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Where Is Yellowstone Filmed?

Film technology has come a long way, but there are still some things you just can't fake. In the case of Paramount Network's smash hit drama Yellowstone, it's the grandiose landscapes of the American Mountain West. Sure, the show could probably film on a Hollywood lot and CGI some mountains into the background, but cutting corners like that isn't what launched the show from an ambitious project, to a genuine TV sensation.

In the twisted and violent story of the Dutton family's struggle to keep their ranch from being encroached on by private business enterprises, the nearby Native American reservation, or the national park that gives the show its name, the scenery of Montana is a character itself. Yes, Oscar winner Kevin Costner is the show's top-billed actor, but the setting is the show's real star.

Interestingly, the series doesn't film exclusively on location in Montana. Throughout the first three seasons of Yellowstone, the production has used a variety of locations in and outside of the Big Sky State to create the grand portrait of John Dutton's dynastic Ranch.

Yellowstone does film on location in Montana...

Many of Yellowstone's majestic exterior shots were filmed on location in Montana (even though it sometimes made for tough working conditions). According to Montana Living, the first season of the show set up shop in and around the town of Darby, Montana, which is located in the Bitterroot Valley, near the Idaho border.

Much of the show's Montana filming takes place on the Chief Joseph Ranch, which has been in use by European colonists in the region since the 1880s. The ranch is known in the region for its stunning views and the massive log and stone house that sits on the property. The house itself is around 5,000 square feet and was built in 1917. Fans of the show will no doubt recognize the facade, which is used to establish the Dutton family's palatial ranch home.

Once the show heads inside, however, viewers are seeing something completely different. In order to keep costs down, the show made the decision to take advantage of tax credits and film most of their interior scenes, as well as some exterior ones, a few hundred miles to the south.

...but much of the production actually happens in Utah

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, several rooms from the massive Dutton ranch were recreated on sound stages at the Utah Film Studio in Park City, Utah. Instead of using artificial materials to construct the interiors, the show actually had logs shipped from Montana to add an extra layer of authenticity.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that more than 20 locations in Utah were used for filming. Some were sound stages, while others took advantage of Utah's own sweeping grandeur to mimic the iconic landscapes around Bozeman, Montana. Per the Standard-Examiner, scenes were filmed in and around Ogden, Utah, specifically making use of the town's historic and picturesque 25th Street region.

The series' decision to use Utah as a Montana substitute for much of its filming came down to rebate incentives. As series creator Taylor Sheridan told The Salt Lake Tribune, "It's easy to get to. And they give a rebate, which is extremely helpful when you have something this ambitious."

Much of the series, including the recently released third season, was filmed in Utah for those reasons. However, a new state budget for 2021 means those rebate incentives are coming to an end. Reports suggest that the crew is planning to switch up locations for season 4 as a result.

Yellowstone is potentially preparing a Montana homecoming for season 4

As season 3 of Yellowstone began to air, word got out that the show was planning on pulling out of its Utah filming locations ahead of the beginning of production on season 4. In a story at The Salt Lake Tribune, individuals involved in the state's film and TV production industry reported that the series was in the process of canceling contracts with vendors they'd used while shooting previous seasons. The reason? The changes to the Beehive State's program for film and TV production rebates means the incentive to continue to film "70-75%" of the series in Utah is no longer strong enough.

So where is Yellowstone's production packing up and riding off to? According to The Salt Lake Tribune, they are planning on moving the entire production to Montana. Obviously, the show does have an interest in filming on location in the region of its fictional setting. Montana also recently passed their own film and TV production rebate, which is now set to give Yellowstone a better deal than Utah can offer.

At the time of this writing, production on the fourth season of Yellowstone hasn't begun, nor has the production team officially announced their plans to exclusively film in Montana. If the speculation proves to be true, it will be a major homecoming for the entire Dutton clan.