The legendary “Star Wars” films may be set in a galaxy far, far away, but a trip to some iconic filming locations is within reach for California residents and visitors.
This guide will stick to the first three movies from the late 1970s and early 80s: “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” (numbers four, five and six in the story’s chronological order).
The original trilogy has the best-known Golden State shooting locations. It’s also the only one that matters, if you ask some folks, but we won’t litigate that here.
Here are some of the places you can visit in California today if you want to walk in Luke, Leia and Han’s footsteps:
This sprawling desert valley, near the Nevada border in central California, reaches some of the highest temperatures on Earth. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the United States.
Put on your sunscreen, because we’ll be here a while: Quite a few iconic shots from the trilogy were composed here, and the park service is more than happy to help you explore. The NPS App even has a guided audio tour of the different locations, which helped us put together this guide.
Fun fact: The Jawas, a species of pesky scavengers who scuttled around in hooded robes with glowing eyes, were played in large part by the children of Death Valley park rangers.
The park notes that the movie was shot “a few decades ago, when that type of filming was permitted.” Most of the shoots would no longer be permitted due to prohibitions on commercial filming in wilderness areas.
Twenty-mule Team Canyon
This canyon is home to the lair of notorious galactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine. In “Return of the Jedi,” R2-D2 and C-3PO made their way through this part of the real-world park on a mission to rescue Han Solo.
Considered one of the best scenic vistas in the park, this birds-eye view of Death Valley was the chosen place for some sage advice between Old Ben Kenobi and a young Luke Skywalker. It appears in “A New Hope” as the two look down on the Tatooine spaceport of Mos Eisley.
In “A New Hope,” R2-D2 scoots along alone through a desert canyon before getting captured by the scavenging Jawas. He did so in a wash below the colorful hills of Artists Palette.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
This large dune field appears in “A New Hope,” with R2-D2 and C-3PO getting lost in the swirling sands of Tatooine. It’s a realistic scene: The winds can really howl in this part of the park, and the shifting sand is trapped by mountains to the south.
Several state and national parks in Northern California protect groves of ancient, towering coast redwood trees. Redwoods from multiple parks and some private land appear in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
The trees are instantly recognizable on Endor, the forest moon featured prominently in “Return of the Jedi.” Adorable Ewoks inhabit the planet’s forests. This species of curious, clever, teddy bear-types remains a fan favorite.
As the official Star Wars website sadly notes, several Endor locations no longer exist because of logging.
Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park
This state park in Humboldt County is home to Cheatham Grove, which provides the backdrop for the iconic speeder bike chase in “Return of the Jedi.”
Redwood National and State Parks
This collection of parks — one from the national system and three from the state — also appears in the movie. It’s about an hour and a half north of Grizzly Creek. A park spokesperson explained by phone that the film’s Ewok village, built high atop the treetops, was filmed in some of these groves.
“Ewoks are fictional creatures,” the park service wrote in a silly “May the Fourth” Facebook post this year. “If you think you saw an Ewok, we recommend going to see an eye doctor as soon as possible.”
Imperial Sand Dunes
Not far from the U.S.-Mexico border, east of San Diego County, the Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Most Californians know the area for Glamis, the designated recreation area that’s popular for riding off-road vehicles.
These sandy dunes appear toward the beginning of “Return of the Jedi,” when Luke Skywalker battles aboard Jabba the Hutt’s huge ship, almost plummeting to his death within the jaws of the Sarlacc pit.
Not done with your movie tour? Try this guide to “Top Gun: Maverick” filming locations in California.