Skip to main content

7 real locations from outdoor movies to explore

Take a trip and see where some famous movies were filmed

Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Professional 4K Video camera on tripod shooting time lapse of downtown panorama in sunset. Rocky beach of Toronto Island. Shallow depth of field with point of the focus on rear of the camera
Getty Images

As much as we might love being outdoors, there are times that call for staying in. Whether you’re enjoying a movie night in or looking for your next outdoor adventure, there are quite a few classic, quintessential films that capture life outdoors with stunning scenery: movies filmed on location.

For example, Free Solo traced rock climber Alex Honnold’s free-climb ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Apart from the jaw-dropping climb itself, one of California’s most popular parks is captured beautifully, too. That’s why these outdoor-themed movies and their amazing real-life settings are worth planning your own adventure trip around.

A River Runs Through It (1992)

A River Runs Through It
Drama, Family
Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt
Directed by
Robert Redford
Watch on Amazon
An absolute must-watch for any outdoor enthusiast, A River Runs Through It was filmed in some of the most beautiful landscapes of the western U.S. Though the book and movie are set in Missoula, Montana, the film was actually shot in a number of locations other than Missoula, including the small Montana towns of Bozeman and Livingston. But of course, the movie’s river scenes are one of the greatest appeals of A River Runs Through It.  The filming locations for those scenes included Yellowstone River, Boulder River, and Gallatin River. There were also some parts of the movie that were shot in Jackson, Wyoming. However, that was some 30 years before it was the ultra-luxe destination it is today.

Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild
Adventure, Drama
Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt
Directed by
Sean Penn
Watch on Amazon
Another cult classic is Into The Wild, which is also based on the book by Jon Krakauer. The movie is about backpacking through some of the most primitive and remote wilderness in the U.S. in Alaska after the main character graduates from college. While the book tracks the character from the end of his time in an Atlanta college all the way to the Alaskan forests, the movie was actually shot in a number of other states. The scenes took place in South Dakota, Oregon, and even Arizona. Of course, some of the movie was also shot in the real place — Alaska — too.

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Legends of the Fall
Adventure, Drama, Romance, War, Western
Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn
Directed by
Edward Zwick
Watch on Amazon
For those who are unfamiliar, Legends of the Fall is a historical drama about a family living in the western United States and the troubles they face, as well as the atrocities committed against Native American people. While the beloved classic movie is meant to take place in the American West, it was actually filmed in northwestern provinces of Canada, including British Columbia and Alberta. From Calgary to Vancouver, the film spans many stunning locations, such as the Ghost River in Alberta and Gastown, Vancouver. There’s even one part of the movie that was filmed in St. Anne, Jamaica. So, if this is a favorite for you, add Western Canada to your outdoors-based travel bucket list.

The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Great Outdoors
Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Stephanie Faracy
Directed by
Howard Deutch
Watch on Amazon
Moving away from more somber and sad films, albeit stunning odes to nature, John Candy and Dan Aykroyd star in The Great Outdoors, a comedy any outdoors enthusiast has to see at some point. So many have an idealistic picture of a family camping vacation only to have it turn into a comical disaster which is undoubtedly why the comedy has such a cult following. Set in rural Wisconsin, the movie was ultimately filmed in its entirety in California, clear across the country.

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games
Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Directed by
Gary Ross
Watch on Amazon
While The Hunger Games might not be your typical idea of an outdoor movie, Katniss Everdeen’s hunting skills and love for the forests of her district in the books meant that the movies were partially filmed in one of the most underrated outdoor destinations of the U.S. — the Appalachian mountains. The first movie was largely filmed outside of Asheville, North Carolina, in small state parks with gorgeous scenery. The mountainous landscape and its forests are some of the most biodiverse places you can find and home to the oldest mountains in the world. So, if you haven’t been, add Asheville to your bucket list for hiking, foraging, and maybe even channeling your inner survivalist.

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant
Western, Drama, Adventure
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
Directed by
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Watch on Apple TV+
While we sincerely hope no one has an encounter with a bear such as Leonardo DiCaprio did in his role as a frontiersman in The Revenant, the movie does share an appreciation for the severity of the forces of nature. Though the movie was meant to take place in the Western Territories of the U.S. in the 1820s, the film was made in a number of mountainous destinations across the equator. Filming locations included Fortress Mountain in Alberta, Canada and Kootenai Falls in Montana. However, the final scenes were filmed in Argentina and Chile among Tierra del Fuego.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Dances with Wolves
Adventure, Drama, Western
Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Directed by
Kevin Costner
Watch on Amazon
This 1990 Kevin Costner epic, Dances with Wolves, is a historical drama about a Civil War soldier who befriends a tribe of Lakota Sioux. Though the movie is set in the American West, it was filmed in the western Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The movie spans many locations from Calgary to Vancouver. Some of the stunning locations include the Ghost River in Alberta and Gastown, Vancouver. There’s even a scene filmed in St. Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Movie images and data from:
Molly Harris
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist, cyclist and outdoor enthusiast. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Lonely…
All the camping toiletries you need for a weekend (or a week) in the woods
Just because you're in the wild doesn't mean you have to look and smell like it
Man shaving outside

Hiking, camping, and exploring the great outdoors give you a much-needed perspective change on just about all of life's greatest mysteries. It's like pushing the reset button on our human operating systems. When you return to "the real world," you're often completely refreshed and performing optimally across all facets of your life. Among other things, it shows you just how few things you need to exist in blissful harmony with nature.

Out there in the woods, you don't need much aside from the best camping tent, a good sleeping bag, and cooking gear to prep your favorite camping meals. But just because you pack light doesn't mean you have to skimp on the toiletries. It's an essential step that many people forget, but you want a few items to clean yourself up after an all-day hike or fishing adventure.

Read more
Hiking the trail? Here are 9 tips for safe self-navigation
Plus, how to signal for help if you do get lost
Man hiking with poles near a mountain

You’re miles into the backcountry with only your instincts and your gear to point the way. In the vast wilderness, panic starts to set in. Is it this way? Or is it that way? Getting lost on the trail is easy to do and a quick transition from a tranquil to terrifying experience, especially for solo hikers looking out at an indiscernible landscape. In this case, however, that anxiety doesn’t last because you’ve brought along the correct gear to combat the fear.

Whether it’s mountain biking, trail running, camping, or backcountry skiing, you need to prepare for wild excursions. As always, The Manual has got you covered. Find the right gear here, along with the apps, guidelines, and veteran tips to keep you oriented no matter where your next off-grid journey takes you.
Map out your plan

Read more
Fuel yourself for the trail ahead and avoid hiker hunger
These tips will help your adventure be more enjoyable
A man and a woman eating snacks as they look ahead

For a lot of day hikers, a few Clif Bars, a Snickers, and some beef jerky are considered a proper “trail lunch.” However, if you’re gearing up for an extended backcountry trek or the best hikes in the U.S., it pays to pack more carefully. Snacks and sugary treats might be your go-to for a day hike -- a bag of trail mix can be enough to motivate most people to hit the trail -- but too much of a good thing and you'll find yourself needing some proper hiking food.
Tips to avoid hiker hunger on the trail

Hiker hunger can start off slowly. It creeps into your conversations, it turns your cheerful stroll into a plod, and soon you decide that bird song you loved waking up to now sounds shrill in your ears. There's a fine line between hunger and hanger -- or being hangry, and there's a good chance your friends will realize where you are on the scale before you do. Hiking uses a whole load of calories, and you need to keep your body properly fueled up. Here are our top tips to avoid hiker hunger on the trail.
Don’t skip breakfast
Intermittent fasting is increasing in popularity, and if you regularly skip breakfast, that's fine. When it comes to hiking days, though, you need to start your day right with a breakfast that balances carbohydrates and fats. A blend of simple and complex carbs provides a shot of readily accessible fuel, so you’ll be ready to go. Fats are doubly good for slowing digestion and helping to keep you full. A mix of granola, oatmeal, and nut butter is an ideal way to start the day.
Stay hydrated
OK, so staying hydrated is important, but what's that got to do with food? Well, hydration goes beyond just drinking water. In fact, if you drink too much water and don't eat, you're likely to flush electrolytes and salts out of your body. If you find yourself lacking in these important minerals, you can experience cramping, headaches, and far higher levels of fatigue than you should be feeling. Sure, you can replenish these with specially designed tablets that you dissolve in water, but you can also get all you need from eating the right food on the trail.
Eat less, more often
It's not rocket science that eating more often will fend off hunger. The key, however, is eating the right nutrient-dense foods -- in particular, those high in fats -- at regular intervals throughout the day. Some thru-hikers suggest snacking every 60-90 minutes. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, and it rarely requires breaking your stride.

Read more