Big Sky Ranch: The Set of “Little House on the Prairie”

by Website Editors | Jan 26, 2024

Today, Big Sky Ranch is known as the iconic backdrop of beloved Hollywood shows such as “Little House on the Prairie,” “Twin Peaks,” and “Gunsmoke.” However, when the Little House producers originally went scouting locations for the show, they started in Arizona, then worked their way to Northern California, before finally discovering Big Sky Ranch in Southern California’s Simi Valley. Not only was it conveniently located, but it had the natural backdrops they were seeking, including large trees, sparkling ponds, lush meadows, and rocky hideouts. (1)

All exterior scenes of the Little House show from 1974 through 1983 were shot at the Big Sky Ranch, including the iconic opening credits. Can’t you just picture Laura, Mary, and Carrie running down that grassy hillside now? Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder in the series, recounted that fans would often try to sneak onto the 7,000-acre property to catch a glimpse of the sets that made up the town of Walnut Grove. (2)

Despite certain limitations of the California location, the Little House producers made an honest effort to have the show resemble the Midwest plains and to re-create snowy winter scenes. As for the cozy interiors, those were all filmed at Paramount Studios, which was about an hour car ride away.

At the beginning of the series, it was agreed that the location would be returned to its original state after the show ended. So, when the show was canceled in 1983, Michael Landon made the decision to build the destruction of the set into an epic ending for the series. In the made-for-TV movie “The Last Farewell,” the Ingalls family and their community must take drastic measures to prevent a land developer from taking over their homes. The dramatic conclusion saw the entire set dynamited as the community looked on. In an interview with The New York Times, Landon explained that he felt the destruction was a fitting end to the pioneer epic, and it provided a sense of emotional release for the cast and crew. (3)

Now, in 2024, these iconic life-sized set façades have been recreated and placed in their original locations, including the famous Ingalls house and Oleson’s Mercantile to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the TV show. The three-day 50th Anniversary Cast Reunion & Festival will take place March 22, 23, and 24 in Simi Valley, California. Little House fans will have the chance to tour the Big Sky Ranch and see re-creations of the Ingalls’ farmhouse and barn, the Wilder house, the school for the blind, Hanson’s Mill, the post office, Nellie’s Restaurant, the church, Oleson’s Mercantile, and Walnut Grove Feed and Seed. There will also be multiple opportunities to meet the cast members and learn about their on-set memories.

The editors of the Little House on the Prairie® website are pleased to bring you interesting articles, interviews, fan features, videos, and much more.

28 Comments

  1. I love Little House On The Prairie. The cast was excellent also. There’s not a single episode that I missed when I was growing up.. The books are magnificent as well!! To bad there can’t be a reunion on TV for it. Michael Landon was a great actor in all of his shows.. I loved all the actresses and actors. LONG LIVE “LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”!!!

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  2. I really love Little House On The Prarie. In 2007 I had a chance to go to Walnut Grove, MN. I saw Plum Creek, and the original dugout site where the Ingalls lived while Charles was building their house.

    We also visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in the town of Walnut Grove. That was very fascinating. They had both the real history of the Ingalls family, plus the history of the Little House TV show, including accounts of the cast who occasionally visited Walnut Grove.

    The town is very proud to be one of the places where the Ingalls family lived, and having a TV show based on the their lives in Walnut Grove. The Ingalls probably only lived in Walnut Grove for about 2 years in real life, but the town is very proud of their history.

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  3. Interested in learning more. I am a huge fan of little house on the prairie.

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  4. Unfortunately I will be out of town but I would have definitely gone.
    To bad not more dates for tours since going through all the trouble of making Walnut Grove.

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  5. I was sick a couple of weeks ago. Well, I found Little House on the Prairie and spent every day with the Ingalls.
    So many heart felt stories❤️
    It would be great to visit Walnut Grove, but it would be so sad without Pa Ingalls. His laugh, smile and Heart to me made the show. Don ‘t get me wrong I loved the whole cast. They are still making me smile🙏❤️

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  6. I would love to come. Karen Grassle is my cousin and I would love 2 meet her. However I am having a hard time finding someone to go with me. Don’t want to go alone.

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  7. when I grow up my dad and I watch it we love it and now I am getting my daughter watching the little house we just love it . we would watch it every day and throw the night

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  8. 3/1/24 I love that they’re doing this I still watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie I just did yesterday, this would be amazing to go here, but I would probably just stand there and cry, because this was one of the best TV shows ever made, when I was younger I always thought I wish I had a father like Charles

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  9. Just a wonderful opportunity to relive such a wonderful show and memories my absolute favorite show of all time ,I love every single cast member like my very own family.

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  10. In 1974 I worked at the Holiday Inn in Brentwood as a waitress. A red headed bartender told me he knew the first cameraman in the TV show “Little House of the Prairie”. He asked me if I would like to go to the location. I answered, yes. We drove on the freeway right across from 5 Flags. I saw Michael Landon walk wearing his hat walking through the town. I saw Mr. Olsen sweep the porch in front of his store speaking his script. Years later I drove there alone, the gate was opened and I drove to where the little house was still there. I walked inside the little house and found a shell, no fireplace there. But there I was, standing there in ” The Little House of the Prairie”. Paramount filmed the interiors of the House in there in the studio. I was born in Los Angeles in 1951. I was seen many actors and some I have known personally. So happy the “Little House of the Prairie” lives in our remembers, and see them in DVDs. Cindy 👋

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  11. Will it be worth it to travel for this event if we can’t get bus tour passes? Will weiss too much without the tour?

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  12. It was something I enjoyed with my mom growing up. We saw it from the very first episode. I still watch the show til this day.

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  13. Love that show. I’m watching it for 4th time now. I live in Minnesota, about 2 and a half hours drive from Walnut Grove. They are going to have the 50’s Aniversary celebration on july this year. I will be there to join them.

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  14. I love the Little House On The Prairie episodes ☺️.

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  15. when do they do this?

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  16. Hi! The bus tour of the set facades is sold out on all three days of the 50th anniversary festival. Does anyone know if tours will be available to take after the festival? I can’t seem to find anything online that answers this question. Thanks!

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  17. I LOVE Little House on the Prairie, wish I would be able to make it. I think it would be neat to have a gift shop in the Mercantile with it up and running like in the show and offer a limited menu at Nellie’s Restaurant to top it all if. Would be an amazing idea.

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  18. La Pequeña Casa en la Pradera, a mis 53 años de vida, ha sido maravilloso crecer, y ver crecer a mis hijas mirando The Little House, dejó enseñanzas y valores sobre todo basado en la unión familiar, el sacrificio y humildad! Grande The Little House por siempre en nuestros corazones desde la Patagonia Chilena, vaya mis respetos y admiración… ❤️👏

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  19. Love that show

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    • I love little house on the prairie as I grew up with the show.and still watch re runs.love the whole cast..and watching the show till 2am..when I got to get up for work very emotional episodes. For real life .miss the cast for some have past. Michael and Edward’s were phenomenal..rest in peace..wish I could some day get to see the show area..but will always have it in my ❤️..

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  20. How wonderful ! Please send me all articles and fan features . I wish you all much success and wish I could be there.

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  21. I loved this show so much and watched the re-runs over and over. I would love to meet the cast as it has been so many years. To see the recreation of the set is awesome. The books that Laura wrote will forever be in our hearts. I remember one of my teachers reading one of her stories. Thank you to all the cast members for shaping our lives. May Michael Landon rest in peace and many blessings to all.

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  22. I’m a huge fan of LHOTP and was sad to see it end. Especially the loss of Michael Landon and Victor French. I love the show. I always dream to on on the show and still do! I am deaf. I hope to join the event next year!

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  23. The Best family show out there I have such heartfelt memories of watching this show weekly as I was growing up and I am forever grateful for that wonderful cast I still watch the reruns regularly.

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  24. Love this show. Still record it everyday. I grew up in Simi Valley but family moved to Colorado in 1973. Was always proud to know that this was filmed in our town. Such a good show!

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  25. Little House was always my favorite since I was young. A little glimpse of heaven as it was so good. Michael Landon done such a fabulous job. Never been to California. It would be awesome to visit the filming location and the town someday.

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  26. Little House has been my favorite show for as long as ot began. I loved every cast of m ember and I was devastated with the loss of Michael Landon. I loved how everything including the acting was so great you felt like you were there. Thank you everyone who had any place or part of Little House. I wish you the best of everything.

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  27. LHOTP is simply the best show ever made! I was born with one leg shorter than the other, a bad hip and a severe scoliosis of the spine. My parents were embarrassed about this and never talked about it! LHOTP showed Me how to live with dignity and the My disability could be a character building asset ! In short, Little House made My life better and I am forever grateful for Melissa Ellen Gilbert and Michael Landon!

    Reply

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