Southwest USA: old West & silver screen towns

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Hollywood has long had a love affair with America’s Wild West of yesteryear. Southwestern towns in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada have featured in hundreds of movies set against the region’s stunning scenery - and still feel like silver screen sets today. Take a tour of the Wild West, on the road or on screen...

Kanab, Utah

Four hundred John Wayne-era movies have been filmed amid the rugged desert surrounding remote Kanab. Tour this little outpost’s old sets, stay where Rooster Coburn did and chat with grandmas about their stunt-double golden days.

See Kanab on screen: Billy the Kid (1941), The Lone Ranger (1956), "Daniel Boone" (1964), "How the West Was Won" (1977), Octopussy (1983)

Tombstone, Arizona

Home of the infamous 1881 shoot-out at the OK Corral, Tombstone is the Wild West. Yes it’s a tourist trap, but a delightful one. The entire downtown has been a National Historic Landmark since the 1960s.

See Tombstone on screen: Tombstone (1993)

Bisbee, Arizona

Squeezed between the narrow walls of Tombstone Canyon, Bisbee oozes old-fashioned ambience. Victorian buildings line skinny streets housing galleries and charming hotels. A darling of Hollywood filmmakers, Bisbee has played itself, New York and even Greece on the silver screen.

See Bisbee on screen: Cannonball Run II (1984), Young Guns II (1990), "Roswell" (1994), Groom Lake (2002)

Jerome, Arizona

Wedged into steep Cleopatra Hill and clinging to a cliff, Jerome enjoys the most spectacular setting of any Arizona town. During its copper heyday it was the wickedest town in the West, teeming with brothels, saloons and opium dens.

Telluride, Colorado

It’s been a Ute hunting ground, a rough-and-ready silver-mining camp and a ghost town, but nowadays folks flock to the over-easy (both on the eyes and attitude) mountain village of Telluride for the fabulous bluegrass and film festivals and endless outdoor adventures.

See Telluride on screen: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Scrapple (1998)

Silver City, New Mexico

Billy the Kid’s childhood stomping ground, Silver City retains its Wild West feel but has become an art and adventure hot spot with quirky galleries and gelato shops, plus 15 mountains, four rivers and a kick-ass forest just outside its door.

Ely, Nevada

On the loneliest road in America, miles from anywhere, little Ely is an 1860s mining town deserving of an overnight stop. Its old downtown has beautiful regional history murals and fabulous vintage neon signs.

See Ely on screen: Rat Race (2001), Play Dead (2009)

Go wild out West with Lonely Planet's Southwest USA travel guide.

Check out what the Thorn Tree community has to say about accommodation in Kanab, Tombstone and Bisbee.