1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Devils Tower, Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film about a UFO, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, features Devils Tower National Monument; a spectacular 867-foot rock which formed from volcanic lava millions of years ago.

  1. Shane (1953)

Grand Teton National Park, Credit: @randy_straka_photography

Another film shot in Wyoming, Shane (1953), was based on Wyoming’s 1892 Johnson County War. Many scenes were shot in Grand Teton National Park and the fictional town and homestead were constructed in Jackson Hole.

  1. Django Unchained (2012)

National Elk Refuge, Credit: Chad Coppess, Dakotagraph

Several modern films were also shot in Wyoming, including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Winter scenes were filmed in wonderful locations including Grand Teton National Park, Kelly Warm Springs, and the National Elk Refuge.

More info at https://travelwyoming.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. Dances With Wolves (1990)

Black Hills, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Many well-known films have been shot in South Dakota, including epic western film Dances with Wolves which features Kevin Costner as an Army Lieutenant who is assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost. The movie was filmed in beautiful South Dakota locations near Pierre and Rapid City at Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River Area. You can go on a free tour of the set and view original buildings used in the film at Fort Hays.

  1. Armageddon (1998)

Badlands National Park, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Another film that featured the striking Badlands National Park was science fiction film Armageddon starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. It is about a group of oil drillers who are sent by NASA to prevent an asteroid from hitting earth and killing everyone.

  1. How the West Was Won (1962)

Custer State Park wildlife loop, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Epic-western film How the West Was Won follows four generations of a family as they move from New York to the Pacific Ocean. The film showcases herds of buffalo in the picturesque Custer State Park. Today, you can drive Custer State Park’s 18-mile Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway to see buffalo, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and coyote up close!

More info at https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

Fargo (1996)

1996 comedy thriller Fargo, starring Frances McDormand, has become a cult classic and much of it was filmed in the magnificent snow-covered landscapes of north-eastern North Dakota as far north as Grand Forks.

Even though none of the movie was filmed in Fargo, you can visit the original prop from the famous woodchipper murder scene at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors’ Center. This quirky stop is the perfect place to take a photo with the legendary prop – friendly locals will give you a trapper hat to wear while you pretend to push a fake leg into the Fargo chipper.

More info at https://www.ndtourism.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. A River Runs Through It (1992)

Gallatin River, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Oscar-winning film A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, is about two fly-fishing sons growing up in rural Montana. The film was shot in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman, and features picturesque scenes at the upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers.

  1. Forrest Gump (1994)

Glacier National Park, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Multi award-winning film Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, also featured Montana with scenes in Cut Bank and Glacier National Park’s St. Mary entrance.

  1. Always (1989)

Kootenai National Forest, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s romantic comedy, Always, featured Montana’s aerial ‘smokejumper’ elite firefighters. The film was shot in northwestern Montana in Kootenai National Forest, Libby, and Bull Lake.

More info at https://www.visitmt.com/ or  https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. Wild Wild West (1999)

Lewiston, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Many classic films have been shot in Idaho, including western comedy Wild Wild West which features Idaho’s Camas Prairie Railroad, showcasing magnificent views of Grangeville’s rural farmland and Lewiston’s pine-covered landscapes. The railroad is no longer in use but can still be explored today.

  1. Pale Rider (1985)

Sawooth National Recreation Area, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Another film shot in Idaho is Clint Eastwood’s famous Western film Pale Rider. Focusing on the fight over gold mining territory, the film was mainly shot in Idaho’s beautiful Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Boulder Mountains.

  1. Dante’s Peak (1997)

Wallace, Credit: Idaho Tourism

Pierce Brosnan starred in disaster thriller Dante’s Peak which is about citizens trying to survive a volcanic eruption. Many scenes were shot in Idaho’s renowned ghost town of Wallace, featuring the town’s distinctive old buildings.

More info at https://visitidaho.org/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

Mad River Boat Trips offers top whitewater rafting adventures and scenic float trips out of Jackson Hole with professional guides who will point out fascinating wildlife and vegetation around Snake River Canyon. Adrenaline seekers should go whitewater rafting in spring as there are peak flows in the river at this time so you will shoot down the rapids, ranging from class I to class III.

Those wanting a more relaxing experience can go on a gentler float trip down the river in autumn where red, orange, and yellow leaves bring the spectacular surroundings alive with colour.

Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Jewel Cave National Monument is the perfect place for an exciting family adventure, with large chambers filled with boulders, tight crawlways, and narrow cracks which lead into the unknown. This is the third longest cave in the world, and it contains over 208 miles of mapped passages with a huge variety of geological features including nailhead spar, dogtooth spar, boxwork, cave popcorn, flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, and draperies. A scenic walking tour is a lovely way to explore the cave and learn about the cave formations, its discovery and ongoing exploration.

Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

The 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail is a popular cycling and hiking destination, with breathtaking views of plateaus, peaks, and valleys. This trail connects the North and South Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and is the longest single-track mountain biking route in the USA!  The ride is challenging but rewarding, with abundant deer, antelope, prairie dogs, golden eagles, red tail hawks, and bighorn sheep.

One end of the trail starts at Medora, an authentic cowboy town where bikes can be hired for the trail and a variety of accommodation is available. Medora is worth a visit for the history and western ambience alone. Dakota Cyclery is a great place to rent a bike or book a guided mountain bike adventure where an experienced guide will discuss local history and wildlife.

Credit: North Dakota Tourism

Outdoor adventurers will love bicycling the Going-to-the-Sun Road which combines a challenging adventure with breathtaking scenery of Glacier National Park. This 50-mile road will bring you over many high points with spectacular views of glacier-carved valleys, snow-topped mountain peaks, and pristine waterfalls. Spring is a great time to cycle here as the road is closed to cars at this time. Fall is also beautiful with aspen, shrubs, western larch, and spruce and fir trees brightly coloured in greens, oranges, and yellows.

If bikes aren’t your thing, traverse the Going-to-the-Sun Road in one of the 1930s restored red buses that have open top-down viewing. The Native American led Sun Tours also operates fascinating guided tours of the Going-to-the-Sun Road where they discuss features relevant to the Blackfeet nation.

Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge (2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon!) is an incredible place to experience jet boating in spring or summer. Various jet boating tours will take you upstream from Lewiston, Idaho through the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and up to Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center and Hells Canyon Dam. Be awed by the height of the canyon walls towering over the Snake River and enjoy scenic views of the canyon with its ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir trees, and often many kinds of native wildlife.

Credit: Idaho Tourism