Yellowstone Kelly movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Yellowstone Kelly filmed?

1959

About Yellowstone Kelly

Filmed in 1959, Yellowstone Kelly is a classic American Western movie. The film is loosely predicated on a book written by Heck Allen under his nom de plume Clay Fisher. The main character in this film, Luther Sage “Yellowstone” Kelly was portrayed by Clint Walker.

An unusual choice for the time, Yellowstone Kelly was praised for its use of popular television shows such as Cheyenne, Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, and the Alaskans. The original book traces the true life story of Luther Kelly.

The initial Yellowstone Kelly film scene (spoiler alert!) introduces Kelly and his friend Anse Harper as they discover Arapaho Wahleeh who has fallen ill. Being held captive by Sioux Chief Gall, Wahleeh’s beauty has made her the object of affection of the chief and his nephew Sayapi.

Kelly takes Wahleeh with him and endeavors to help her get well, promising Gall he will bring her back in the spring. Sayapi, unhappy with this plan, determines to capture Wahleeh and murder Kelly. Winter passes, and the next Yellowstone Kelly production scene reveals a hale and healthy Wahleeh whose main desire is to return home to her people. She vehemently rejects the idea of returning to Gall and Sayapi.

Wahleeh develops strong feelings for Kelly. While Kelly is away trapping, Sayapi lays siege on his cabin, harming Harper and kidnapping Wahleeh. Kelly returns to his cabin to find it ablaze. Harper is still alive but struggling and soon to pass on as a result of his wounds. Before he dies, he informs Kelly that Sayapi has abducted Wahleeh.

Kelly finds Sayapi and his crew and challenges him to a gunfight. Sayapi and his men all die. Kelly honors his word to Gall and returns Wahleeh to him. In love with Wahleeh, this is a difficult choice for Kelly. En route back to Gall’s place, they meet a Cavalry group that Gall and his warriors attacked. Not satisfied with their first efforts, Gall and his men return to attack the Cavalry a second time.

Prior to the attack, Gall tells Kelly he can vacate the premises without a fight if he gives him Wahleeh. However, Kelly must agree to allow the troops to be murdered. Kelly refuses to give up Wahleeh under those terms. Gall’s men attack the Cavalry and many of the men lose their lives.

A second attack overwhelms the Cavalry until Wahleeh rides to Gall in an effort to see Kelly’s life spared. Wahleen’s horse bucks her off, and she suffers an injury. Kelly, motivated by love for Wahleeh, tells Gall to stop the fight. Gall decides to leave with his men. A short time later, Kelly and Wahleeh travel together to transport his fur pelts to a riverboat.

City Locations

Arizona: Flagstaff; Coconino National Forest; Sedona

Location Types

American, House, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, NatureScape

Location Styles

Desert, Americana/Anywhere America, Muscle, Rustic

Yellowstone Kelly Locations

Most of the filming locations for Yellowstone Kelly are found in Arizona with the primary spots being Flagstaff and Sedona. Several of the Yellowstone Kelly film sets were also set up in various spots throughout the well-known and picturesque Coconino National Forest.

Are classic Westerns among your all-time fave films? Why not treat yourself to a trip to visit the filming locations for Yellowstone Kelly? You’re sure to have an amazing time!

Fun Fact:

Yellowstone Kelly was originally slated to star John Wayne under the direction of famed director John Ford. However, Wayne had other contractual obligations and was unable to participate in the film.

The opening scene in Yellowstone Kelly

San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, Arizona

This Yellowstone Kelly location opens on Kelly atop his horse overlooking the river. A boat is coming into the waterway. He loads his gun and lets off three shots, and the boat responds with three long toots of its horn.

Overtop of the picturesque beauty found in this scene is this text, giving the history of both Luther Kelly and the Yellowstone Valley.

“The West was opened by courageous trail-blazing pioneers like Lewis & Clark and Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly, --the trapper, surveyor, and Indian scout who was the first frontiersman to cross the mighty Yellowstone Valley.”

As the riverboat pulls into the harbor, Kelly is seen below unwrapping his fur pelts to load onto the boat. While he packages them up, Anse Harper strikes up a conversation with him. He asks Kelly where he does his trapping, and he tells him in Sioux country. He invites Kelly to join him for a drink. Kelly questions his age, and when he discovers he is two years younger than the legal drinking age, he agrees to accompany him to the bar.

To visit this Yellowstone Kelly filming location, take Route 66 to N 89, traveling along this route until you pass a McDonald’s on the right-hand side. Take a left at Fire Road 545 then a left onto Schultz Pass Road. Your next right leads onto N Sky View Street, continue along this road taking a slight right and then a sharp right. Turn right then left, following along the road for 1.3 miles until you reach E Bent Tree Circle. Take a left onto S. Clubhouse Circle and then a right onto E. Judy Street. Just 0.3 miles from here, you will find the base of San Francisco Mountain. Enjoy the view from the ground or get in a strenuous hike by climbing to the top to enjoy the same view Kelly did in this iconic film scene.

Kelly and the major discuss the Sioux scene in Yellowstone Kelly

Sedona, Arizona

Kelly meets the major in a local bar to share a drink together. The two men discuss the war the Sioux are waging to protect the land they claim as their own. The following dialogue continues between Kelly and the Major.

Kelly: You ever go against the Sioux, Major?

Major: I’m not an Indian fighter if that’s what you mean.

Kelly: That’s what I mean. The country south of the big money belongs to them.

Major: The government doesn’t think so.

Kelly: They do, and they intend to keep it.

Enjoy the spirit of the region where this Yellowstone Kelly scene was shot by visiting Sedona, Arizona. Though the exact film shoot set no longer exists, several other filming sequences were shot in the heart of this desert town, making it well worth visiting for nostalgic reasons alone. To get to Sedona, drink in the beauty found on the scenic route by taking State Route (SR) 89A through Oak Creek Canyon.

Kelly and Harper fight a five-man army scene in Yellowstone Kelly

San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff, Arizona

In one of the most interesting scenes in Yellowstone Kelly, a band of five soldiers meet and challenge Yellowstone Kelly. They address him with this remark and a conversation ensues.

Cavalryman: Hey, Indian, you and the other jackasses are blocking the army’s way.

Kelly: Go around me.

Cavalryman: I’ll do my best.

The men charge toward Kelly, knocking him off his horse. Kelly stands back and watches as Harper jumps into the scene, singlehandedly battling the five men. Kelly finally comes to Harper’s aid, taking on the impudent soldiers himself in a bloody fight. Three of the soldiers are knocked out, and the other two flee in their wagon.

Filmed on flatter ground, this Yellowstone Kelly film set is found at the base of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff. Check out this site from the base of the mountain before making your ascent to higher ground for views of the river and surrounding areas where other scenes in this classic Western were shot.

Kelly and Harper meet Gall scene in Yellowstone Kelly

Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona

Kelly and Harper are kneeling by a campfire when they are surrounded by a group of Native Americans. The two look around them in bewilderment and engage in the following conversation in an ominous yet somewhat funny scene from Yellowstone Kelly.

Harper: What do they want?

Kelly: They’ll get around to it.

The chief is summoned and addresses the men, saying that he has been searching for Kelly for quite a long time. Kelly said that he didn’t come of his own accord but was forced to come by Gall’s nephew Sayapi. Gall inquires whether or not this is true, and Sayapi admits that it is. His uncle chastens him for disobeying his orders.

Gall: My nephew is young. His heart is bad towards all whites.

Kelly: And Gall? How is his heart?

Gall: You know my name.

Kelly: Like I know my own.

A massively large property, it could take weeks to navigate this incredibly beautiful property that provided the backdrop for many of the best scenes in Yellowstone Kelly. With so much incredible land to explore, a trip to Coconino National Forest is sure to feel like a grand adventure. To get to this beloved facility where many of Yellowstone Kelly’s action scenes were shot, take I-17 from Phoenix. Those wishing to view some of the northern regions of the forest should follow I-40 to highway 89, continuing north.

Gall agrees to let Kelly help Wahleeh scene in Yellowstone Kelly

Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona

Gall and Kelly continue their conversation. Gall reminds Kelly of a time when his actions saved his life. He asks for Kelly’s help in saving a sick Arapaho woman named Wahleeh that he and his nephew have grown deeply fond of.

Gall: You found me and cut the iron that kills from my body. Here {Gall points to his side.} Now do you remember?

Kelly: I remember.

Gall: You saved my life. And you’ll do the same for another. An Arapaho captive lies wounded in my lodge. The wound must be mended, or the captive will die.

Kelly: All this for an Arapaho?

Gall: This one must live. Come.

Kelly enters the lodge and meets Wahleeh for the first time.

Filmed on low-lying ground in a clearing in the Coconino National Forest, it is difficult to determine the exact location where this scene was shot. Still, there are many similar spots where you can visualize Kelly, Harper, and Gall preparing for Wahleeh to move on for the winter to be nursed back to health in Kelly’s care.

Kelly and Wahleeh travel back to Gall scene in Yellowstone Kelly

Mormon Lake, Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona

Kelly, intending to fulfill his word to Gall, travels on horseback toward Gall’s reservation. They meet a group of Cavalrymen that were attacked by Gall earlier. He addresses the man by asking.

Cavalryman: They caught us in the canyon. We didn’t have a chance.

Kelly: Where’s the Metis?

Cavalryman: Dead. I gotta get these boys back to Buford, Kelly. You gotta help me.

Kelly: Can’t.

Cavalryman: You mean you won’t.

Kelly: I mean I can’t.

Behind them, they see Gall and his men advancing toward the Cavalrymen for round two of their attack on the soldiers.

To reach this area of the Coconino National Forest, travel 25 miles on Forest Highway 3 until you reach the intersection for Forest Road 90. Continue to the west on Forest Road 90, traveling approximately four miles until you reach the Mormon Lake site.

Conclusion

A classic American Western based on a true story, Yellowstone Kelly is a long-lost film that deserves to take pride of place at the forefront again. Leading through beautiful desert areas such as the Coconino National Forest, Sedona, and select regions of Flagstaff, the scenery found in this beloved movie is nothing short of breathtaking.

If it’s among your goals to visit Yellowstone Kelly locations, our comprehensive guide to the various film sets is a great place to start when planning your vacation.