Parks popular as movie locations

When people think of national parks, movies aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. The national parks aren’t just providing a home for wildlife, but they’re also providing gorgeous locations for Hollywood to use when shooting its movies. According to the internet database website ( these movies have used national parks as a location.

However, the production studios need to go through an application and permit process and must follow a set of guidelines in order to not harm the national parks.

Depending on the specific park and how large the production is, the film company should apply from between four weeks to 10 business days in advance.

Click on the video at right to view an audio slide show about the national parks recently used for Hollywood movie locations that was prepared and narrated by writer Felix Bermudez.  

“The more notice the better,” said Laura Whildin, Special Use Permit coordinator at Glacier National Park in Montana.

A varying application fee, permit fee and specific application are sent to the individual park. From there, the park looks over the application, signs off on it, and writes up a permit. The permit gets sent back to the applicant and an agreement is made to create a final permit.

Two more fees are billed after filming: cost recovery and location. Location fees are nationwide set fees that are based on the number of people involved in the production.

The NPS official website ( provides a list of location fees.

The cost recovery covers the cost to process the permit and employees who monitor the production. This varies between each park. The parks don’t gain any profit from the filming.

“We make enough money for what we do as a service and nothing more,” said Katherine Carlise, Film and Wedding Permit coordinator for Yosemite National Park in Northern California.

If the production is large, a monitor is hired to oversee the film crew to make sure compliance with the permit is achieved.
“We want to be customer friendly,” said Carlise. “We’re open to it [filming] because we know it won’t harm anything historical, cultural or natural. We make sure it’s done properly.”

“We work with them,” said Whildin of Glacier National Park. “We do support filming. It’s good for local employment. We always make sure it isn’t negatively affecting visitors or the park itself.”

The production companies don’t have any more privileges than visitors. Nothing can be closed off or inaccessible for visitors, nor can film crews disturb the natural life in the parks. Aviation isn’t allowed in any of the parks. The crew is also limited on road closures. The maximum time a road can be closed is five to 10 minutes depending on the park.

“They don’t get exclusive access,” said Terry Roper, Special Park Use coordinator of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “For example, if buffalo come by they have to wait until they move by on their own.”

Some parks, like Death Valley National Park in Southern California, have changed their policies on filming because of changes from within the park. Star Wars and Return of the Jedi were filmed at Death Valley, but at the time it was filmed, the park was known as Death Valley National Monument.

In 1994 the California Desert Protection Act was passed adding about 1.3 million acres of land to Death Valley, making it Death Valley National Park. The land in the park is now 95 percent wilderness, which cannot be used at all for filming. The only exceptions are documentaries and educational productions. With those exceptions only cameras and tripods are allowed. Nothing with wheels, generators, or heavy machinery can be taken into the wilderness portion.

“We’re preserving the wilderness for the animals,” said Skaidra Kempkowski, Concession Management Specialist and Special Park Use Coordinator of Death Valley National Park. “We also do it for the visitors so many generations can enjoy the solitude of the wilderness.”


Movie                                Year       Park Locations

  • Star Wars                   1977    Death Valley National Monument
  • The Shining                1980    Glacier National Park
    Yosemite National Park
  • ET                             1982    Redwood National Park
  • Return of the Jedi       1983    Death Valley National Monument
    Redwood National Park
  • Indiana Jones and
    the Last Crusade     1989     Arches National Park
  • Dances with Wolves    1990     Badlands National Park
  • Forrest Gump            1994     Glacier National Park
  • Armageddon             1998     Badlands National Park
  • The Green Mile          1999     Moses Cone National Park
  • The Hulk                  2003     Arches National Park
  • Kill Bill: Volume 2      2004     Death Valley National Park
  • Brokeback Mountain  2005     Grand Teton National Park
  • No Country for
    Old Men                 2007     Big Bend National Park
  • Into the Wild            2007     Denali National Park
    Grand Canyon
  • Shutter Island          2010     Acadia National Park


Commercial Filming/Videos   Still Photography

  • 1-2 people, camera & tripod only, $0/day
  • 1-10 people     $150/day   1-10 people     $50/day
  • 11-30 people     $250/day   11-30 people    $150/day
  • 31-49 people     $500/day   Over 30 people    $250/day

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