Easy Rider movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Easy Rider filmed?

1969

About Easy Rider

Easy Rider is a road film and buddy flick celebrating the ‘60s counterculture. Released in 1969, the Peter Fonda film received widespread acclaim for sparking the New Hollywood era of cinema.

Fonda and Dennis Hopper teamed up to pen the screenplay and share the screen as the film’s main stars. The duo portrays bikers Wyatt “Captain America” and Billy, who finance their cross-country pilgrimage from Los Angeles to New Orleans through a narcotics run. While the pair prefers weed, cocaine is the drug that helps them make bank.

After selling their haul to a dealer (Phil Spector), they stash their newfound fortune in plastic tubes. They then stuff the plastic tubes in the gas tank of Wyatt’s California-style chopper, which is just but one of the elements that proudly bears a Stars and Stripes paint job. Flying the American flag high, Wyatt also dons a leather jacket and helmet displaying the flag decal.

The pair sets off eastward, and along the way, they interact with various elements that highlight the ‘60s generation. From picking up a hippie hitch-hiker (Luke Askew) to experiencing communal living and free love; the road film does a great job at encapsulating the highlights of what it meant to be an American youth in that epoch of time.

Things get kicked up a notch when Wyatt and Billy have a brush with the law in New Mexico and subsequently end up behind bars. While cooling their heels as state guests, they encounter lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson).who found himself in a similar predicament after having too much to drink.

Hanson gets the two out of jail and joins them on their journey to Mardi Gras. The pair introduces Hanson, who is in every sense a square, to grass. The movie turns tragic when the trio ruffles feathers in a small town and the local rednecks raid their camp. Hanson is bludgeoned to death during the attack.

City Locations

Los Angeles, Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico

Location Types

Naturescapes, Ranch, Retro

Location Styles

Dated/Retro, Desert, Dilapidated/Neglected

Easy Rider Locations

The slate first went down on the Easy Rider production on the 22nd of February 1968. Filming wrapped up in May, and the picture premiered on the big screen in July. Biker movies weren’t popular at the time, and Columbia Pictures greenlit the project against a filming budget of $400, 000.

According to Kovacs, another $1 million went into music licensing rights for the tunes added during editing. Proving to be a commercial success, the film raked in a reported $60 million. Filming took place on-location, with various scenes shot across California, Arizona, Louisiana (in New Orleans), and New Mexico.

The production unit relied on pictures to recreate the hippie commune at a site near the Malibu Canyon. Most initial cross-country journey scenes were filmed along the famous Route 66.

The team relied on natural lighting with Hopper explaining that the big man upstairs is “a great gaffer.” Two five-ton trucks hauled the filming equipment and bikes while the crew and cast traveled in a motorhome.

There is more to unpack about the road/buddy film, and here are some details about the filming locations of Easy Rider.

Fun Facts:

Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, who formerly worked on the 1967 biker movie “Hell’s Angels on Wheels,” handled the photography when filming “Easy Rider.” Nicholson, who wasn’t a well-known star at the time, had a role as a gas station attendant in the Richard Rush film.

Wyatt and Billy buying coke scene in Easy Rider

La Contenta, New Mexico

The La Contenta opening scene depicts the two protagonists buying narcotics in Mexico. It’s a revealing scene, in the sense that it introduces us to one of the film’s thematic issues.

Even in the freedom-charged landscape of the ‘60s, the laws governing the land still reigned supreme. The scene essentially serves as the trigger action that guides the lead characters’ actions and leads them to their eventual redemption.

Along the way, they are shunned by just about everyone who views them as threats. Hanson’s statement explains it, “They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.”

The production unit filmed the Easy Rider scene at 1302 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte in La Contenta. Located north of Taos in New Mexico, the Red Arrow Emporium, which is now located down the road, was formerly found in the area.

The Red Arrow uses the building seen in the road trip movie as warehouse space. It’s worth a stopover for a photo op on your way to the Rio Grande Bridge.

Drug sale scene in Easy Rider

11000 Aviation Boulevard, Los Angeles,

After their drug run, the duo sells their stash to a dealer in Los Angeles. They get their big payday from the sale, stash it in one of their bikes, and set off to enjoy their fortune in New Orleans.

The ill-gotten sum more or less seals their fate because it enables them to take to the road and retire to Florida as Billy envisions. Captain America sees it otherwise and delivers his iconic line, “You know Billy, we blew it.

Phil Spector, the legendary record producer who later became the subject of headlines because of his murder convictions, portrayed the dealer. The production team filmed the scene at 11000 Aviation Boulevard.

Anyone set on getting a peak at the Easy Rider location should consider staying at the TownPlace Suites by Marriott. The 3-star hotel is near the area at 14400 Aviation Blvd, Hawthorne.

Wyatt tosses his Rolex scene in Easy Rider

Ballarat, California

Just after setting off on their road adventure, Wyatt symbolically tosses his Rolex watch in the desert. Perhaps it foreshadows the movie’s ending but in the simplest sense; his actions communicate a sense of seeking freedom which isn’t truly achievable without making amends.

Hanson’s words best highlight the situation when he says, “They’ll talk to you and talk to you and talk to you about individual freedom. But if they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.”

The Rolex toss scene was filmed in Ballarat, California in the area east of 178. It’s smack between the Stovepipe Wells, bordering the Death Valley’s western edge, and Trona. Now a ghost town, the former boom town dates to 1897 when natives discovered gold at the Radcliffe Mine.

A graded dirt road running from Highway 178 leads to the town but it's prone to flooding during the rainy season. A few derelict buildings still stand in the area, and overall, the Easy Rider filming location makes for a scenic drive with a picnic shelter available to enjoy a secluded meal.

The duo picks up a hitchhiker scene in Easy Rider

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

After stopping by a farmstead in Arizona, after stopping to repair a flat on Wyatt’s bike, the pair meet a hippie hitch-hiker. He invites the two to visit his commune, and they spend the rest of the day in the communal living locale which is swayed by free love.

Before leaving, the hitch-hiker offers Wyatt some LSD explaining, “When you get to the right place, with the right people, quarter this. You know this could be the right place. Time's running out.” Wyatt responds with his famous, “I’m hip about time” line.

The Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument provided the backdrop for the shot where they meet the hitchhiker. The cinder cone is the youngest of the volcanoes found on the San Francisco volcanic field.

Sadly, the 2022 Tunnel Fire razed the entirety of the Easy Rider location except for the visitor’s center. Nearby, you’ll find the Wupatki National Monument in Coconino where they filmed camp scenes. In particular, the Wupatki Pueblo ruins provided the setting for those sequences.

Further north, the Sacred Mountain is where the production team filmed the gas station sequence when the hitchhiker insists they shouldn’t pay for gas. It closed but the building that housed the gas station still stands on the west side of Route 89.

Hanson is bludgeoned scene in Easy Rider

Hansen Dam Recreation Area, Los Angeles

The biking duo crosses paths with Hanson during their stint in jail, and after he helps them get out, Hanson joins them on their journey to New Orleans. He explains, “You know, I must've started off to Mardi Gras six or seven times. Never got further than the state line.”

Sadly, he never makes it to New Orleans because he’s killed during an attack near a small Louisiana town. After stopping at a local diner and attracting attention, the trio sets up camp just outside town.

A group of locals assaults them with clubs while they are sleeping. Billy brandishes a knife and scares the attackers away. While the two bikers only sustain minor injuries, Hanson isn’t as lucky and he dies after getting bludgeoned.

The production unit filmed the camping scene at 11770 Foothill Boulevard, Lake View Terrace. Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1940, the man-made barrier is a flood control dam. Homer and Marie Hansen, horse ranchers who established a ranch in the area, lent their name to the dam.

The flood control basin houses the Hansen Dam Recreation Center and Park which is accessible via Highway 210 or 5. Some of the highlights around the Easy Rider location include the Hansen Dam Horse Park, Hansen Dam Golf Course, and the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center.

Wyatt and Billy’s death scenes in Easy Rider

North Levee Road, Krotz Spring

The ending is equally ominous and symbolic, perhaps foreshadowed by the build-up to the characters’ ultimate atonement. Conveying the air of hopelessness, characteristic of other late ‘60s flicks like “Bonnie and Clyde,” the two protagonists lose their lives.

The theme of paranoia also recurs, particularly through Billy who trips every time he smokes grass. It’s like a final nail to Billy’s sentiments, “What the hell’s wrong with freedom man? That’s what it’s all about.”

The tragic scene unfolded against the backdrop of one of the most scenic sights, which is North Levee Road on Route 105, north of Krotz Springs, Louisiana. The St. Landry Parish town rests next to the Atchafalaya River. Besides hosting the Easy Rider production team, Krotz Spring has had cameos in other productions like Nevada Smith and Out of Sight.

Conclusion

With details about some of the best scenes in Easy Rider, you have a solid reference if you are planning a tour inspired by the movie’s filming locations. On your itinerary, include a stopover at Main Street, Franklin. That’s where they filmed the scene where Captain America, Hanson, and Billy arrived in Louisiana.

For the parade scene, the production team set up shop in New Mexico. They filmed on Route 85 which is about 50 miles east of Santa Fe. The Bryans Gallery in Camino de la Placitas, Taos, provided the setting for the interior jail scenes. The exteriors were filmed at 157 Bridge Street, Las Vegas which is now occupied by Tito’s art gallery.

The cemetery, where the duo pops the LSD Wyatt got from the hitchhiker, is St Louis Cemetery No.1. It’s found west of the French Quarter at Basin Street on 1300 Saint Louis Street. Buses 32 and 51, among others, stop nearby.