Chasing Costner’s Horizon: A Cinematic Journey Through Utah

One of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks, Arches is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks ©Intricate Explorer

In 2024, it seems there is an undeniable allure to go “set-jetting,” embarking on a pilgrimage to the very locations that have captured our imaginations on screen. For those of us about to become enchanted by the sweeping vistas and rugged landscapes featured in Kevin Costner’s soon-to-be released epic “Horizon: An American Saga,” Utah will be the destination of choice.

With a budget of $100 million dollars, the four-part series, which was 30 years in the making, spans the timeline of the settlement of the American West before and after the Civil War.  

Filming for Chapter 1 took place against the backdrop of the rugged terrain of Southeastern Utah’s Grand County. From expansive deserts to towering cliffs, the landscapes of the region provided the perfect canvas. The second and third installments were shot in Utah’s Southwestern Washington County, with areas adjacent to the Pine Valley Mountains and the northeastern part of the Mojave Desert, capturing the essence of the frontier era. Both regional filming locations are a mere stone’s throw away from some of the state’s most stunning national parks so there is the promise of some breathtaking scenery.

Arches National Park

Home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, Utah’s Arches National Park received its International Dark Sky Park designation in 2019 ©Ken Cheung

Part one of Costner’s highly anticipated movie was filmed in the area of Moab, which is only five miles from Arches National Park, the natural marvel, which is one of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, renowned for its dramatic red rock formations and iconic arches.

Hike to famous arches like Delicate Arch, Double Arch, and Landscape Arch. Additionally, savour the Arches Scenic Drive, a 25-mile road that passes the majority of the park’s viewpoints and trailheads, or go stargazing—its 119 square miles are designated as an International Dark Sky Park.

Moab offers opportunities for river rafting, mountain biking, and the chance to explore other notable areas like nearby Canyonlands National Park, the city known as Utah’s Adventure Capital.  

St. George

Overlook of downtown St. George at dusk ©St. George Chamber of Commerce

Our journey continues in St. George, a prominent location for parts two and three of the expected four part series, the charming oasis nestled amidst the vibrant hues of the surrounding desert. The historic town, which was once a bastion of America’s pioneer spirit, now serves as a gateway to the region’s natural treasures.

A visit here is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the area’s rich past by exploring the St. George Tabernacle, the Brigham Young Winter Home, and the St. George Art Museum, all of which offer a glimpse into the lives of those who dared to tame the wilderness.  

Snow Canyon State Park

Discover the Petrified Dunes at Snow Canyon State Park: the once flowing mountains of sand now captivating rolling mounds of Navajo Sandstone ©Christopher Spolar

Just a stone’s throw away (only 10 miles) from St George, Snow Canyon State Park beckons with its crimson sandstone cliffs and otherworldly landscapes. Here, the movie’s crew found inspiration in the park’s dramatic vistas, capturing the essence of the frontier era with every sweeping shot.

Hikers can follow in the footsteps of the film’s protagonists, navigating trails like Jenny’s Canyon and the Petrified Dunes, while photographers revel in the opportunity to immortalise the park’s breathtaking rock formations and sand dunes on a reel.

The Shivwits Band of the Paiute Indian Reservation

The Shivwits Band of Paiutes is headquartered in Ivins and the unincorporated community of Shivwits, located in Washington County, Utah ©Chris English

Ideal territory for those seeking a deeper connection with the land’s indigenous roots, the Shivwits Band of the Paiute Indian Reservation also features in Costner’s movie, with native Paiute themselves involved in the filming.

Ripe for more immersive travel, guided tours provide a window into the Paiute people’s history, culture, and traditions, allowing visitors to gain a newfound appreciation for the region’s ancestral guardians. The reservation’s serene surroundings, punctuated by the occasional splash of colour from native flora and fauna, provide the perfect setting for a rejuvenating picnic or nature walk.

Zion National Park

Catch sight of Zion National Park’s famous Virgin River Narrows during golden hour, the canyon only 20-30 feet wide in some places, and 2000 feet deep ©Karan Chawla

No sojourn to the cinematic dreamscape of Utah would be complete without venturing into the hallowed grounds of Zion National Park. While Horizon is not filmed here, St. George (mentioned above) is less than an hour away, the city known as the gateway to this red rock wonderland.

We suggest, tackling the breathtaking Angels Landing trail, wading through the narrow confines of The Narrows, or simply basking in the grandeur of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

It’s also worth noting that Zion is only 80 miles away from Bryce Canyon, another of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.

Forge Your Own Epic Tale In The Beehive State

Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park is filled with great hiking opportunities, spectacular Navajo sandstone formations, ancient lava rock, and unforgettable views ©Perry Kibler

For those of us who find ourselves captivated by Costner’s latest homage to the Frontier era, the majesty of Utah is sure to leave a lasting impression.

An invitation to forge your own epic tale amidst the timeless wilderness of the Beehive State, why not opt for our 15-night Star-Studded Studded Journey, the flexible fly-drive holiday allowing you to immerse yourself in stunning landscapes that have captivated filmmakers for decades? Alternatively, choose to travel in style on one of our legendary Rocky Mountaineer holidays and experience Silverleaf Plus service with exclusive access to a lounge car, premium beverages and more.

With 28 scenic byways of outstanding beauty covering over 2,200 miles, 44 state parks, nine national monuments, and two national recreation areas, Utah’s incredible array of awe-inspiring natural scenery is camera ready and ripe for adventure.

Chapter One of Horizon: An American Saga is scheduled to be released in UK cinemas on June 28, 2024 with Chapter Two following on August 16.

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