Ridgway, Colorado: Home of Many Western Movie Sets

When folks visit us in Ridgway, Colorado, they often say the stunning scenery looks familiar — and it's no wonder.

You see, Ridgway and the surrounding area appeared in several classic Western films, including True Grit and How the West Was Won. Several of the best film locations are located along well-maintained graded county roads, and visiting them takes you to some of the most beautiful scenery you'll ever see!

A good place to start is Ridgway itself, a friendly town on the northern edge of the San Juan Mountains. In fact, Ridgway is one of these film locations I mentioned; it was dressed up as Fort Smith in the opening part of True Grit. A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you past the living quarters of Rooster Cogburn, the one-eyed U.S. marshal played by John Wayne in an Academy Award-winning performance in 1969.

Other film-related sites include the old railroad depot, which starred as the Independence Hotel in How the West Was Won (it's now a private residence). Also, the Union Pacific posse car from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is on display at the Ridgway Railroad Museum (150 Racecourse Rd.; open daily from mid-May to mid-October and on Saturdays and by appointment during winter; 1-800-220-4959.

Last but not least, check out the John Wayne memorabilia at the True Grit Cafe (123 Lena St.; 1-970-626-5739; open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except Christmas and Thanksgiving Days. ). You'll quickly realize why it's a local favorite!

See More Cinema Spots
For a super day trip, pick up a free movie location guide from the Visitor Center at the fairgrounds. If you drive a few miles west on State Highway 62 toward Telluride, you'll cross the Dallas Divide, one of the state's most photographed mountain scenes.

A short distance over the divide, take Last Dollar Road south about 2 miles. The abandoned ranch house on your right (sorry, it's private property) was Mattie Ros's family home in True Grit.

Starting again in Ridgway, a drive east on graded County Road 10 and County Road 8 (also known as Forest Road 858), takes you on a 3-hour, 40-mile round-trip through even more stunning scenery, including dramatic Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir. (Forest Road 858 eventually winds north and meets up with U.S. Highway 50; take it west into Montrose, then head back south to Ridgway via U.S. Highway 550).

Along the way, you'll pass Katie's Meadow, where one of True Grit's most memorable scenes was shot.

There are many other activities around Ridgway for Old West fans, including Jeep trails to abandoned mines and ghost towns, an annual Labor Day rodeo, trail rides and a great Western show by Legends of the Old West, a local troupe. So if Western films and lore interest you, Ridgway offers a “reel” great getaway with stage presence to spare!

Before You Visit

Ridgway is located just west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 550 and State Highway 62 in southwestern Colorado, 26 miles south of Montrose. To learn more, call the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-220-4959.

More to See

Charming Ouray, featured on page 22 of the Nov/Dec 2002 issue, is 11 miles south of Ridgway.

The San Juan Skyway, a 236-mile loop that includes Ridgway, is considered one of North America's most scenic drives.

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