The town of Kanab, located in beautiful Southern Utah, has long been referred to by locals as “Little Hollywood.” Utah’s Little Hollywood earned its title many decades ago when it became a popular location for shooting westerns and television shows.
Today, you can take a step back in time and experience an authentic, classic western movie set for yourself. During your stay at Canyons Lodge, explore the sets that your favorite movies of yesterday—and even some modern films—were shot on and around.
Ready to start planning your own visit to Utah’s Little Hollywood? Keep reading to learn a little more about the history of Kanab, and how this little desert town came to attract filmmakers from around the world.
A Brief History of Kanab Utah
Long before it became known as Utah’s Little Hollywood, Kanab Utah and the surrounding area were home to several Native American tribes. The first attempt by Anglo-Americans to settle the area came in 1858. But for two decades, any attempts at settlements were hindered by attacks, as the Native American tribes tried to protect their lands. In 1964, a fort was built, though it was quickly abandoned by troops just a year later.
Over a decade after the first attempt, in 1970, a settlement began to form around the former fort. The fort became a center for activity in the growing town. Missionary work and exploration found their base at the fort, and it became a popular trading post. The town was named Kanab, a Native American word for the willow basket often used to carry infants on a mother’s back.
Times were tough for the town for many years. The Mormon settlers who had first arrived eventually decided to come together for cooperative farming, helping to save their suffering settlement. With time, the town began to thrive.
Hollywood Arrives in Southern Utah
The sleepy town of Kanab was thrust into the spotlight in the early 1920s, as it became Utah’s Little Hollywood. Hollywood actually arrived in 1924, when actor Tom Mix and his co-star, Tony The Wonder Horse began filming “Deadwood Coach.” The film’s stunning scenery and popularity, coupled with a rising interest in Westerns, sparked a rush of filmmakers in Kanab.
Despite being one of the most remote towns in the continental U.SKanab quickly became a bustling hub of production. With just 2,500 year-round residents between the 1930s and 60s, many residents were in some way employed by the revolving door of film productions. Whether they were staffing the hotels, serving up food, or working directly on film sets, everyone got involved. The conservative Mormon population, who themselves chose not to drink, even opened new bars and restaurants to serve the actors, actresses, and film crews that frequented the area. Hollywood gave back to the town, too. Frank Sinatra famously funded a swimming pool to be built at the hotel he stayed at while filming with his Rat Pack, and paid for the local high school’s football uniforms.
Over several decades, more than 100 films and television shows were filmed in Utah’s Little Hollywood. For many years, multiple films were shot in the town. In 1957 alone, more than 10 films were shot.
Film production in Kanab continued to be incredibly popular through the 1960s. In the 1970s, it began to slow. While it may not be the production hub that it once was, films and other creations are still sometimes shot here. Most recently scenes from the 2012 film “John Carter,” the 2014 film “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and the 2013 films “Gravity” and “The Lone Ranger” were shot in Kanab.
You can still experience Utah’s Little Hollywood and its rich history at the Little Hollywood Museum.
Visiting Utah’s Little Hollywood Today
If you want to experience Utah’s Little Hollywood for yourself, you’ll want to start at the Little Hollywood Museum. The museum is home to a number of movie sets, where you can imagine historic blockbusters being filmed under the hot summer sun.
In addition to exploring the film sets, you can also watch a live performance of the skit “How the West Was Lost.” See a production come to life on a set that was once home to some of Hollywood’s biggest films! After exploring the museum, you can also stop by the Gift Shop to shop for Native American jewelry and other souvenirs.
The Little Hollywood Museum and Gift Shop are open seasonally from March to December.
Planning Your Visit to Utah’s Little Hollywood
Whether you have an interest in filmmaking or a passion for old westerns, you’ll definitely want to plan a visit to Utah’s Little Hollywood. Besides visiting the museum, you can also drive through the town to look for peaks and landscapes that you recognize from your favorite films!
If you’re planning to explore Utah’s Little Hollywood, Canyons Lodge is the perfect base camp for your visit. Our rustic contemporary rooms will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to the days when filmmakers and cowboys wandered the streets of Kanab.