Where Was 'Bonanza' Actually Filmed?

Where Bonanza Was Filmed
September 27, 2020 - 09:00 / Lucas Anderson

NBC Western Bonanza was famously set at the Ponderosa ranch near Lake Tahoe and Virginia City, Nevada. But do you know where the legendary series was actually filmed? Read on to learn where the "Cartwrights" assembled to shoot Bonanza for 14 seasons (1959-1973).

A trademark Bonanza element was the show's Ponderosa ranch and Nevada setting.

Across the NBC Western's 14 seasons, the "Cartwrights" lived on the ranch, located on the outskirts of Virginia City and near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. But while scenes and episodes were sometimes shot outdoors and on location, the majority of Bonanza was filmed on California studio sets and soundstages. Here's where Bonanza was brought to life.

Where Bonanza was filmed

Bonanza's first opening scene, in season 1, was shot on location at Lake Hemet in Mountain Center, California. It featured original cast Pernell Roberts, Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon on horseback in front of the San Jacinto Mountains.

The ranch where the best-known opening sequence was shot was located near Lake Tahoe, Nevada—just as the Ponderosa was. It featured a more relaxed long shot of the cast on horseback before the Sierra Nevada. This ranch was also sold in 2020, making for headlines and memories of Bonanza's heyday. 

But for the most part, Bonanza was filmed at Paramount studio backlots in Hollywood, where the "Western street" and interior and exterior settings were created. Location shots from around Nevada were included, however, to add realism and style to the colour TV Western.

Where Bonanza was filmed: The "Western street"

According to Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa, the show even had Ponderosa pines shipped to the set and planted each new season. Likewise, a fake mountain and painted backdrops featured on the Paramount backlot. The production later moved to a Warner Bros. studio in 1970 for the final few seasons of the show.

Bonanza filming locations

So there it is. You may never have noticed Bonanza's system of location work and set-dressing magic. But the long-running NBC Western made use of California sets, stock footage and scenery shots, and a famous Western street on a Paramount backlot—also used for other Western TV series of the era, including Have Gun-Will Travel and Branded.

Occasionally, this wasn't the case, as in the opening sequence or when Bonanza shot two-part 1966 episode "The Pursued" at Anchor Ranch, Lone Pine, California. But most of Bonanza was filmed in California.