Adventure Travel

Relive The Star Wars Films By Visiting Death Valley

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View of a sand dune with mountains in the background from Death Valley National Park. Taken during the early morning light right before sunrise

Image: Shutterstock/Sarah Fields Photography

Relive The Star Wars Films By Visiting Death Valley

You’ve finally made it to the last day of the long countdown to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While you wait to grab your seat, take a step back in time to the first Star Wars movie you ever saw, A New Hope. Though at the time you probably saw the Tatooine planet as a fantastical place that you’d never step foot on, the film set for the planet, which was home to the Skywalker family, is closer than you may have realized.

The sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, which are located in California and Nevada, were used for filming scenes in both A New Hope and Return Of The Jedi. 

Near Artists Palette, you’ll find the scene where the Sandcrawler was located. Drive your car about halfway down Artists Drive until you reach the right turn which goes to the Artists Palette parking lot.  Park just before making the turn. Walk south up the bank to find the exact location.

Remember when R2D2 was traveling through the narrow canyon alone? There is a shot in A New Hope where you can see R2D2 from up above the valley. This is called Arroyo Overlook. To get here, drive to Artists Palette.  Walk up the very small hill to the north to find the exact spot where the cameras were set up. There’s also a small trail you can walk down to get on the exact path that R2D2 traveled.

You can also walk the path R2D2 and C3Po took on their way to Jabba the Hutt’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. They were being sent as a gift offering to Jabba the Hutt in exchange for Han Solo. Drive a short distance through Twenty Mule Team Canyon past the parking area until you recognize the scene. It shouldn’t be too far beyond the parking lot. Start walking towards Jabba’s Palace. You may need pictures to help you match the setting exactly. If you do bring pictures, you’ll find that the droids were actually turned around and walking in the opposite direction, away from Jabba’s Palace. For the best view, climb the small mud bank to your left and look south.

Visiting Death Valley in person is well worth it than to simply dream about what life on Tatooine is actually like. Many who visit the dunes are surprised to find that it is not covered with a sea of sand. Less than one percent of it makes up sand dunes. But the shadowed ripples and graceful curves define most people’s idea of “desert.” While winds and blowing sands exist, there are only a few areas where the sand geographically traps and sticks. Try sand boarding on the Mesquite Flat Dunes for a Star Wars adventure of your own. The dunes here reach about 100 feet high.

While you’re visiting, make sure to check out Badwater Basin, which is the lowest place in North America, and one of the lowest places in the world at 282 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea is the lowest in the world at 1,371 feet below sea level.

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Kate Wilke is the content manager at 301brands, and she's the editor of, and the lifestyle editor at When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @kateewilke

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