Captain Kirk Visits Yosemite … and Other Favorite Movie Moments

Broken Arch Arches National Park
Arches National Park ({link url=}Photo by Fikret Onal{/link})

Summer is a fantastic time to visit many of the beautiful national parks throughout the United States-during these tough economic times, they are a beautiful and inexpensive way to enjoy some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. Summer is also a great time to head to the movies: blockbuster season begins in May and every weekend features a new “must see” hit through Labor Day, pitting premiere against premiere at the box office.

Here at TakeTours, just for a bit of fun, we thought we’d combine the two and explore our national parks through the lens of some of our favorite movies and movie moments. (You will never think of them the same way again!)

Thelma and Louise … and the Grand Canyon

Thelma and Louise theatrical release movie poster
Theatrical release poster for "Thelma and Louise", 1991

You remember it: that symbolic moment of female empowerment from the 90s, as Thelma and Louise gripped hands and drove their convertible over the edge of the Grand Canyon and into legend. Never, perhaps, has a national park meant so much in the context of a film: their jump into the canyon was not only an act of defiance, of taking charge of their own destinies in a male-dominated world, but also a symbol of the often massive gap between what is true and what is right. They were misunderstood martyrs, but they but they never looked back. They just hit the gas, and let the dust fly as they arced into open air. And it was just plain awesome-one of the best endings to a road trip movie ever. (Although we don’t endorse their particular way of experiencing the Grand Canyon.)

Indiana Jones at Arches National Park

The gorgeous Arches National Park formed the backdrop for the coming of age of one of the world’s favorite movie characters of all time: the snake-fearing, ruggedly handsome and endlessly adventurous archaeologist, Indiana Jones. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we meet a young Indiana (played by the late River Phoenix) a modest boy scout on a camping trip with his troop in the Utah desert sometime around the year 1912. But in true Indiana Jones fashion, he stumbles across grave robbers stealing a sacred cross from a burial site, steals it back from them, and ends up in a grand chase. So begins the legend—we learn the origin of his fedora, bullwhip, fear of snakes and all-set against the gorgeous arched rock formations in Moab, Utah. With a backyard like that, he had no choice but to become an adventurer, did he?

Captain Kirk Visits Yosemite

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Captain James T. Kirk, Yosemite fan

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, we find the famous leaders of the Starship Enterprise crew, Kirk, Spock, and Bones, engaged in an unlikely bit of R & R: camping in Yosemite National Park. That’s right, the producers would like us to believe that many millennia from now, people will still be camping. (We don’t know about you, but here at TakeTours we’re comforted by the fact that Yosemite will still be around in Stardate 8454.1.) Captain James T. Kirk shows us he is good at more than just handling a phaser by attempting a free solo climb up the side of El Capitan (a towering rock formation whose name, appropriately, translates to “the Captain”) while Spock hovers in his levitation boots nearby. When Spock critiques the motivation for and speed of his ascent, Kirk replies, in his own inimitable way, “I’m doing this because I enjoy it. Not to mention the most important reason for climbing a mountain…Because it’s there.” Could there be any better endorsement for a national park from a futuristic sci-fi character? We think not.

Yellowstone: the Beginning of the End in 2012

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park ({link url=}Photo by DirectDish{/link})

Yellowstone: you thought it was just a national park with beautiful vistas, a few cool geysers, bubbling mud pools, and other quirky natural phenomena. But we’re here to tell you it could bring about the end of the world as we know it; because, believe it or not, most of Yellowstone National Park is actually a massive supervolcano whose circumference is miles and miles across. (Which means, if it erupted, there would cause a lot more problems than a few cancelled flights, people.) But if you’ve seen last year’s blockbuster 2012, Yellowstone’s turbulent secret is old news. In the movie, it’s one of the stars of the apocalyptic show, a classic moment in a film chock full of unfortunate natural disasters like earthquakes and uncanny tidal waves. What could be better than a crazy conspiracy theorist (Woody Harrelson) live broadcasting his own demise as he watches the massive eruption, while John Cusack tries to flee oncoming destruction, fire, magma and debris in an old RV? (And that’s only the beginning of his problems!) But don’t worry-geologists are not predicting Yellowstone’s destruction any time soon. So there’s still plenty of time to see this natural wonder in its “calm” state.

In fact, if you’d like to experience some or all of these excellent national parks and real-life movie sets for yourself, TakeTours features excursions that visit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches National Park, and the Grand Canyon throughout the year. So take a look and consider making your own memorable moments!