Pioneertown: A Movie Set That Became a Real Town

In 1946, a few Hollywood legends, including Roy Rogers and Russell Hayden, got tired of traveling to far-off locations to shoot Westerns. They decided to build a Wild West set in the High Desert of Southern California, where directors could shoot movies and the crews could live. They drove out to a spot four miles northwest of Yucca Valley and two hours from Los Angeles and began building facades and spaces to resemble a 19th-century Western town. They named it Pioneertown. The project was a huge success, with more than 200 Westerns being filmed there. It also served as a backdrop for a large number of television shows, including Judge Roy Bean and The Gene Autry Show. As the years rolled by and Hollywood’s interest shifted from Westerns to other genres of films, business in Pioneertown dwindled and the town became nothing more than a tourist attraction. More recently, people from the big cities seeking respite from their stressful lives have started arriving and staying for good. Properties around Pioneertown are selling like hot cakes and new businesses are popping up all over the place. As of 2019, the population has grown to 420.