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Unique Film Locations in Tuolumne County

By | 01/19/2022 | Arts & Entertainment, Exploring Tuolumne County, Gold Country

From historic towns to stunning landscapes, Tuolumne County California makes for the ultimate filming destination within reach.

In the town of Columbia sits Columbia State Historic Park, the most well preserved Gold Rush town in California. It is fully functioning and is filled with businesses that fit the part. It is loved by all who visit. There is a rich film history in Columbia, especially from westerns like High Noon and Little House on the Prairie. The brick buildings lining Main Street harken to the past, while volunteers and enthusiasts can be found in 1850’s garb daily in Columbia

Downtown Sonora frequently receives references to its similarity and small town charm of iconic locations. Courthouse Park, stands in the middle of downtown with views of the striking St. James Church, referred to fondly as The Red Church. Sonora brings the East Coast small town vibes to the foothills of sunny California.

Twain Harte has a classic Americana charm and is dubbed ‘“The Gateway to the High Sierra”. This mountain town is known for cabins and cozy snow days in the winter. In the summer the whole town feels like a big summer camp with families swimming in the lakes and enjoying outdoor live music in the park.

Downtown Sonora

If you have been to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco, you probably drove through Chinese Camp. This town is home to a general store and uninhabited buildings serving as a reminder of the history of those who once lived there. 

In contrast, you would have to go out of your way to find the town of Tuolumne. Once a flourishing lumber town, now sits a quiet community. The surrounding hills and Tuolumne River below are stunning. Follow the old railroad tracks on West Side Trail to immerse yourself in nature and history at once. 

There are many films that looked to filming in Tuolumne County as well as many that shot in Tuolumne County. While Tuolumne County for decades was known for its Western films like Unforgiven, and Back to the Future 3 in recent years more horror genre and mountain exploration films have scouted and filmed here. Marvel Studios has also scouted for undisclosed films in Tuolumne County.

Quartz Mountain Stagecoach - Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia State Historic Park

There are so many hidden gems in Tuolumne County. From wineries with views of Half Dome to the oldest continually operating saloon in California in Groveland. Each town has its own story and unique history. The town of Standard is nestled away next to Sonora with a history of being a hub for Sierra Railway travelers. A local favorite, Strawberry, is a town only accessible to those heading up Highway 108 towards Sonora Pass. With a few small shops themed to its name, and a beautiful river that runs through it, it is a must stop.  

Tuolumne County has a long history of welcoming the film industry with open arms. Many still tell stories of when Back to the Future 3 was filmed here or when Drew Barrymore shared a beer with locals at a bar while filming Bad Girls. These stories and events have helped to bring the community together over the years.

Plan a trip to scout in Tuolumne County today or learn more about the permit process here!

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