Star Wars in Death Valley is a collection of filming locations which were used in Star Wars Episode IV -- A New Hope and Star Wars Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi. In the decades since the films were released, many Star Wars fans from around the globe have visited Death Valley National Park in an effort to seek out the exact filming locations. Because we have a great appreciation for both Death Valley and Star Wars, we have put together this Star Wars in Death Valley page. The Star Wars in Death Valley self-guided tour is a really fun activity to do for one or more days, especially if you like the movies as much as we do. When visiting these places, you will have to spend some time searching for the exact spots by matching up the background terrain. To do this successfully, you will need to print out photographs of specific scenes and bring them with you. You could also bring your laptop, cell phone, or tablet with the movies on it for matching purposes. I'm going to share here my recommended route if you are interested in doing the Star Wars tour. The tour begins near the beautiful hills of Artists Palette, continues close to the entrance of impressive Desolation Canyon, moves on next to tourist-heavy Golden Canyon, and then passes through Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Then, after a trip up high to 5,475 foot Dante's View, the tour concludes at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Below, we currently have matched up 29 specific camera angles of scenes from A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. We first began matching up Star Wars scenes in Death Valley back in 2005. Over the years, we have added more and more scenes to our collection. In 2012, we managed to find a couple of scene locations that nobody had ever found before. And in 2013, we matched up deleted scenes from the Blu-ray release. During most months of the year, this Star Wars in Death Valley tour page is the most popular and frequently visited page on our entire web site. For instance, in October of 2015, this page was visited 1,269 times. (Note: All movie photos contained on this page are copyright Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm Ltd. and are used for matching purposes only.)
A long time ago
in a desert far, far away....
C3P0 and R2D2 came to Death Valley to film movie scenes
The Star Wars in Death Valley route map below shows the six areas where the nine filming locations are located. The suggested order of the route is -- 1. Artists Palette, 2. Desolation Canyon, 3. Golden Canyon, 4. 20 Mule Team Canyon, 5. Dantes View, and 6. Mesquite Sand Dunes.
Anakin Skywalker (Steve) and Princess Leia (Daria)
Stormtrooper (Javan) and Yoda (Flemming)
Princess Leia (Sally) and Stormtrooper (Steve Sr.)
Our group outside of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center
The first tour stop is called "Sandcrawler Station", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This is located very close to Artists Palette. Drive your car about halfway through Artists Drive until you reach the right turn which goes to the Artists Palette parking area. Park just before making the turn and walk south up the bank to see where the Sandcrawler was filmed.
The second tour stop is called "R2's Arroyo Overlook", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In this scene, the camera pans down to show R2D2 traveling through a narrow canyon in the desert. To reach this location (and the next one), get back in your car and drive around the corner to Artists Palette. Park your car and walk up the very small hill to the north and you will be looking at the place where the camera was set up to film this short scene.
The third tour stop is called "Inside R2's Arroyo", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In these scenes, R2D2 runs into some trouble and eventually gets zapped by the Jawas. In order to see the exact spot where this happened to R2D2 as he was traveling along, walk down the small trail which drops you into the wash of Artists Palette. Take an immediate left and you should now be walking in a small canyon. Look around for the spots within this canyon.
The fourth tour stop is called "Bantha Canyon", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In these scenes, Tusken Raiders are seen riding a Bantha. To find this location, get back in your car and take Artists Drive back to Badwater Road. Turn right onto Badwater Road and head north for 1.1 miles. You should now see a gravel road which turns off to the right. Turn here and drive 1/2 mile to the parking area. You will need to do some walking to get to Bantha Canyon. Start walking to the east but stay north of the small hill instead of taking a path directly over it. You should drop into a wash that eventually leads to Desolation Canyon. Bantha Canyon is just before the mouth of Desolation Canyon.
The fifth stop on our Star Wars in Death Valley tour is "Jawa Canyon", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The location for the scenes filmed here is Golden Canyon, the mouth of which is visible from the parking area of the previous stop Desolation Canyon. For many years, Golden Canyon was kind of a lost filming location, as not many people realized that some important scenes from the original Star Wars were filmed here. That's why I didn't end up visiting this location and matching up scenes until December of 2011. Below you can see some exact matches, which you can find for yourself if you search carefully in the lower portion of Golden Canyon. In 2013, we added the second picture down below to complete all of the Golden Canyon photo matches for Star Wars.
The sixth tour stop is called "Lightsaber Construction Cave", taken from the Blu-ray deleted scenes of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. In this scene, Luke Skywalker is shown inside of a cave putting the finishing touches on his new lightsaber. When he is finished putting it together, he turns it on and the lightsaber powers up inside the cave. Luke then gives the lightsaber to R2D2 for safekeeping. R2D2 emerges from the cave to meet up with C3P0. Both look down on the parked Millennium Falcon and X-wing starfighter. To find this location, drive back to Badwater Road and take another right. When you reach the end of Badwater Road, turn right onto Highway 190. About 4.7 miles later you will reach a turn-off onto a gravel road into Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Turn here and drive for a short distance. Just past the entrance gate with mining hazard signs, look for a pull-out to your right. The cave has been collapsed and buried by the park service for safety reasons, but you can still find the exact location up one of the small canyons to your right. It took our group three days of searching before we were able to find this location in 2013 for the first time. In the first picture below, you can see that the background terrain where I am standing is identical to the background terrain as seen outside of the cave. And in the next two pictures, I am standing outside of the spot where the cave once was.
The seventh tour stop is called "Road to Jabba's Palace", taken from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. In this scene, Luke has sent C3P0 and R2D2 to Jabba the Hutt's Palace as a gift offering, to set the stage for his rescue of Han Solo. To find this location, continue driving a short distance through Twenty Mule Team Canyon past the parking area for the Lightsaber Construction Cave. Pay close attention to the scenery, because it's not far before you will need to pull over and start walking towards Jabba's Palace, just as the droids did. For the best pictures, climb the small mud bank to your left and look south. Our group was the first to match up the last two pictures shown here. What is interesting about these two pictures is that the droids have turned around and are actually walking in the opposite direction, away from Jabba's Palace.
Obi-Wan, Luke & droids at Mos Eisley Overlook
The eighth tour stop is called "Mos Eisley Overlook", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In this scene, Obi-Wan, Luke, and the droids stop their landspeeder and get out to look at the view from the edge of a cliff. In the movie, they are looking at the spaceport city of Mos Eisley, which is where they are headed to. To get to this tour stop, continue driving through Twenty Mule Team Canyon until the road loops back onto Highway 190. Turn right and drive around 4 miles until you see the road which turns off to the right for Dante's View. Drive this road all the way to where it ends at the Dante's View overlook, and you will be at Mos Eisley Overlook. Look back toward northern Death Valley and the Furnace Creek area to get the same view as Obi-Wan, Luke, and the droids did. The small picture above was not filmed in Death Valley, but when you see what they are looking at, that is Death Valley.
The ninth and final tour stop is called "Droid Dunes", taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In the scene which was filmed here, C3P0 and R2D2 are seen lost in the sand dunes of Tatooine. To reach Droid Dunes, drive all the way back to Furnace Creek, and then continue on Hwy 190 to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. It's impossible to match up the dunes in this picture exactly, as more than 35 years have gone by since filming, and dunes are an ever-shifting landscape. But for the closest match, hike halfway out the dunes toward the highest peak and look northeast. If you compare the two pictures, the most obvious match is the mountain range in the background. This tour stop was first visited in March of 2008, but the pictures below (like most pictures we have included) were taken in March of 2012.
A lot of preparation work goes into doing a Star Wars in Death Valley tour. Some of the aspects of doing the tour include studying maps of the park, figuring out where each filming location is, finding where each specific camera angle was filmed from, purchasing and wearing Star Wars character costumes, dealing with hikers or curious onlookers who may want photographs with you or may be laughing at you, and having a good camera along with clear printouts of the scenes. Here is a brief look behind the scenes at some of the things we did before and during our tours.
For our 2012 visit to the filming locations, we printed out specific movie scenes and brought them with us to match them up:
This is how we originally matched up scenes back in 2005. At that time, we brought DVDs of the movies with us and played the scenes on our laptop at each location:
During our 2013 return visit to Golden Canyon to match up one missing scene, I showed Annie, Jered, and Charlie a few of the filming spots for fun:
This was a self-portrait taken by Anakin (Steve) at home before the March 2012 trip, testing out his new outfit:
And our final photo shows the droids being filmed in Death Valley (photo is copyright of National Park Service in Death Valley):