In 1927 Paramount Pictures purchased 2,400 acres in the hills between Malibu and the Valley for use as a “movie ranch.” The property had rolling grasslands, oak & walnut groves, streams, and canyons – everything they needed to create the illusion of wilderness.
After World War II the studio sold the property where parcels were sold to private investors. In 1952 Bill Hertz bought 326 acres that still bear the Paramount name, where he turned the land into a western town. In 1980 the National Park Service purchased the land and revitalized the old movie ranch.
Paramount used this ranch and its former sets for making movies from the 1920’s through the mid-1940’s. Well over a hundred movies were shot here, most of them Westerns. Today, those old sets are gone, but a Western Town is here for visitors to admire, complete with a Main Street lined with typical storefronts, such as a Sheriff’s office, a blacksmith/livery, a surveyors office, a saloon, a Post Office, barns, and a Wells Fargo office.
The studio built numerous large-scale sets on the ranch, including a huge replica of early San Francisco, European village streets, and an Old West town. In its sixty plus years of film history, this site has posed as Tombstone, Arizona and Dodge City, Kansas. It has stood in for the rolling hills of Montana, and the dusty streets of Laredo. Moviegoers have been fooled into mistaking it for the Royal Gorge of Colorado, the Ozark Mountains, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tom Sawyer’s Missouri.
Since 1980, the site has been part of a national park, and has been reduced to 436 acres in size. But the ranch itself has survived, and the Western Town was rebuilt in 1984, and is still frequently used for Western filming. For the several years, the Western Town was used on weekdays by CBS for shooting its recent Western hit, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (starring Jane Seymour). Many of the “Dr. Quinn” sets remain to be seen today.
After parking in the large dirt lot, you will walk across a small rickety wooden bridge and over into a wonderland of movie magic. Paramount Ranch is a free park that you can drive up to and explore, even when filming is taking place. This place is awesome and will make the young cowboy in all of you jump for joy.
The park also has restrooms, picnic tables (for about 100), and several hiking trails available, including a short 1/8 mile trail (to the south) overlooking willow shaded Medea Creek and the Western Town. There are several miles of easy to moderate scenic hikes through chaparral, riparian, and valley oak Savannah plant communities. Equestrians and mountain bikers may access these multi-use trails, as well, so be on the look out. Wildlife sightings might include red-tailed hawks, acorn woodpeckers, blue heron and deer.
As you can see there really is a lot to explore here. If hiking is your thing, there are many trails that will take you around the wilderness surrounding the town and even take you up to a summit to see the town from above.
Directions: Paramount Ranch is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, between the west San Fernando Valley and Malibu. Address: 2903 Cornell Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Some of the more notable movies filmed at Paramount Ranch include: “Paleface” (1948) and “Son of Paleface” (1952), “Gunfight at the OK Corral” (1957), “Fancy Pants” (1950), “The Virginian” (1946), “Whispering Smith” (1948), “The Forest Rangers” (1942), “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944), “The Perils of Pauline” (1947), “Geronimo” (1939), “The Streets of Laredo” (1949), “Buck Benny Rides Again” (1940), “Ruggles of Red Gap” (1935),” “Gunsmoke” (1931), “The Plainsman” (1936), “Hopalong Cassidy Returns” (1936), “Wells Fargo” (1937), “Union Pacific” (1938), “The Adventures of Marco Polo” (1938), “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1938) and “Reds” (1981).