The Great Outdoors movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was The Great Outdoors filmed?

1988

About The Great Outdoors

The late John Hughes is forever remembered for the series of classic rib crackers he churned out in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Hughes was the brains behind “The Great Outdoors,” an adventure comedy he wrote and produced. Howard Deutch took the director’s seat for the production while Dan Aykroyd and John Candy paired up as the film’s main stars.

The premise of the ’88 comedy revolves around Chester Chet Ripley (Candy) taking his family on a lakeside vacation. Stephanie Faracy portrayed his wife Connie while Ian Giatti and Chris Young played the parts of their sons Benjamin “Benny” and Buckley “Buck.”

In true comedic fashion, everything is peachy until a series of unexpectedly hilarious mishaps ruins their peaceful vacation. It starts with Connie’s sister Kate, played by Annette Bening, unexpectedly arriving at the same resort with her husband Roman Craig, portrayed by Dan Aykroyd, and their twin daughters, Cara (Hilary Gordon) and Mara (Rebecca Gordon).

Chet and Roman, who is an investment banker, don’t see eye to eye, and soon enough tensions flare up. Kate also opens up to Connie and reveals that despite their wealth she feels lonely in her marriage.

While telling ghost stories over a campfire, Chet recounts a previous encounter with a giant grizzly bear. On their honeymoon, he and Connie visited the same resort and had a close call with the Bald-headed bear of Clare County (Bart the Bear).

Unsurprisingly, Chet faces off with the bear again and finally has the last laugh. That is after a hilarious chase scene which ends with him shooting the grizzly and literally blowing off its fur.

It also turns out that after Roman made some failed investments, the Craigs are broke. Connie invites the Craigs to stay with them in Chicago, without checking in with Chet. However, as the credits roll, it appears as if they found a way to make things work.

City Locations

Los Angeles and Bass Lake, California; Chicago, Illinois

Location Types

Naturescapes, Ranch, Diners/Coffee, Studios, Clubs/Bars

Location Styles

Beachfront, Cabin, Resort

The Great Outdoors Locations

The Great Outdoors is one of those movies that gains appreciation as the years go by. The first buzz about a remake surfaced in 2017 but it wasn’t until 2021 that Akroyd confirmed that a sequel is in the works. The “Ghostbusters” star told The Hollywood Reporter that he’s working with Deutch on a follow-up film titled “The Great Outlaws.”

News about a sequel in the works is why fans are revisiting the Hughes production and trying to piece together The Great Outdoors locations. There are plenty of fascinating facts about the movie and its locations, starting with the film’s poster.

The filmmakers drew inspiration for the whimsical poster from a popular British magazine. Originally titled Big Country, the production team secured the rights to title the movie “The Great Outdoors.” They even paid homage to the magazine layout by modeling the poster in close likeness to the publication’s cover.

While the film is set in the fictional Pechoggin, Wisconsin resort, principal photography took place in California with some scenes recorded in Chicago, Illinois. Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of some of the best scenes (spoiler alert) in The Great Outdoors and details about where the magic happened.

Fun fact:

John Hughes is believed to have coined the shared cinematic universe concept. All his movies had certain connections, and for The Great Outdoors it had to do with some of the character names. “Weird Science,” another Hughes production, has a character called Chet. Candy starred in “Uncle Buck,” which is the name of one of Chet’s sons in “The Great Outdoors.”

The opening sequence scene in The Great Outdoors

Bass Lake

The adventure comedy opens with a series of scenic scenes showcasing the North Woods, as it’s referred to in the script. In the montage, we see a pristine lake, a deer drinking water, a squirrel sitting on a branch, and a woodpecker beating against a pine.

Chet’s voice-over accompanies the images, and his opening remarks sum up what the movie is about. “Countless millions of Americans, for years upon years…have sought refuge from the harsh detachment and sterile serenity of modern life…”

Anyone who sets out on a tour of The Great Outdoors filming locations and hopes to visit Lake Potowotominimac in Wisconsin, where the Ripleys and Craigs vacationed, will be sorely disappointed. For starters, no such lake exists and production never took place in the upper Midwestern state.

California’s Bass Lake provided the setting for the bulk of the filming, and the Yosemite National Park, located in the southeast, neighbors the resort town. You might have also seen the photogenic location in other films like “Carnival Boat,” “Mouse Hunt,” and “The Giant of the Thunder Mountain.”

Besides being the perfect filming location, Bass Lake provides a much-needed retreat for anyone interested in a lakeside vacation. There are restaurants, a market, a bar, and shops located within walking distance. Start your adventure by getting to Bass lake via the Turquoise bus.

The Ol’ 96er scene in The Great Outdoors

Ducey’s Bar & Grill

Chet takes up the challenge of chowing down a 96-ounce steak at a family diner. Dubbed the Ol’ 96’er, it isn’t by choice and he has to consume the copious amounts of beef after they are unable to pay their dinner tab.

Roman, who Chet puts on the spot to pay for dinner, fishes out his American Express card which the establishment rejects. He doesn’t have any cash on him and that’s when Roman strikes up a deal with Jimbo, the chef.

It’s an uphill task and when Chet is about to give in, Roman bolsters him saying “if you fail, we still owe the dinner tab plus $141.50 for the steak.” After Chet completes the challenge and they had their bill waived, Roman explains that all along he could have just paid using a personal check.

The Ducey’s Bar & Grill located near the shores of California’s Bass Lake provided the setting for the dinner scene and subsequent Ol’ 69er challenge. For the most part, the establishment’s popularity comes from its connection to the comedy film, in part. The Great Outdoors posters and other memorabilia still deck out the dining establishment.

Once you get to Bass Lake via the Turquoise bus, it won’t be difficult to make your way to the dining establishment.

The Craigs' arrival scene in The Great Outdoors

Universal Studios Backlot

Roman had ulterior motives for crushing the Ripleys' lakeside vacation. He convinces Chet to invest $25,000 on a supposed investment deal. Eventually, he confesses that explaining that the money was meant to help keep him afloat after going broke.

However, one of the most epic scenes happened at the start of the film when the Craigs showed up at the lakeside cabin. Chet convinced his wife to get up to dress down to nothing but her birthday suit saying “This is the North Woods. You can walk around naked as a bear and not worry about running into anybody.”

Roman walks in on them, and worse still, Roman had his Video-8 out and taped the entire ordeal. A set constructed at the Universal Studios backlot served as the setting for the cabin scenes.

Instead of tearing the log cabin down once production concluded, Universal Studios maintained this The Great Outdoors film set in its original form. The studio set has served as the setting for some of the scenes in other productions like “Shooter,” “Naked Gun 3” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Go-kart and golf sequence scene in The Great Outdoors

Paramount Ranch

The go-kart sequence where Chet races with Buck and Ben was filmed at the Paramount Ranch. Roman’s golf scenes for the same sequence were also recorded at the same location. The sequence ended with Roman hitting the golf ball too hard, it bounces on the track and hits Chet in the face.

Chet’s go-cart flies past the finish line and ends up in a wall of trees surrounding the track. It sort of foreshadows what’s to come, in the sense that Chet didn’t see Roman’s deception coming.

Confessing about the jig, Roman told Chet, “You were right… I’m slimy. I’m a hustler. The Mercedes is on a lease I can’t pay, I’m losing the house. I’m broke.” According to Aykroyd, that statement captures the premise of the sequel which will revolve around Roman and his Ponzi scheme.

Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Paramount Ranch is quite a popular filming location. Numerous westerns have made use of the sprawling grounds including the 1937 flick “Wells Fargo.”

The Ranch is equally a great place to enjoy outdoorsy activities like wildlife watching, mountain biking, hiking, picnics, and horseback riding.

Wally and Juanita asleep scene in The Great Outdoors

Ducey’s Bass Lake Lodge

When the Craigs arrive at the Perk’s Pine Lodge, they find Juanita and Wally Mobert asleep behind the front desk. Chet tries to get their attention but the two are deep in their sleep.

Chet exclaims, “Can you imagine an unattended motel office in Chicago? No way. This is good, old-fashioned North Woods trust.” He finally sees a plastic powder horn on the desk with a sign reading “blow me for prompt service.”

Ducey’s Bass Lake Lodge provided the setting for the Perk’s Pine Lodge and Pines Bar scenes. Located within Madera County, the historic Lodge roots back to the 1940s. The Great Outdoors film set constructed at the Universal Studios backlot mirrored the look of the Ducey’s cabins.

A grease fire destroyed the wooden mountain lodge in 1988. The stone chimneys and slate porch were the only things that remained standing after futile attempts to put out the fire.

Ducey’s on the Lake & Ducey’s Bar & Grill got a new home at the Pines Resort. The dining establishment reopened its doors in 1991, and the photos of the original Ducey’s lodge and sign are found hanging at the entrance.

Buck drives an imaginary car scene in The Great Outdoors

Bass Lake Surf Shop

Chet’s son Buck takes a liking to a local girl called Cammie who works at a drive-in restaurant. Having exchanged words the previous night when he stood her up for his dad’s old 69er challenge, he figured out a way to break the ice.

He turns up at the drive-in and stands at a stall pretending that he’s holding a steering wheel. Cammie turns up to take the order and can’t help but smile when she sees Buck pretending to drive an imaginary car. Buck keeps up the shtick and even says, “I just borrowed this car and I have to get it back. How late do you work?”

The Bass Lake Surf Shop opened up its doors to The Great Outdoors production team. Located at 54331 Rd 432, it’s where they filmed the restaurant scenes.

As implied, the Surf Shop is your one-stop-shop for everything surf-related. From swimsuits to t-shirts and sandals; the shop offers selections of Bass Lake-printed gifts. Start your journey to the location via the Turquoise bus.

Conclusion

The adventure comedy isn’t a movie you’ll hear too many people recommending but The Great Outdoors locations are worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Bass Lake, California. The production team set shop at the location for six weeks, and if you are lucky enough, you might stumble into locals who can recount some of the behind-the-scenes action.

How the town rallied behind the production is yet another compelling reason to visit The Great Outdoors filming location. Perhaps it has to do with the fall filming schedule, despite the story unfolding during the summer months. There was no traffic, crowd distractions, and other challenges film crews face while shooting on-location.

The locals also participated in the production process, as captured in the final scene when the principal cast members danced at Ducey’s. The extras in the scene were none other than Bass Lake locals who joined in to raucously bust their best moves to the beat of “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett.