Most of the Hidalgo locations are in the US. Only a few scenes were filmed in Morocco. The filming locations chosen were excellent, especially those of Montana and South Dakota. The famous seaside finishing line sequence of the final horse race was filmed at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes in California, with the emotional closing scene filmed in Oklahoma at Blackjack Mountain.
While it may seem like the main race took place far from America in the African continent or the Saudi Arabian desert, all the racing sequences with the sands and dunes were filmed in Dumont Dunes and the surrounding areas in California.
Throughout the movie, there are scenes of the horses running. Wherever possible, these were filmed in a contained environment at the Black Hills Wildlife Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota. The sanctuary is quite large, so the horses could run freely without worrying about their safety.
There is also a scene when Frank looks up at the Statue of Liberty in New York. However, he is lost in thought.
Teaser: The railroad scenes took place at Jamestown in California. Fans can tour all the filming locations via train for a great experience.
The main horse who played Hidalgo, RH Tecontender, better known as TJ, was purchased by Viggo Mortensen after the filming. In fact, Viggo even rode TJ to the movie premiere.
Hidalgo and Frank continue in the race scene in Hidalgo
Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier County, MT
The first shot is one of the best scenes in Hidalgo, when audiences see the famed mustang, Hidalgo, with his rider Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen). Hidalgo is standing by a stream when he hears a shrill whistle from his rider. He trots quickly to meet Frank, who nuzzles his head and says, "Come on, little brother. Checkout time. Yeah." Frank has a small campfire at the side. He wraps up, and Frank and Hidalgo ride through the snow. The surrounding areas are stunning, with bare trees and snow sticking to the ground.
At the same time, present in the area are Preston Webb (C. Thomas Howell) and his prized horse, Senator. Preston shaves his beard when he says to Senator, "Everyone's well behind us, Senator. When we cross the finishing line, we'd best look like champions."
This filming location of Hidalgo is the gorgeous Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier County in Montana. This sequence is special to audiences since it is the first introduction to Hidalgo and Frank Hopkins. Fans of Hidalgo can visit Glacier County by heading on US-89 to SE Boundary St. Once there, it is necessary to respect the Siksikaitsitapi people and their customs. While it is not forbidden to click pictures, it is best to request permission first.
Frank and Preston race each other scene in Hidalgo
Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
Frank (on Hidalgo) meets up with Preston (on Senator) on the snowy plain. He greets Preston while galloping, "Howdy! Nice morning, don't you think?" Preston exclaims, "You went over it! You went off the wagon trail!" Frank smiles and says, "Cross-country race, ain't it?" Preston gets highly competitive and yells, "Well, I didn't ride 1,100 miles to finish second place." Frank drawls, "Why did you, then?" Preston sneers, says, "This race is mine, cowboy! Hyah!" and races ahead. Frank gently speaks to Hidalgo, "ready when you are, brother. Let her buck," and picks up speed as they close the distance to Preston.
The Hidalgo filming location for this galloping scene is the flat snowy plain of Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. Black Hills National Forest is known for its incredible hiking trails - Hell Canyon Trail, Willow Creek Trail, and Iron Creek Trail. It is also famous for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Fans can plan an overnight trip and stay at the Historic Summit Ridge Cabin in the National Forest. Getting here is quick if you take the US-16 W to Railroad Avenue, continue onto Main St, and turn onto Reno Gulch Rd. Once you are on Reno Gulch Rd, continue till you see the national forest.
Frank punches Preston scene in Hidalgo
Los Angeles Center Studios, 450 S Bixel St, Los Angeles, CA
After beating Senator and Preston, Frank is talking to some barmaids in a tavern. Preston enters the same bar and orders a shot of Whiskey. After he takes a sip, he says to Frank, "I don't like your style, Hopkins." Frank turns around, looks at Preston, and yells loudly to laughter, "Hey, hey! You made it!" Preston decides to get snide with Frank and proclaims, "Mustangs don't belong in races with thoroughbreds. If you ask me, they belong in fertilizer." Frank gets upset and says, "Mister, you can say anything you want about me. But I'm gonna have to ask you not to talk about my horse that way."
The minute Frank says this, Preston raises his arms in a boxing position. Frank says, "Call it," and tosses a coin in the air. Before it can fall, he strikes Preston, who drops unconscious to the floor. The crowd in the tavern starts laughing riotously at the loser on the floor.
For this funny scene in Hidalgo, the Los Angeles Center Studios served as the tavern. The entire set was built from scratch, with the tables, chairs, and old west salon vibe. Getting to Los Angeles Center Studios is quick if you catch bus number 16 to the Bixel/ Maryland stop and walk for a minute.
Wounded Knee Creek massacre scene in Hidalgo
Agua Dulce Movie Ranch, 34855 Petersen Rd, Agua Dulce, CA
Hidalgo and Frank come bearing a missive from Major Whitside of the Second Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Encampment at Wounded Knee Creek. Frank delivers the letter about finding a solution to the Sioux uprising. The directive in the message is to disarm the indigenous Lakotan Indian tribe at the Wounded Knee Creek reservation and to prevent their escape. If the Indians fight, they are to be subdued at all costs.
After Frank delivers the message, a soldier approaches him. The soldier says, "They've been doing it all night" (referring to the indigenous Lakotan people dancing and singing), and "there's going to be an uprising." Frank replies, "No, soldier. It's a ghost dance. That's all. Praying to their ancestors for help." Frank stands there watching them dance and pray. He leaves when he is approached by a native Lakota Sioux woman requesting information in Lakhotiyapi (before the start of the massacres).
This Hidalgo film scene is shot at the Agua Dulce Movie Ranch at Mystery Mesa in California. Several films have been shot here, including Scorpion King, Thor, Iron Man 2, War of the Worlds, and Duel. Getting here is the fastest if you catch the CA – 14 N and take Exit 15 onto Agua Dulce Canyon Road. Mystery Mesa is towards the end of the road.
Chief Eagle Horn voices his concerns scene in Hidalgo
Sierra Railroad, 8957 CA-120, Jamestown, CA
After the Wounded Knee Creek massacre, Frank joins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with Hidalgo and does historical re-enactments with a troupe. Also included is Chief Eagle Horn (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) of the Lakota Sioux, among others. Since the show moves towns quite often, the troupe is on a train when Chief Eagle Horn comes to speak to Buffalo Bill (J.K. Simmons).
Chief Eagle Horn asks Frank to translate Lakhotiyapi into English. Frank tells Buffalo Bill, "Chief says his people are vanishing faster than he can earn silver with you." Frank continues, "Chief Eagle Horn says that our… his nation's hoop is broken and scattered. The buffalo herds have been destroyed. The elk and deer are gone, and now the government is rounding up our wild horses, and they plan to shoot them too, before the first snows. They put a price on the native horses too great for a poor Indian to meet. Chief says that perhaps his people have lost their lands, but not their spirits."
For this scene, the Hidalgo production team chose to film on the Sierra Railroad in Jamestown, California. The Sierra Railroad has historical significance and was highly critical in the olden times. Now, the substation is declared a historical landmark. You can visit by catching the US – 120 E. The railroad signs are next to US-120.
The breed apart scene in Hidalgo
Dumont Dunes, California
Frank asks the slave boy (Franky Mwangi) to fetch water for Hidalgo, but the boy drops the pail and runs off. While Frank is yelling after the boy, Lady Anne Davenport (Louise Lombard), a British aristocrat, laughs and invites Frank to join her for some tea. Lady Anne also has her thoroughbred mare, Kamria, in the race. When Frank remarks on how comfortable she is in the desert, Lady Anne reminds him that she has spent time with the Bedouins since she was 13, thanks to her father's interests.
Frank asks, "Looking for good horses?" Lady Anne remarks, "Looking for the breed apart. My father spent 26 years trying to ambassador his way into the Muniqiyah blood, just like his father. The Viceroy of Egypt, Napoleon III – all of them pandered when all they needed to do was up the ante. Bad poker players, the lot of them."
This scene is filmed at the Dumont Dunes in California. The Dumont Dunes are famous for film shoot locations, overnight camping, and riding dune buggies and ATVs. The barren, deserted landscape is not too far from Las Vegas or Bakersfield and is close to the Mojave and Death Valley National Parks. To get to this filming location, catch the CA-127 S and turn onto the Dumont Dunes Rd.
Hidalgo was compared with other horse-based movies like Black Beauty and Seabiscuit. While the premises of the other films were different, the comparisons were unavoidable. Hidalgo was released to mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, who felt the movie was too lengthy and was not as historically accurate as portrayed.
While producers went on record to clarify the referencing of the Arabian race with Frank's journal, there was still plenty of disbelief about the originality of the biopic. Nonetheless, the actors, horses, and trainers did a fantastic job with the Hidalgo action scenes. The filming locations were on point, and most audiences couldn't determine that the shooting was done in the US.
The locations like the Statue of Liberty, the snowy plains of South Dakota, and the national forest in Montana were easily recognizable. However, uncommon areas like Mystery Mesa, Dumont Dunes, and the Sierra Railroad were hard to spot.