Update Nov 2018: Unfortunately this property was lost in the Woolsey Fire.
Tucked in the same hills of Malibu that house the magical Old Place Restaurant and the massive Hindu Temple, Paramount Ranch is a unique cowboy town that was created for the movies. Paramount Ranch is a free park that you can drive up to and explore, even when filming is taking place, and that has everything from hiking trails and abandoned buildings to a fake train station and jail. It is awesome and will make the young cowboy in all of you jump for joy as you explore. Westworld film locations added in 2017 below.
- Hours: 8 AM – Sunset
- Cost: Free
- Park Map
Movies Filmed Here
Here are a few of the hundreds of movies that have been shot here:
- American Sniper
- Blast from the Past
- The Great Outdoors
- The Love Bug
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Sutter’s Gold
- The Texan
- Open Range
- TV Show – Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
- TV Show – Westworld
Taken from NPS Site:
In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes for use as a “movie ranch.” For 25 years, a veritable who’s who of Hollywood practiced their craft at Paramount Ranch including director Cecil B. Demille and actors Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, and Claudette Colbert.
From 1957 to 1980, the ranch changed ownership several times, but filmmaking continued. After purchasing a portion of the original Paramount property in 1980, the National Park Service revitalized the old movie ranch. From 1992 to 1997, Paramount Ranch was used as the setting for the television show, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
More great history at the end of the post.
After parking in the large dirt lot, you will walk across the small rickety wooden bridge and over into a wonderland of movie magic.
While you cannot enter any of the buildings, you are more than welcome to walk the two long dirt streets and imagine all the old classic cowboy movies that were filmed here.
I loved walking the Main Street; there was so much to take in and so much to photograph. Some of my favorite spots are as follows.
First is the old saloon you can look into for a taste of the interior set or just check out the painted sign that made me feel like I could wander in for a poker game.
The jail, complete with an old jail cell, you just have to peak in the window to see it. Sometimes, if a ranger is around, they may actually let you go inside of this one though.
The old main building that you can pretend like you are having a duel in front of.
The train station that was missing a track but still had an excellent nostalgic feel.
The rundown shack that could be home to the town drunk or an abandoned homestead that you could escape the rain in. This is not here in 2016.
Update 2016: Westworld Filming Location
The HBO show Westworld became incredibly popular in 2016, and parts of it were filmed at Paramount Ranch. The church that is crucial in the show was built and now lives here at the ranch.
The top of the church has been edited in the show, but it is still impressive to see it sitting here in the park. You can even go up to the window and look inside the church, but there isn’t much there.
It is a lot of fun to explore an area like this over the years and see new places being added to what is here. As you can see there really is a lot to explore here. If hiking is your thing, there are many trails that will take you around the wilderness surrounding the town and even take you up to a summit to see the town from above.
All in all, you really should check Paramount Ranch out. If you do, make sure to spend the day exploring all of the hidden gems that hide in these hills, as you really shouldn’t go out of your way without seeing as much as you can right? If you are in Northern California, you can also go to Old Town Sacramento as it has the same vibe, albeit more touristy.
Don Bitz was kind enough to leave a lot of great history in the comments section. I wanted to move it up here so that more people saw it.
“Just a few things from a Paramount Ranch Historian… The present-day Western town was created in the early 1950’s by a man named William Hertz by building facades around buildings that had been a support area during the Paramount Studios days. It was created more with the intent to rent out for television filming, rather than movies, as TV Westerns were plentiful at the time. Popular shows like The Cisco Kid, Tombstone Territory, and Bat Masterson shot footage for episodes during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. As did lesser-known shows like The Rough Riders, and Hotel de Paree and Klondike, for which the town was used as the main town for both. No well-known Western movies that we have found as of yet used the town in the 1950’s or 1960’s. The Western movies with stars like Gary Cooper, Buck Jones, Hopalong Cassidy or other well-known stars did not film in this town. The Western town built by Paramount Studios was on another part of their property, approximately where Silver Creek Road is off Cornell.
An oft spread bit of misinformation is that The Gunfight at the OK Corral used the Hertz town as Tombstone. Research has proven that to be wrong. Several other popular TV Westerns were long believed by the Park Service to have used the ranch. These include The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel, Wanted: Dead or Alive and Gunsmoke. Ongoing research has yet to verify any of these except Gunsmoke. We know that the Hertz family also owned the old Jack Ingram Ranch for a few years and we now think that the family records held in the Park Archives have records from both properties mixed up. We’ll keep researching, though!
By the late 1960’s and the 1970’s, the Hertz town was beginning to get very run down and was used less for Westerns and more for things like BJ & the Bear, Chips, Charlie’s Angels, etc. Of note is that ramshackle town was the location of the album cover photos for The Eagle’s Desperado album and for photos intended for an inside spread that got cut! A comedy Western that used the town in the late 1970’s called Shame, Shame on the Bixby Boys spruced up the town some and replaced some badly aging facades with a new one.
The Park Service purchased the property in 1980, just in time to rescue the town from impending doom as the property was set to be developed. In 1985 pretty much everything of the Hertz town was torn down, leaving only the old Paramount barns, and a completely new, redesigned town was built. That version of the town was given an extensive overhaul to make it into Colorado Springs for Dr. Quinn in the early 1990’s. The town was made over again, in the early 2000’s, like a 1930’s town for HBO’s Carnivale. When they left, the town was restored to a Western look, but retaining some architectural features from Carnivale. In the years since, the town has been used for some TV shows and movies, with little changing until Westworld. Most of the changes to the town were temporary cosmetic ones. The church was built as seen in the show, but the steeple removed by the production when they left so that their church would not be seen exactly as it was in Westworld in other things. The old log cabin behind the train station was torn down in error and is supposed to be replaced.”