13 Easy Rider Film Locations You Can Ride To
Admit it, if Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda hadn't made Easy Rider, you may never have gotten a motorcycle. Got time to kill and an itch for adventure? Get your motor running and head out on the highway toward New Orleans. We'll show you how.
1. The Incomparable Easy Rider
There were movies featuring bikes and bikers before Easy Rider, and there sure were a lot of them afterward, but none of them can eclipse that loose, free form, 1960s icon of biker chopper culture. It is said that the basic story was dreamed up while Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Cliff Vaughs were in Cliff’s backyard tinkering with choppers. With two famous names, the seed of a story, and a pair of bikes that Cliff built, the production was on a roll. Since much of the film was improvised, and almost all of it was shot on location, you can visit a lot of the background locations used. You can even plan a weeks-long tour from L.A. to New Orleans and visit a lot of them in the same order Billy and Wyatt did, or call up Eagle Rider, and book their guided tour, which includes bike rental.
2. The Mexican Connection
The movie starts with our heroes riding off-road in “Mexico,” where they make their connection at this bar. In the film the sign on the front says “La Contenta Bar,” but these days it is known as the Red Arrow Emporium, and it sells furniture at 1302 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, in El Prado, NM not far from Taos. Most of the movie was shot in order except for this part, the New Orleans scenes (the first scenes filmed), and the hippy commune. The hippy commune was pure Hollywood magic, faked on Mulholland Drive in L.A., because Wavy Gravy wouldn’t let Dennis Hopper film at his real commune. Google Map
3. The L.A. Score
Wyatt and Billy put the dirt bikes in their truck, drive north of the border and make a deal with the millionaire music guy played by Phil Spector. The truck and the Rolls Royce are both parked on Aviation Blvd right at the end of the LAX main runway. It appears they may have actually been inside the airport when they filmed it, or maybe the fence was closer to the striped wall? You can’t get quite as close as there were when they filmed, but there is room just north and across the street to pull off and take a few pictures if you feel the need. When you pass the Proud Bird restaurant on your left, you’ve gone too far. Google Map
4. Dropping Out, and Losing Time
Out in the desert, our guys pack their bikes, stuff the cash in the gas tank, and throw away their watches at the ghost town of Ballarat in Death Valley. The ruins of the house they sleep at are still there on Ballarat Road, just a handful of miles from Trona Wildrose Rd/Rt 178. You should spot the place on the left, just before you get to Wingate Rd./ Indian Ranch Rd. This is basically a ghost town, so be sure to have gas to get there and back. Google Map
5. The Credits Roll
This location is passed through while the opening credits are playing, and it has changed a lot since I-40 took over for old Rt 66. The old steel bridge that carried Rt. 66 over the Colorado river (as seen in the film) here has been replaced, but the earlier arched bridge which now carries a pipeline is recognizable (and if you have seen Grapes of Wrath, you might remember they drive across that bridge). Much of the movie was filmed at places along the old Rt 66, which is what makes this a doubly good road trip to consider. The entire opening credits pretty much takes place between Needles and Flagstaff on sections of Rt 66. Google Map
6. No Vacancy
You all remember this scene, which sets the tone of the whole movie: Billy and Wyatt pull in on their bikes to a little motel in the middle of nowhere and suddenly the “No Vacancy” sign goes on. The Pine Breeze Inn is still here, but it is nothing but vacant these days. The famous sign now hangs over a bar just down the street called the Route 66 Roadhouse Bar and Grill, at 11840 West Route 66. There is also a Harley dealer nearby. Google Map
7. Hitchin' a Ride
The boys continue on through Flagstaff, AZ, and head east. Near the intersection of Loop Rd. and Hwy 89, north of Flagstaff is where they meet the hippie hitchhiking and agree to give him a ride. They take a right on Loop Rd./Rt. 395 and camp for the night at the Wupatki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument. No, you can’t camp out there like they did, but you can go on backcountry hikes which include overnight camping in the area, the ranger-guided hikes happen in April and October only, and must be reserved in advance. Google Map
8. Fill'er Up
The next morning is an epic tour of the iconic western landscape. The boys and the hitchhiker pass through the Painted Desert, roll by the famous Mittens in Monument Valley and are seen filling up at a gas station back on Hwy. 89. The Enco station at Sacred Mountain is closed, but it is still there, where Hwy 89 crosses 150 Rd. Google Map
9. Skinny Dipping
Things get a little bit out of sequence here if you are planning this as a road trip. The hippie commune shot for the film was actually created just for the movie and was located in the hills above Malibu, CA. The spring where Billy and Wyatt go swimming with the hippie girls is actually in New Mexico, near Taos, right on the Rio Grande. At one point, an enterprising man named Manby tried to build a health resort here, which is why they seem to be swimming in ruins. The hot springs still bubble up here, but the ruins are now much worse for the wear. Clothing is still optional. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge just south of there, on Hwy. 64, was the location of the wedding scene in the movie Natural Born Killers and has a phenomenal view from the sidewalk across it. Google Map
10. Parade, and Spend the Night in Jail
Nearby in the sleepy town of Las Vegas, New Mexico you can see where Captain America and Billy get thrown in jail for joining in the parade without a permit. The parade takes place in the middle of town, near the park bordered by Plaza Street, Hot Springs Blvd, and Gonzales Street. The Plaza Hotel is very easy to spot. This is also where they meet Jack Nicholson in jail. The exterior of the jail is right here, too, though the interior is miles away in Taos, now called Bryan’s Gallery. The former police station is now an art gallery called Tito’s, and they are used to bikers stopping in. I don’t condone drinking and riding, but it only seems right to take a swig of Jim Beam here and yell out “Nic, nic, nic, fub, fub, fub…” just like George drinking to ol’ D. H. Lawrence. Google Map
11. Finally Louisianan
They skipped Texas entirely, and the story goes that even Dennis Hopper wasn’t crazy enough to try to shoot a movie with a bunch of long-haired freaks in that state. They ride across the Long-Allen bridge from Berwick to Morgan City, LA. on Rt 182. Then down main street past the post office, and the Ben Franklin store, both still standing, and town hall, which has been replaced with a newer building. Finally, they roll by the Franklin Cemetery at Main and Cedar. Google Map
12. Taking that Other Trip
As mentioned before, these scenes were shot first, before they really even knew what the movie was going to be about. Do we even know what it is about now? Be respectful, but know that this cemetery is actually one of the biggest tourist attractions in New Orleans, and possibly the most popular one that does not serve liquor. You don’t have to act like you are at a funeral, but you do have to have manners. Spend some time, wonder around and you will recognize most of the monuments from the movie. Not much has changed here in 100 years, let alone since 1969. You may have to buy tickets and take an official tour now though, because of the crowds. Google Map
13. The Explosive Climax
The cafe where the locals give Billy and Wyatt the evil eye used to be in Morganza, LA but it has been torn down. The road out by the levee where the rednecks in the truck give them both barrels of the shotgun is still there, though. In fact, I would not be surprised if there is not a constantly replenished shrine of flowers there left by bikers making this very pilgrimage. It is really hard to pinpoint exactly where the last scenes take place along the Atchafalaya River, but people generally agree is was on North Levee Rd./Rt 105 near Kotz Springs. I watched the movie and dropped a pin in the Google Map just north of town headed south, based on the final helicopter shot that the credits roll over. It is possible though that they were on the other side of the river and headed north instead. No solution to this, but to get on your bike and go find the exact spot yourself.
For more information on maintenance and repairs, check out our do-it-yourself technical articles in the forum.