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Yosemite National Park, California

California, Nevada

As Seen on Film: 'Star Trek' in the Western USA

By: Eli Ellison

Nancy Robbins Photography
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    Nevada

As every Trekkie knows, for five decades the voyages of the Starship Enterprise have been shot on location almost exclusively in the western USA.

In honor of the 13th movie in the science fiction franchise, "Star Trek Beyond," put on your Starfleet uniform and prepare to have Scotty beam you down to these five Star Trek locales where Hollywood film crews have gone before. 

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, California

Befitting an alien planet, these tilted, jagged rock formations lie about 113 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles, California. In the original TV series, it’s where Captain Kirk fights the alien Gorn. The landscape appears often in various Star Trek TV shows. More recently, director J.J. Abrams used the rocks as a setting for the film Star Trek (2009). 

How to See It: Hiking trail maps are available at the park’s visitor center, which has an exhibit on the numerous movies and TV shows filmed among the slanted slabs of sandstone.

Where to Sleep: Set a course for the budget motels in Palmdale, 32 kilometers away.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, California

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, California
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Jeff Turner/Flickr

Griffith Park (Bronson Canyon), Los Angeles, California

The most frequently used Trek location outside Hollywood’s Paramount Pictures Studios, the 1,740 hectares of hilly, wooded Griffith Park appear in all the Star Trek TV series. In particular, the park’s rugged Bronson Canyon and its “caves” (in reality, man-made tunnels) have served as a backdrop many times, most notably in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). 

How to See It: From Franklin Avenue in the city of Hollywood, drive north on Canyon Drive for about 2 kilometers until it dead-ends at a parking lot. From here it’s an easy 1.2-kilometer round-trip hike to the Bronson caves. Next, drive to the mountaintop Griffith Observatory planetarium, which has a theater named for Leonard Nimoy, also known as Mr. Spock.  

Where to Sleep: Nearby Hollywood has several lodging choices.

Bronson Canyon

Bronson Canyon
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Eli Duke/Flickr

San Francisco, California

In the northern California city of San Francisco, the bay-front Presidio, next to the Golden Gate Bridge, is the site of Starfleet Command headquarters in the later TV series, plus several movies. In a memorable twist, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) has the crew of the Enterprise time-traveling to 1986 San Francisco. Filming took place in and around the city.

How to See It: Arriving in San Francisco, Kirk nearly is run over by a taxi at the junction of Kearny Street, Pacific Avenue and Columbus Avenue, which you will find near Chinatown. At the Presidio, visit Fort Point National Historic Site, an 1861 U.S. Army fort at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Where to Sleep: The city has more lodging options than the Starship Enterprise has engine failures. 

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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Yosemite National Park, California

Where does the Enterprise crew go on vacation? Northern California’s awesome Yosemite National Park, naturally. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) finds Kirk, Spock and McCoy camping among the valley’s granite cliffs. 

How to See It: Head for the valley’s Tunnel View overlook, on the Wawona Road at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel. 

Where to Sleep: Like Kirk and the boys, pitch a tent at one of the park’s 13 campgrounds.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California
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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Some 84 kilometers northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, this starkly beautiful wonderland of fiery red rock formations is the final resting place of James Tiberius Kirk. Valley of Fire doubled as the planet Veridian III in climactic scenes from Star Trek Generations (1994).

How to See It: The movie was shot at Silica Dome, a sandstone mountain in the park’s northern area. For excellent views, depart the visitor center and drive north a few kilometers on White Domes Road to the signed turnoffs for Rainbow Vista and Fire Canyon/Silica Dome. 

Where to Sleep: You’ll find motels in the town of Overton, near the park’s east entrance.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
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