‘Yellowstone’ Star Kevin Costner Discusses Family Road Trips to National Parks

by Mark Long

Kevin Costner is enjoying a career renaissance playing family patriarch John Dutton on “Yellowstone.” Fans of the show respond not only to its storylines but to the idyllic filming locations in Montana and Utah. What viewers may not realize is that Costner has a long-established love of the outdoors and US national parks that began at an early age.

Yellowstone ‘Might Be Heaven’

Costner may have grown up in Compton, Calif., but highlights as a kid included frequent family trips to national parks and forests. His memories include navigating around a giant sequoia tree when he was just learning to walk and breathing in air that smelled so different from the city.

As he told HearHear, “The economics of my family were such that we took vacations in a car. They took us to the backside of the Sierras and we camped in a tent. … We fished in little streams and I don’t think I was in a hotel until my late twenties.”

These experiences had a profound effect on Costner, and remembering a trip to Yellowstone National Park, he added, “My eyes took me up to Half Dome, and I thought this might be heaven.”

The West in ‘Dances with Wolves’

Costner is no stranger to westerns, having starred in movies such as “Wyatt Earp,” “Silverado,” and “Open Range.” His own vision of the West was first realized in 1990’s “Dances with Wolves,” which he starred in and directed.

On one level it’s a story of redemption about Union Army Lieutenant John Dunbar, played by Costner. But it’s also a love letter to the majestic Wyoming and South Dakota landscapes where it was filmed.

Kevin Costner’s Forthcoming ‘National Parks’ Series

Costner is taking his love of the outdoors another step further with his upcoming pilot episode for “National Parks.” This ABC show is about the Investigative Services Branch of the National Parks Service. He’s writing the pilot and helping develop the show, but “Yellowstone” fans don’t need to be too worried. Costner is strictly working behind the scenes on this project.

While fans of “Yellowstone” can vicariously enjoy the show’s different filming locations in Montana and Utah, they don’t have to stop there. Twenty-seven states, mostly west of the Mississippi River, have national parks. Take a page from Costner and his family when he was growing up, and find a US National Park where you can create your own adventures and memories.