True Grit: Then and Now

John Wayne, True Grit, Then and Now

John Wayne, from the famous shootout scene in “True Grit”

My You Tube Video, “True Grit :: Then and Now,” has become  popular and I’m frequently asked how and where I found all those movie locations 40 years later. Well, now you can find out! Retrace my steps and see where the Duke filmed his famous scenes!

Much of  the 1969 western “True Grit” was filmed in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and the movie lead to John Wayne’s only Academy Award. The amazing natural scenery of Colorado’s southwest corner was a huge part of the film. I happen to spend a lot of time down there, and after stumbling across a few of the filming locations, I decided to create a “Then and Now” video highlighting the locations from the movie, and what they look like today. Who knew it would be a You Tube hit?

The Ross Ranch

True Grit: Ross Ranch, Last Dollar Road

Click to enlarge the road leading to the Ross Ranch

The Ross Ranch is located on Last Dollar Road, which can be found off Highway 62, which runs from Ridgway to Telluride. The cutoff for Last Dollar Road, if you’re traveling from Ridgway, is past the Dallas Divide, and on the left. There’s a sign at the intersection, so you won’t miss it. (GPS: lat=38.0834180156, lon=-107.924766506).

Travel this road until you reach a fork. A road sign shows Last Dollar Road turns off to the left (and it will take you on a spectacular journey through aspen groves and over mountain passes to Telluride), but if you stay right, you will immediately see the Ross Ranch up ahead on your right (it’s set back off the road though).  You can pull into a short parking area, jump the fence and trespass in order to go up to the houses…or you can drive a bit further up the road and look back for a nice view and photo opportunities. It’s private land, so be sneaky about it, if you decide to hop the fence! I’ve been told by locals that MANY people hop that fence to get a closer view, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you want to recreate the shot from t he first frame of the movie, it will require a bit of a climb to the  top of a hill overlooking the houses. This is where the cemetery scene was shot, but nothing remains up there now, except for cow pies. Also, in the summer, cattle are often grazing on this hill.

McAlester’s Store

Click to enlarge this Google Eaarth map of Horsefly Mesa, location of McAlester's Store

Click to enlarge this Google Earth map of Horsefly Mesa, location of McAlester’s Store

Since this location is close to Last Dollar Road, it’s best to do these two locations at the same time. Also located off Highway 62, and just a few  miles further up the road from the Last Dollar Road cutoff, is the road you need to take to go to the McAllester’s Store location. This area is called Horsefly Mesa. This road is a little tricky to describe how to get to, since I’ve never seen any road names on it. But, basically, from the Last Dollar Road cutoff, continue on Highway 62 a few more miles until you see a road cut off on your right. There are only a few roads that go to the right, so that helps to narrow it down a bit. You’ll see a cutoff to your right and the road takes an immediate sharp cut up and to the right. There will be a private residence to your right and then immediately after that, you’ll see a private driveway on your left with a  huge ranch sign and gate. If you see those two things, you know you’re on the right road!

You’ll continue on this dirt road with aspens on both sides and finally you will round off to the left and come into a clearing and the views open up behind you. Up on your left, you’ll see a clearing and a crumbling old homestead. That’s the homestead that is behind John when he first rides up to the store. Turn in here (GPS: lat=38° 6’56.79″N, lon=107°57’37.34″W) and  park near the homestead and you can rummage around. This is where you’ll find the old hitchin’ post and the planks on the ground. If you continue through the trees, you’ll discover an old corral back near the fence line.

The Lone Pine Tree

This is the pine tree that is behind Rooster, La Boeuf and Mattie as they ride their horses down a “trail.” the trail is actually this same dirt road you’ve been traveling on to get to McAlester’s store. Once you pull back onto the road from the McAlester’s Store location, head back the way  you came (heading back to Highway 62) and you will immediately see the lone pine tree on your right around the 1-mile marker. (GPS: lat=38° 6’55.90″N, lon=107°57’36.41″W). You can’t miss it; it’s the only pine tree in a grove of aspen.

Deb’s Meadow (Shootout Field)

True Grit: Deb's Meadow Google Earth

Click to enlarge this Google Earth map of both Deb’s Meadow and Sleeping Rock

The famous shootout scene at the end of the movie was filled in Deb’s Meadow, near the summit of Owl Creek Pass. From Ridgway, travel toward Montrose on U.S. Highway 550 and turn right on County Road 10 (GPS: lat=38°10’25.86″N, lon=107°44’30.97″W). Follow the signs for Owl Creek Pass; you will pass through many ranches and private residences along this dirt road. The views are spectacular and just keep getting better as Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Peak (featured prominently in the shootout scene) come into view. It’s about 13 miles from the Highway 550 cutoff to the summit of Owl Creek Pass, and Deb’s Meadow is on the left, about a quarter of a mile before you reach the summit. You can’t miss it though…as you near the summit you will complete a very loopy switchback and curve back to the left. Right after you complete this switchback, you will see a large field on the left with a turn in (GPS: lat=38° 9’43.40″N, lon=107°34’4.21″W). Park and get ready to relive the scene that was made famous by the line, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!”

As you walk down the faint trail that threads through the center of the field, look to your left and head toward the large boulder. This is the rock the Duke was next to when he and his horse was shot. Looking up, you’ll Chimney Peak, which is what was above Robert Duvall’s head when he first entered the field. In summer, the field will be covered in Corn Lilies and can also be a bit swampy.

If you go back to the turn in, and face the road, to your left you will hear and see a small stream. This is the stream they camped next to. Follow the stream through the trees and you’ll find their streamside camping place.

Sleeping Rock

The rock that Mattie slept in is at the summit of Owl Creek pass, which is literally only a few minutes further up the road from Deb’s Meadow. Follow the road until you reach the summit sign for Owl Creek Pass and turn into the little loop, which also has a port-a-potty. You’ll see the Sleeping Rock immediately and will be shocked at how close it is to the road! In the movie, the way it’s framed, of course looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but the rock is literally feet away from the road! The smaller rock that the Duke leaned against while drinking coffee is also located right next to the Sleeping Rock (GPS: lat=38° 9’28.25″N, lon=107°33’43.94″W).

The Hanging Scene

True Grit: Hanging Scene, Ridgway Town Park

Click to enlarge Google Earth map of Ridgway’s Town Park and True Grit Cafe

True Grit’s Hanging Scene was filmed in Ridgway’s Town Park, also know as Hartwell Park. It is right downtown and you can’t miss it. It’s a great place for a picnic and they often have concert series there during the summer and fall. To find the park, simply turn off Highway 550 into downtown and it will be on your right, off Lena Street. Also, when you turn off to head downtown, turn in to your left and you’ll see the  old Paddy Wagon from the beginning of the movie, when the Duke was bringing in prisoners. It’s parked there near the highway and downtown.

If you walk around the park, you will see the famous old trees used in the scene. The beautiful red building with the steeple is on the back end of the park, just down the road from True Grit Cafe (a must-see, great food). That red building is the old firehouse. Also, take time to look at the building to the left of the True Grit Cafe, and notice it is the Fort Smith Saloon, also used in the movie.

The True Grit Cafe is filled with True Grit and John Wayne memorabilia and has a great menu. Visit their web site and be sure to notice the wall to the left as soon as you enter. You’ll see the Chambers Grocery Store sign still painted on the wall, the same one used in the movie when Duke pulls up with the Paddy Wagon. There’s lots to look at and you can also purchase True Grit memorabilia from their store.

Chen Lee’s and Other Town Scenes

Chen Lee’s place is on Clinton Street in Ridgway. From the True Grit Cafe, just walk down the boardwalk next to the street, pass the Firehouse and turn left on Clinton Street. You’ll see a Natural Grocer’s across the street, this was a building that was shown behind John Wayne and Kim Darby when they were talking in the street. If you continue up Clinton Street, on the left side you’ll see a building that was part of the front of Chen’s. It’s the door Rooster and Mattie walk through to go into Chen’s.


Ouray County Courthouse, True Grit Courthouse scenes

Ouray County Courthouse, Ouray, Colorado

Some of the scenes that showed Rooster in court were shot in the Ouray County Courthouse, and some of the courthouse scenes were built sets. I did find the staircase that Mattie chased Rooster on, and it was indeed in the Ouray County Courthouse. From Ridgway, take Highway 550 10 miles to Ouray. The courthouse is on the left side of the main street. Turn left on 6th street, then turn right onto 4th street and the courthouse will be on your left. If you go inside, the staircase is on your right.

Other Scenes

The snakepit scene is located on Camp Bird Road outside Ouray (as you’re leaving town and heading toward Silverton on the Million Dollar Highway, you’ll see the sign for Camp Bird Road, just take a right). Camp Bird takes you to beautiful Yankee Boy Basin and is worth the trip alone for that. You can’t reach the snakepit scene, unfortunately.

The ferry scenes were filmed over at Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is between Montrose and Gunnison. The actual locations are now under water, but you can see the rocky cliffs that were shown in the movie.


When in doubt, please visit the Ridgway Chamber of Commerce, which is located on the left side of the road when you enter downtown Ridgway. They have True Grit DVDs for sale and also offer some directions to various True Grit related areas…but I have to admit, I believe my compilation is more comprehensive!

The most amazing time of year to visit these locations is the last week of September. The aspens are at their peak colors and are simply stunning. On your way from Ridgway to Last Dollar Road and Horsefly Mesa, you have to stop at the Dallas Divide, a very picturesque area that shows the San Juan Mountains in all their autumn glory. Another great time to visit is mid-July, when the wildflowers are blazing. The San Juan Mountains played a vital role in the movie for good reason: they are one of the most beautiful places on earth!

Have fun! Long Live the Duke!

You Tube Video



  1. sandra smith  August 31, 2014

    Watched the original True Grit this afternoon – dont think I have seen it for over 40 years – I remember reading the book when I was in my 20s. loved the film; John Wayne at his very best. I began wondering where it was filmed and found this website – so thanks much for the then and now.

  2. Kay  September 16, 2014

    Hello and thank you for a very interesting blog regarding True Grit. I am blessed to have been coming to Ouray for many many years. I am fortunate enough to have been able to visit the snake pit also. The road is now blocked but you can hike to the snake pit scene.
    Thanks for all the information and location sites.

  3. gary  December 11, 2014

    Amazing! Thank you!

  4. Colleen  December 25, 2014

    As we watch True Grit on Christmas evening, I decide to “google” where the movie was filmed. Delighted to see it was filmed at Ridgeway. My husband and I vacationed in the San Juan Mts. In sept/oct 2013. Stayed on Hwy 550 between Durango and Silverton. Didn’t plan on going above Ouray but a hiker along the way suggested we go on to Ridgeway. We took a lunch and drove up there. Ate at the park with no idea what the old buildings were about. Without a doubt, we’ll be going back to see some of these sites! Thanks so much for sharing your findings of these locations!

  5. Travis Smith  December 27, 2014

    Thank you so much for doing all of this. The Youtube video is excellent and quite informative. Only one sequence seems to be missing. Did you ever find the location where they filmed the ‘dugout’ scene where the trio capture and interrogate Quincy and Moon? Thanks for any help you can provide

  6. Marion Z  December 30, 2014

    Hello and thank you! I believe that scene was shot in California.

  7. Marion Z  December 30, 2014

    Thanks for your comment! Glad you enjoyed the video.

  8. Gary  January 7, 2015

    There was a scene shot in Castle Rock. I live in CR and would like to know exactly where it is.


  9. Marion Z  January 8, 2015

    I hadn’t heard that, Gary.

  10. Janet m  January 10, 2015

    We lived in ridgeway and Montrose. We both worked at the local motel the cast stayed in during filming, including John Wayne. We are going out there in July for a vacation and excited to visit the scenes!

  11. Steve "Grizz" Adams  March 9, 2015

    Thanks so much for this thorough compilation of the sites! I too am a big fan of the movie and the Owl Creek Pass area! I’ve been visiting that area near every year for 25 years! One location that I found was the scene where Mattie shoots Ned Pepper. There is am improved road near the creek in the background. I believe that is the West Fork road and West Fork of the Cimarron River, just around the corner from Owl Creek Pass.
    If you like the fall colors from that area, please visit my photograhy web site. It is filled with great shots from that area – late Sept. and early October! You’ll know me….I am the one with the yellow tent (actually, the only tent!).
    Thanks again for the great video!

    Steve “Grizz”

  12. Dan Miller  June 8, 2015

    I have been several times to the snake bite scene. There are still fiberglass “boulders” at the location in addition to some cool buildings.

  13. Lewis Mock  September 11, 2015

    Didn’t think the meadow shoot out scene where Rooster took on Lucky Ned and the boys could be more exciting. Then I went to the meadow myself. I watched the movie the next day and got shivers because I had stood on that hallowed ground!! Awesome!!

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