We didn't need a credential to get on this set! Although we work in television, we don't mind visiting sets off the clock! You can find Paramount Ranch with the infamous Western Town set tucked in the Santa Monica mountains near Malibu. Since this is now a public park (Malibu Creek State Park), you can actually walk around the set, which most fronts are only facades and 5 feet deep or venture on several hiking trails, including a short 1/8 mile trail overlooking Medea Creek and the Western Town. Parking is free and so is admittance!
History of Paramount Ranch
Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes in 1927 to use as a "movie ranch." For 25 years, many of Hollywood's finest made an appearance on the Ranch including actors such as Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Kirk Douglass, and Claudette Colbert. The vast terrain allowed for various sites such as colonial Massachusetts in The Maid of Salem (1937), as well as transforming into international sites like ancient China in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938), a South Seas island in Ebb Tide (1937) and other classic westerns. Even San Francisco was created for Wells Fargo (1937).
In 1953, Paramount Pictures decided to sell the ranch ending the golden era of movie making at Paramount Ranch. William Hertz purchased the southeast portion Paramount Ranch and as a compassionate movie western fan, he built a permanent western town facade around the Paramount Pictures' old prop storage sheds with the intent for television shows to shoot on premises. With this, television companies began producing great westerns at the ranch such as The Cisco Kid and Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. William Hertz ended up selling the property in 1955.
The Paramount Racetrack opened on the property almost a year later. The road course included 11 turns with uphill and downhill sections, a straightaway just shy of ¾ mile, a bridge and underpass as well as a lake opposite the start/finish line. After 18 months and three fatal accidents, the racetrack closed since the track was too challenging. However, the track made it's Hollywood debut in The Devil's Hairpin (1957) and Spinout with Elvis Presley (1966). When we walked around the park, we could remains of where the track stood.
After many ownerships for nearly 2 decades, the National Park Service purchased the property of 436 acres in 1980 and revitalized the old movie ranch. From 1992 to 1997, one of my favorite television shows, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman starring Jane Seymour, called the ranch home. My parents took us to the ranch around this time and sure enough they were filming! My sister and I were beyond excited to see our show come to life!
PARAMOUNT RANCH TV SHOWS AND MOVIES:
After crossing the bridge from the parking lot, you step into one of the most famous western towns.
Here are some noteworthy movies and television series that filmed here:
- The Last Outlaw with Gary Cooper (1927)
- Gunsmoke (1931)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)
- Geronimo (1939)
- Never Say Die with Bob Hope (1939)
- The Great Outdoors
- Sutter’s Gold (1936)
- Wells Fargo w/Joel McCrea (1937)
- Welcome Stranger w/ Bing Crosby (1948)
- The Devil's Hairpin (1957) - Racetrack
- Spinout with Elvis Presley (1966) - Racetrack
- The Love Bug (1968)
- Breaker Breaker - Chuck Norris (1977)
- Charlie's Angels - TV show “An Angel’s Trail” (1979)
- Scream (1981)
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman - CBS (1992-1997)
- The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas - Slaghoople Mansion (1999)
- Blast from the Past (1999)
- Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - ABC “The Wild, Wild Witch” (1990's)
- X-files Season Finale - FOX (2001)
- Carnivale - HBO (2003)
- Van Helsing (2003)
- Lizzie McGuire - Disney Channel “Grubby Long John’s Olde Tyme Revue” (2003)
- The O.C. - FOX “The Avengers” (2006)
- The Lake House (2006)
- Crazy (2008)
- American Sniper (2014)
- Westworld - HBO (2015 & 2017)
As I previously mentioned, most of these fronts are only facades and don't extend more than 5 feet! You can walk up and peek in the windows but won't see much! The old jail does have a jail cell in it! Rumor has it the park ranger will occassionally let people in.
Look familiar? See Dolores in Westworld:
The Church at Paramount Ranch
After Dr. Quinn was canceled, the church used in the show was torn down along with other buildings. Dr. Quinn's clinic, the barbershop, the bank and train depot, still remain. Eventually the church was rebuilt and with some television magic it appears slightly different in Westworld.
Hiking Trails at Paramount Ranch
As I mentioned, there are several hiking trails, including a short 1/8 mile trail overlooking Medea Creek and the Western Town. We did 2 separate hikes, one that took us up to the overlook and the other 2 mile hike around the park to see the remains of the racetrack.
See the trail map here on NPS.gov
There was even a group out horseback riding along the trails.
2903 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301
GPS Coordinates: N 34.1181 W -118.7525
Take Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Kanan Road exit. South on Kanan 0.5 mile. Left on Cornell Way and veer to the right. South 2.5 miles, entrance is on right side of the road, then follow the road into the ranch.
Parking: Park anywhere in the large dirt parking field. It's free! Restrooms on premises.
Hours: 8am to Sunset
Trail Map: NPS.gov
National Park Service - https://www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/paramountranch.htm
Seeing Stars - https://www.seeing-stars.com/Studios/ParamountRanch.shtml
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Ranch_Racetrack
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