Canyons
Endurance News, Feb. 2009

What do John Wayne, The Marlboro Cowboy, the infamous Outlaw Trail, and the historic Old Spanish Trail, have in common?

They all traveled through the famous Canyonlands country surrounding Moab, Utah.

Everyone has seen pictures of the Moab Canyons sometime in their lives.  From 1938 to 1961, John Wayne made 6 western movies between here and Monument Valley.  Rock Hudson, Maureen O-Hara, Tom Cruise, Billy Crystal, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, just to name a few, have left their acting marks on the redrock spires of the Moab Canyons.  The sandstone mesas provided the backdrop for the Marlboro Cowboy ads.  Famous Directors like John Ford and Steven Spielberg have directed famous scenes in front of these towering sandstone skyscrapers.

A Premier Endurance Ride seemed only fitting to continue the legacy of the Old West and return the echoes of hoof beats to the sandstone mesas.

Camped above the 1000 ft chasm of Hell Roaring Canyon, hundreds of riders and horses gathered at this old cow camp to enjoy the natural wonders of Canyon Country. For three days we explored these mysterious crevasses, weaving in and out, climbing over and above.

Robert Redford in his book The Outlaw Trail described these meandering canyons as

“Areas where nature has displayed her temper, warping and twisting the land in violent configurations of spires, mesas, deep, dark canyons, rolling faults of rocks and gullies and gulches. . .”  The Outlaws evaded the posses by luring them into disorienting & dry canyons, then escaping through secret slot canyons.  The Course included one of these secret passages locally named Butch’s Slot that connected the elusive Hidden Valley back to the main trail.  Two horses wide with polished sandstone squeezing the escape route, one couldn’t help but feel like a modern day desperado.  

Other highlights included Wipe Out Hill, a sandstone rock cliff where jeeps occasionally show up to try their luck at rock climbing.  The name denotes the average success. Black skid marks tiger-stripe the rust colored surface.  But for horses, surprisingly, sandstone is a gripper.  It’s like traction on sandpaper, metal shoes and bare feet grip the grainy surface providing excellent footing to climb up the rock and out of the dry creek bed.  As long as you climb straight up or descend straight down, the rock surface grabs like gecko feet.  Miles of sandstone trail allow the horses to trot freely, and it quickly becomes apparent why the Outlaws left no trail to follow.  A hundred horses trot across the slick rock and leave barely a metal scratch mark.

After the Vet check the 50milers continued on a loop around Deadman Point.  With Hell Roaring Canyon falling 1000ft below on one side and the Green River carving out Labyrinth Canyon on the other, the trail displayed the forbidding magnificence of Canyonlands National Park.

Back at camp, the terra cotta rocks glowed like they were on fire in the late afternoon sunset.  The days are short and the nights are long in late October.  The bon fire kept the darkness at bay as the evening briefing related the events of the day and described tomorrow’s events.

On Day Two, the pace was crisp and fast moving. The cool desert night had everyone chasing the sunshine.  The 50 milers searched   out yellow ribbons decorating the juniper trees along the edge of the Hidden Valley Rim Trail. The LDs explore their own trail looking for orange clues denoting a sometimes indiscernible trail along the Secret Spire slick rock.  Both trails converge at Tombstone Rock for our Vet Check.  Visible for miles, it’s a citadel luring the riders onward. Under this monolith we trot out the horses, grab a gourmet sandwich for the riders and carrots and hay for the horses (all provided).

The afternoon trail sweeps around Lost World Butte.  This red butte is very deceiving, appearing to be a just quick trot around. Ten miles later the “Lost World” has gained everyone’s respect as we discuss its stark beauty as the horses slurp the cool water in the troughs. This country is parched and most creek beds are dry, so the ample water troughs are each like a small oasis in the desert. 

Being Halloween, 200 masks had been set out at Start Time. Some people rode with their masks, some had entire costumes. There was Sheik Tom, the red she-devil, Pocahontas, Indians and Annie Oakley, just to name a few. The rest of the camp donned their masks for dinner. The Bradley family catered the dinner and the kids drew the line in the sand, “Only people with masks or costumes would be served”.  Of course, compliance was near perfect including many dogs.  Ride management set out buckets of Halloween candy.  Any adult and all children were invited to trick-or-treat after the ride meeting.  Just turn on the outdoor trailer light if you are participating.  It was a wonderful family event, with another bon fire to warm the night air.

On Day Three the trails led through an arid swirling maze of formations.  Riding into the open flats provide vistas that showcase the diversity and wonder.  The warm pastel colors of the land were reflected in the clouds formations above.  Buckskin Rock, Determination Towers, the Monitor and Merrimac all described the ruggedness of the Old West, of nature untamed.  Bonnie Swiatek quipped, “With Louise & Coleen we were pretending that we were Indians or Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid tearing through the canyons & over the rocks. What a Blast!” 

Since the ride was run Thursday through Saturday, most people camped over Saturday night, giving them Sunday to drive home.  The leisurely evening allowed everyone to visit, socialize and say their winter good-byes.  We decided that John Wayne missed a great ride!