Your Guide to the Ultimate Star Wars California Road Trip

Lightspeed ahead.

Turns out that “galaxy far far away” is much closer than you may have imagined. Star Wars fans have enthusiastically traveled from planet to planet since the first film debuted in 1977. When Modesto-born George Lucas filmed the first three episodes (IV, V and VI), he chose his home state of California to stand in for many of the exotic locals. And they are all accessible via the ultimate road trip, no spacecraft required.

According to Sunset Magazine, “You’ll cover a lot of California, starting near the Oregon border, veering southeast almost into Arizona, and ending in Anaheim. It covers almost 1,400 miles (and more like 2,000 if you need to get back to your original starting point). You’ll want to allow a minimum of three days (four if you’re heading back north), but you’ll be happier with more. Because this isn’t a race, it’s a pilgrimage.”

Here are a few highlights:

Endor (a.k.a. Redwood National and State Parks, Del Norte and Humboldt Counties)

“Even if you haven’t seen Return of the Jedi since the ’80s, we bet you remember the iconic Endor scenes with the Ewoks and the speeder bikes zipping through enormous trees. These scenes were filmed at Redwood National and State Parks. Hike through the Tall Trees Redwood Grove and you will expect to see furry little faces peeking out at you.

Hoth (a.k.a. the Port of Oakland)

“You’ll often hear it said in the Bay Area that the huge cranes at the Port of Oakland inspired the AT-AT walkers, the four-legged troop transports used by Imperial forces on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. This turns out to be a myth, but steal a glance at the cranes anyway as you cross the Bay Bridge on your way out of town. It’s an entirely plausible idea. (If you have a little extra time, you can get a close-up view at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland’s most interesting and woefully under-utilized public space.)

Tatooine (a.k.a. Death Valley)

“Make sure your bucket of bolts is in good working order for this next leg because you don’t want any desert breakdowns. Though many scenes of Tatooine were shot in Tunisia, California’s Death Valley National Park stood in for Luke’s home planet several times in both Episode IV and VI. If you visit the area known as Artist’s Palette, you’ll recognize sights such as the canyon where a lost and forlorn R2D2 wanders and a plain where a Jawa sandcrawler once churned. Near Desolation Canyon is the landscape where we first saw Tusken Raiders riding yak-like Banthas, and if you get a bad feeling when traveling through Twenty Mule Team Canyon, relax; it’s not a trap, but you are in the location used for filming the approach to Jabba the Hutt’s lair.”
Get the full Star Wars itinerary here.
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