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Visit Westworld for Real

HBO's sci-fi western takes place in some of TV's most epic filming locations, from California's Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of Utah

Here’s your guide for adventuring in the show’s most awe inspiring filming locations minus the marauding robots. (Courtesy HBO)
westworld

HBO's sci-fi western takes place in some of TV's most epic filming locations, from California's Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of Utah

Westworld draws a huge audience for a reason, and, for us at least, it’s not just trying to suss out what the heck is going on. We love the promise of adventure in wild, staggering landscapes. And though Westworld itself may be a $40,000 per day fantasy, its real-life Southwestern backdrop begs to be explored. Here’s your guide for adventuring in the show’s most awe-inspiring filming locations, minus the marauding robots.

Monument Valley, Arizona

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(Marc Averette/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-3.0)

Dolores Abernathy and Teddy Flood are often seen riding with the valley’s iconic sandstone buttes and mesas draped across the horizon, and you too can ride the otherworldly landscape. Monument Valley Dineh Trail Rides offers outings that range from 30-minute jaunts ($45) to overnight excursions ($195). Or splurge on a trip with Navajo Spirit Tours that will see you spending the night with the unrivaled panoramic views on Hunts Mesa, where your Navajo guides will tell stories of their tribe’s history and relation to the land ($400). If guides aren’t your thing, plan a sunset loop around West Mitten Butte on the four-mile Wildcat Trail, where you can spot desert cottontail, foxes, and wild horses.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

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(Mike Nielsen/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

A particularly savage scene where Ed Harris’ Man in Black scalps a robotic host takes place at the aptly named Dead Horse Point. This state park, 40 minutes from Moab, was once a natural mustang corral and today overlooks a dramatic bend of the Colorado River and the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park. Nab a hike-in campsite at Wingate Campground ($35), or book one of the air-conditioned Wingate Yurts ($140), conveniently located near the Pony Expresso Coffee Shop. Mountain bikers flock to the region for its amazing slickrock trails. You can rent a steed from Moab’s Poison Spider Bicycles (from $60 a day) to explore Man in Black country on Dead Horse’s Intrepid Trail System.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, California

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(Rennett Stowe/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Wyatt’s Badlands are a remote and dangerous corner of Westworld plagued by bandits. For us, it’s Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, 932 acres of uplifted, jagged sandstone in California’s Sierra Pelona Mountains, at the north end of Los Angeles County. Real-life bandits have eluded capture among these rocks, but you can lose yourself in the sweeping high-desert views, prehistoric Tataviam pictographs, and rock scrambles along the park’s rolling trails.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah

westworld
(Shepard4711/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

A slew of aerial shots (not to mention the appearance of the Ghost Nation warriors) flaunt the glory of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, a rippling 5.8-square-mile arc of rose-hued dunes and rusty cliffs just 40 minutes from Zion National Park. Pitch a tent at the park’s campground (from $20) and wander the Navajo sandstone dunes at your leisure. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Coral Pink tiger beetle, which is endemic to the park.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah/Arizona

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(National Park Service)

Lake Powell features prominently in the show’s second season, and you have myriad options for exploring it. Go with an SUP tour through the reservoir’s Antelope Canyon with Page-based Lake Powell Paddleboards (from $95). Camp at spots like Lone Rock Beach ($14), just north of the Utah-Arizona border, or go big at Amangiri Resort, a 600-acre luxury getaway at the base of 100-foot canyon cliffs, complete with seven Via Ferrata–style hiking routes and a 25,000-square-foot spa with flotation therapy and private plunge pools (from $1,400).

Fisher Valley, Utah

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(Pxhere)

A smattering of panoramic shots feature Fisher Valley, home to Fisher Towers, a series of surreal, castle-esque sandstone pinnacles. Set up base camp at the primitive Fisher Towers Campground (first come, first served), or snag a spot at this architectural wonder of a vacation home (from $878). Hike the 2.2-mile (one way) Fisher Towers Trail, pedal the scenic 11-mile Onion Creek Trail, or join Canyon Voyages on a full-day Class I/II float down the Colorado River through classic canyon country ($95).

Filed To: Utah / Arizona / Moab / Colorado / California / Media / Travel
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

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(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.

Plaza2Peak

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(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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