Where was Mackenna's Gold filmed?
Glen Canyon, Utah; Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
American, NatureScapes, Ranch
Desert, Ranch Style
About Mackenna's Gold
With an all-star cast including Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, and a host of other big names, Mackenna’s Gold is an impressive western that tells a familiar tale. While it’s not all that well known or appreciated in the USA, it was a big hit in many other countries around the world.
Released in 1967, the film tells the story of Marshal Sam Mackenna (Peck). After he’s ambushed by a Native American known as Prairie Dog, Mackenna kills the other man and finds an old map. The map supposedly shows the location of a hidden fortune in gold. Mackenna burns the map after memorizing it, but little does he know what drama the map will soon lead to.
Prairie Dog was being followed by outlaw John Colorado (Sharif) and his cronies, who had their sights set on seizing the map. The gang of outlaws are being pursued by the US Cavalry, but they kidnap Mackenna so that he can lead them to the gold. They also kidnap Inga (Camilla Sparv), the daughter of a local judge, a beautiful woman with whom Mackenna soon shares a mutual attraction.
As Mackenna leads the outlaws towards the gold, Sergeant Tibbs (Telly Savalas) and his cavalry ambush them at a waterhole. Many are killed, but the rest escape and continue to track down the loot. Tibbs decides he’d like to get his hands on the gold too, so he shares the remaining members of his cavalry unit and joins the gang as well.
And when the gold-hunting party makes it to Shaking Rock, which is featured on the map to the missing gold, all hell breaks loose. Everyone has a case of gold fever and wants the treasure all to themselves — and they’ll stop at nothing to ensure that no one else gets their hands on it. What follows is a bloody battle full of gunfire, hand-to-hand combat, and an earth-shattering ending.
If you’d like to check out the filming location of Mackenna’s Gold, you can. We’ve gathered the details of where some of the best scenes in Mackenna’s Gold were filmed (spoiler alert!), so keep reading for all the info you need to find them for yourself.
Mackenna's Gold Locations
The quest for gold needed to take place in a harsh, rocky desert landscape. To capture the desired look on-screen, the Mackenna’s Gold production crew did most of their film shoots in Arizona and Utah.
As the film begins we’re treated to scenes of Monument Valley. Located on the border between Arizona and Mesa, the rock formations in this spectacular part of the country have featured in countless movies over the years.
However, most of the canyon scenes in the movie were filmed at Utah’s Glen Canyon, and at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona. Perhaps the most notable landmark is Shaking Rock, which plays a key role in the hunt for the gold but in real life is known as Spider Rock. It’s found in Canyon de Chelly and is named after Spider Woman, a woman from Navajo myth.
But there’s one Mackenna’s Gold filming location that’s a long way away from all the others. The scene in which we see the wreckage of a raft plunging over an immense waterfall is actually stock footage of High Force Waterfall, which is located near Teesdale in England.
As a young film school graduate, George Lucas was allowed on-site at the Mackenna’s Gold filming location to shoot the short documentary 6-18-67.
Opening scene in Mackenna's Gold
Monument Valley, AZ
Right from the very first images we see in Mackenna’s Gold, the film sets the scene for what sort of landscapes we can expect to see a whole lot of in the next two hours. It starts with a close-up on the eye of a turkey buzzard, as the narrator introduces us to the storyline.
“There’s an old story. The way the Apaches tell it, a man was riding in the desert, and he comes across a vulture, the kind they call turkey buzzards in Arizona, sitting on a rock.” As the bird takes flight, we see from its point of view as it soars above a series of stunning red rock formations.
This sequence we see as the opening titles roll was shot in Monument Valley, which is well known for its sandstone buttes that reach up to 100 feet high. The valley has of course featured in a host of other famous productions including The Long Ranger, Stagecoach, Easy Rider, and many more.
Shaking Rock shadow scene in Mackenna's Gold
Spider Rock, Chinle, AZ
After a long and dangerous quest, the outlaws are ecstatic to finally make it to Shaking Rock. As the sun slowly rises, they wait impatiently to see which way the rock’s shadow will point — the shadow, they believe, will point the way to the gold.
As the shadow inches across the ground, Mackenna shakes his head in wonder. “I never woulda believed it,” he says. “I think you’re gonna see that canyon in about a minute.” And then, after being briefly blinded by the light reflecting off something, they spot the shadow pointing to a secret passageway. Spurring their horses into action, they race towards it, desperate to find out whether it will lead them to the gold.
This spectacular sandstone spire is known as Spider Rock in the real world. Stretching over 800 feet into the air, this eye-catching attraction is located in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly, around 300 miles northeast of Phoenix in the state’s northeast.
Final fight scene in Mackenna's Gold
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, AZ
It’s been a long and arduous trek through an unforgiving landscape, and now it all comes down to this. Realizing that Colorado plans to kill them so that he can keep the gold all to himself, Mackenna and Inga try to make a desperate escape by scaling the wall of the canyon. “Don’t look down. Keep going!” Mackenna urges a struggling Inga.
But Colorado is having none of it, and he eventually catches up with them in an ancient Native American home built into the rock. A brutal struggle ensues, and the ax-wielding Colorado appears to have the upper hand throughout. But Inga and Mackenna both put up a fierce fight, and Mackenna eventually overpowers the villain and beats him to a bloody pulp.
Before he can finish Colorado off once and for all, however, bullets wizz past Mackenna’s head and he’s shocked to see a group of fearsome Apaches approaching on horseback. And when the gunshots and galloping horses prompt the canyon to start collapsing, Mackenna and Inga face a desperate scramble down the canyon wall to escape with their lives.
The setting for these Mackenna’s Gold action scenes is Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Located near Chinle in northeastern Arizona, the area is famous for its ancient Puebloan villages built among the sandstone. Amazingly, it’s thought that people have lived in the Canyon de Chelly area for the best part of 5,000 years.
Mackenna’s Gold is a tale of greed and how it can corrupt people from all walks of life. It’s an entertaining watch from start to finish, with stellar performances from Peck and Sharif as well as an exciting climax.
But the other thing you’re sure to notice about Mackenna’s Gold is just how visually stunning this film actually is. The deserts and rock formations of Utah and Arizona offer an impressive backdrop to the drama unfolding on-screen, and some of the locations featured in the film are some of the nation’s most iconic natural landmarks.
From legendary Monument Valley to spectacular Spider Rock, Mackenna’s Gold locations offer an abundance of natural beauty for all to enjoy.