Looking for an old Western movie set in Los Angeles? On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I adventured into the Wild West nested in the Santa Monica Mountains: Paramount Ranch. Far from the animated city, Paramount Ranch is an oasis plebiscite by Hollywood for movies and TV shows. Follow me in this wild quest to travel into this large outdoor set exploring the filming location, the Town and hiking its surrounding mountains.
A pinch of History
- Paramount Pictures bought the Rancho Las Virgenes in 1927.
- From 1927 to 2016, 218 movies were shot there
- ….. and 142 television shows since 1950.
- The Eagles posed for their Desperado album at Paramount Ranch.
- For 18 months, the area became a racetrack.
- After multiple ownerships since 1953, the National Park Service finally purchased it in 1980.
The story of Paramount Ranch began in 1927 when Paramount Pictures bought 2,700 acres land. They transformed El Rancho de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Las Virgenes into a « movie ranch. »
From there, movies and television productions multiplied, as the location offers such an atypical set. The range of movies shot is wide: from The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) to American Sniper (2016). It’s unbelievable to travel both in time and space thanks to one unique location (and of course thanks to visual effects from productions).
In the early years of Paramount Ranch’s history, television shot lot of westerns like The Cisco Kid or Hotel de Paree. Over the years, as the spectators’ interest shifted to different categories, so does the TV shows. Thus new genres were filming there like Charlie’s Angels (episode “An Angel’s Trail” from season 4), Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, or Bones (episode “The Cowboy in the Contest” from season 11).
After 1980, when the property was purchased by the National Park Service, the town was redesigned and/or cosmetically adapted according to productions. For instance, the place was transformed into a Colorado Springs town for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, TV show from 1992 to 1998. More recently, a church was built for the HBO show Westworld. The church remains on the current site, only the steeple was removed.
If you are lucky when you visit Paramount Ranch, you will glimpse a movie or Tv show shooting. Indeed, the ranch is still open during productions, some areas can be restricted though. Instructions are given to visitors to remain quiet. To sit in on a scene filming is definitely a cool experience in the city of the Stars!
Wooden facade burned by the sun and the dusty streets transported me in the middle of a far west city. The silence was only disturbed by the wind playing with foliage. It sounds almost like a ghost town as we met only a few souls.
As I glanced inside the buildings, I noticed only empty spaces. There were all closed to the public at the exception of the prison. The sheriff was standing outside, waiting for an outlaw or a citizen to break the law.
As the Monopoly game order: « Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200,” I stopped by. Hopefully, my jail sentence lasted the time of some pictures. The sheriff explained and provided some details on the place. He also showed us the interior of the grocery store from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Nice and acknowledgeable, the sheriff also advised some hikes.
I liked to be immersed in this cowboy town and imagined myself in a western movie. Even more, when I realized that I watched a lot of movies and TV show shot here. What a delightful sensation to remember and to picture scenes here. Definitely, a universe to discover!
Hike, Run, and Ride
Paramount Ranch is also a perfect location to hike, run or ride. Lots of trails start at the train station, you just need to pick one according to your point of interest. Indeed, some of them lead to some movies/TV shows landscape set like the Medicine Woman Trail or the Marco Polo Hill. The hike we did was a short loop along these two locations.
As we walked, vivid colors of nature contrasted with the blue sky. I was astonished by this colorful combination. What a pleasant and relaxing walk!
Feels like traveling back to Far West?
- Location: 2903 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301
- Hours: I didn’t see any restrictions.
- Cost: Free.
- Duration: I spent 2 hours including the hike.
- Check the calendar for free tours: https://www.samofund.org/calendar/
- Parking: there is a free parking on site.
- More information available at https://www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/paramountranch.htm
If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share with a traveler visiting Los Angeles.