Joel and Ellie from the HBO TV series "The Last of Us" walking during a sunset through the mountains

The Last of Us Road Trip: Recreating Joel and Ellie's Route (with Map!)

Published by Pat Dorri on March 6 2023

The Last of Us is a vastly popular game and TV series and it is likely that you might have come across it one way or another. The characters of The Last of Us make an almost cross-country journey of epic proportions, and this got us thinking - why not create road trips that are inspired by Joel and Ellie's travels?

The Last of Us depicts a journey that covers a vast 3,770 miles from Boston to Jackson, Wyoming, The characters in HBO's hit series take months to get from one place to another, but you can cover this route in 63 hours of driving, without accounting for stops.

This article contains spoilers from both the game and the TV series. If you are not bothered by spoilers, or know the storyline, then read on to find out what is the best way to visit the locations featured in The Last of Us and the best road trips inspired by them.

Joel and Ellie staring into the distance to the destroyed remains of Boston
You can follow in the footsteps of Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us on these road trips inspired by their journey.

The Last of Us Locations

The map we have created is inspired by the video game version of The Last of Us, which was produced by Naughty Dog and released in 2013. The television series released this year by HBO follows a similar path but with diversions.

The story of both the game and the TV series focuses on the mammoth journey undertaken by Joel and Ellie, a man and a young girl, as they travel in a post-apocalyptic world from the East Coast to Wyoming.

Parts of their trip make for great road trips and while you might not want to navigate from one coast to the other during a zombie apocalypse like Joel and Ellie, you can still follow their footsteps to an extent and create your own adventure inspired by the popular game and TV series.

The game starts in Austin, Texas, where Joel lives, but shortly after, the storyline fast forwards several years. This is why Boston, where Joel meets Ellie several years later, makes a good starting point for our list of road trips.

While the exact routes that Joel and Ellie follow are vague in parts, this is our take on their journey!

Road trips inspired by the Last of Us
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Boston to Lincoln20 miles30 minutes
Lincoln to Pittsburgh570 miles9 hours 20 minutes
Pittsburgh to Jackson1,840 miles28 hours
Jackson to Boulder490 miles8 hours 10 minutes
Boulder to Salt Lake City520 miles8 hours
Salt Lake City to Jackson280 miles5 hours

1. Boston to Lincoln

20 miles (30 minutes)

Why this route is significant: This trip is the shortest on our list and is the perfect adventure for a day trip to the charming and incredibly scenic town of Lincoln.

Lincoln is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, which is maybe why Bill, Joel's old friend and the town's only resident during the time of Joel and Ellie's arrival, chose not to flee like the rest of the town's residents.

Why you should make this trip: This road trip is manageable as a day trip from Boston and Lincoln is dotted with historic buildings and unique landscapes, which include a national historic park and a sculpture park to keep you busy all day.

Hartwell Tavern on the Bay Road in Lincoln, Minute Man National Historic Park
Fortunately, you will not run into any zombies during your visit to Lincoln, but some of the historic sites like Hartwell Tavern look like they belong in the same storyline!
Alexey Stiop/

Real-life filming locations: In the TV series, the scenes that took place outside Massachusetts State House with its recognizable golden dome were actually filmed at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton.

It isn't known for certain, but the small and cute towns of Okotoks and Olds in the Calgary region are potentially used as the filming location for Bill's hometown of Lincoln.

How to get there: Follow Interstate 93 (I-93) out of Boston and then follow MA-2 towards Lincoln.

Our highlights: If you have thought of Lincoln as remote a town as depicted on the HBO series, you might be pleasantly surprised when you arrive in Lincoln. You will find many unique attractions here like the stunning (and popular!) deCordova Sculpture Park, showcasing many artworks.

Thankfully, the battle that took place in Minute Man National Historical Park was not against zombies! Here you will see the opening battle of the Revolution come to life and learn through this important moment of American revolutionary history.

Located in the Minute Man National Historical Park, Hartwell Tavern is a beautiful 18th-century building is called a “witness house”. Maybe not cordyceps taking over humanity, but it witnessed the battle on April 19, 1775.

If you are like Joel, and enjoy your space and peace, visit Walden Pond State Reservation, which even inspired Henry David Thoreau's Walden.

Fun facts/trivia: The game and the TV series depict very different storylines in Lincoln.

The church in Lincoln as depicted in the game is entirely fictional, but if you want to visit a beautiful church, First Parish is a historic building in town that dates back to the 1700s!

Bill in the TV series is an obvious foodie, and while you cannot taste his delicious-looking cooking, you can head over to the neighboring town of Concord and sample the offerings at the upscale restaurant of 80 Thoreau.

When to visit: In The Last of Us, Joel and Ellie might not have visited Lincoln during the colder months, but if you visit Lincoln in February, you will get to enjoy the Lincoln Winter Carnival.

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors like Joel and Ellie (they did walk all the way to Lincoln, after all!) you might want to visit from mid-June to mid-September to enjoy warm weather activities in this historic town.

Useful information: Keep in mind that if you are visiting Lincoln in winter, you will want to have a small snow shovel, window scraper and warm clothing in the car in case you might encounter a snowstorm.

2. Lincoln to Pittsburgh

570 miles (9 hours 20 minutes)

Why this route is significant: This road trip marks the point where Joel and Ellie start driving as opposed to traveling on foot, which makes sense as this road trip covers a longer distance than the previous one.

While Joel and Ellie probably traveled on the fastest route to reach their destination in Pittsburgh on their quest to find the Fireflies, you will have the option to make detours to incredibly scenic Susquehannock and Sproul State Forests.

You can also make a detour to iconic New York City (which, unfortunately, isn't featured in The Last of Us, but hard to blame Joel and Ellie for not stopping here, thinking of how many zombies they might encounter in this dense city!).

Why you should make this trip: This road trip is a great one that takes you from the outskirts of Boston to the charming city of Pittsburgh with so many detour options. It is also easily manageable over a weekend or a long weekend if you want to put aside more time to retrace our duo's steps.

A post-apocalyptical scene depicting a bridge from HBO's Last of Us
Pittsburgh is famous for its bridges, but the creators of the TV series used Kansas City instead of Pittsburgh, unlike the game version.

Real-life filming locations: It is good to note that the creators of the TV series swapped Pittsburgh with Kansas City. The episode features some shots filmed both in Kansas City and Canada.

How to get there: Take I-90 out of Lincoln and follow I-84 to merge with I-80 and then I-99 if not making a detour to New York. If you are, then follow I-91 through New Haven after reaching Hartford, which will take you to the Big Apple.

You will then drive through the charming Bethlehem and chocolate-central Hershey. After here, heading west on I-76 will take you to Pittsburgh.

Our highlights: As you enter the city in the game, it is hard not to notice the unique architecture of Fort Duquesne Bridge which is based on its real-life counterpart.

You will recognize the unique architecture of BNY Mellon Center, a majestic skyscraper from the game. It was also featured in Flashdance and Desperate Measures.

While impressed by some of these landmarks resembling their real versions, we wished that Joel and Ellie would have visited the beautiful Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens which would have been an impressive, overgrown jungle oasis in a zombie apocalypse.

Even though not featured in The Last of Us, PNC Park is an iconic stadium that is worth a visit while you are in Pittsburgh.

Where to stay: While the Grand Hotel in the game is a fictional place, we think it somehow resembles Omni William Penn Hotel. It is very likely that the game designers were influenced by this hotel's architecture.

This elegant and charming hotel's history goes way back. It once housed John F. Kennedy and Lawrence Welk and you will find an award-winning restaurant onsite.

The hotel is located in the heart of downtown (great if you aren't being chased by a clicker or two!), which is adjacent to the Cultural District.

While in Pittsburgh, you are never too far from one of its hundreds (a whopping 723!) of bridges, but we recommend crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge close by to visit the Andy Warhol Museum.

Alternatively, you can follow the storyline in the TV series, the Ranchland Motel featured in the Kansas City episode is actually Ranchland Inn, located in Nanton, Canada. If you are located in the vicinity, you can stop by and see where Joel, Ellie, Sam and Henry stayed.

Pittsburgh city landscape view over the Monongahela and Allegheny River
The real Fort Duquesne Bridge in Pittsburgh is a little more colorful than the one you might have spotted on the screen!

Fun facts/trivia: The TV series swapped Pittsburgh with Kansas City allegedly because the filming location in Canada resembled Kansas City more. Pittsburgh's significance in the game is due to its unique and recognizable cityscape with its many bridges. Talking about being a unique city to visit!

While the TV series introduces Sam (who vastly became a beloved supporting character) and his older brother Henry in the Kansas City episodes, we first see them in Pittsburgh in the game version.

When to visit: While Joel and Ellie were likely in Pittsburgh in late summer, this city is lovely to visit year-round!

Visit during Christmas time (while making a stop at the festive town of Bethlehem, which comes alive during this period) to enjoy the incredible display of Light Up Night's Fireworks and the charming Christmas markets.

Useful information: If you are traveling through New York, be prepared for traffic and some possible delays, as this city is known for its traffic congestion.

3. Pittsburgh to Jackson

1,840 miles (28 hours)

Why this route is significant: There is no denying that this is a mammoth journey to undertake, and we don't know much about the exact routes Joel and Ellie follow to reach Jackson in their search for the Fireflies.

While it is safe to assume that they would stay away from most of the main cities (and out of the cordyceps-driven zombies' line of sight) we suggest you take a more varied and interesting route to reach your destination - in contrast to Joel and Ellie's journey.

Jackson is a beautiful mountainous city, just where you'd imagine a flourishing community of survivors might want to set base in, and the city in The Last of Us is based on its real-life counterpart.

Why you should make this trip: This is an epic journey of contrasts and choices (the latter is a very central theme in The Last of Us as well). There are two great alternatives, depending on how much time you have.

You can opt to drive through Kansas City to pay homage to the TV version's take on the story or travel north through Cleveland and Chicago.

Reflection of Teton Mountain range in Snake River, Wyoming
On a more leisurely pace than the characters in the Last of Us, make sure to take time to admire the views of the Grant Tetons as you arrive in Jackson, Wyoming.
Vicki L. Miller/

Real-life filming locations: Located to the west of Calgary, Canmore was used as the filming location for Jackson, Wyoming scenes in the TV version of The Last of Us.

Horseshoe Dam in Alberta was used as the dam in the fictional dam in Jackson in the TV series.

How to get there: If going north, head to Cleveland on I-76, and then travel west to Chicago. When you reach Des Moines, switch to I-80. When you arrive in Rock Springs, follow US-191 northwest all the way to Jackson.

If heading south, you will travel through Columbus, Indianapolis, St Louis and Kansas City before joining up with I-80 like the above route.

Our highlights: We are sure Ellie would have enjoyed visiting National Elk Refuge, given how she enjoyed seeing a giraffe in the game version.

Antler Arches of Jackson are majestic arches made by naturally shed elk antlers that definitely have a post-apocalyptic vibe that could feature in a zombie TV series!

We think that Grand Teton National Park could have easily been a filming location for the series. Let your inner adventurer out and try one of the many scenic hikes here.

Antelope Flats is where you will find “Mormon Row” which consists of a few derelict buildings with grand views of the Grand Tetons. This is exactly what we imagine the Jackson Community in The Last of Us would have looked like if Tommy and his friends didn't take such good care to protect it.

Where to stay: You, unfortunately, cannot stay in the cozy (well, cozy, given the obvious zombie apocalypse going on!) houses of The Last of Us' Jackson community but Parkway Inn of Jackson Hole embodies the mountainous vibes you have seen on the screen very well.

A luxury Joel would only dream of, there is a fabulous indoor pool and a hot tub in the hotel, which are the perfect way to relax after such a long drive.

This hotel is a short drive from Grand Teton National Park and boasts a stellar location just a short walk from historic downtown Jackson, which features many fantastic restaurants and shops.

Ellie looking into the distance to the mountains on their way to Jackson
Join Joel and Ellie on their journey to the mountains and make sure to pack warm like they seem to have!

Fun facts/trivia: John Paino, the production designer of the TV series, wanted the fictional Jackson to display the innate charm of the Midwest. To achieve this, Paino's team constructed greenhouses and stables on vacant parking lots and embellished existing buildings in Canmore.

They also erected an actual 60-foot-tall log wall along a major street in the town, which had to be opened periodically to let traffic pass.

When to visit: The game depicts Joel and Ellie arriving in Jackson in autumn, whereas the TV series depicts the snowy and wintery side of Jackson. Jackson is gorgeous to visit in all of the four seasons, but we recommend visiting in winter to enjoy the famous ski resort near the city.

On the other hand, spring is arguably the best season for wildlife spotting in Jackson, and you will also get to enjoy gorgeous blossoms.

Useful information: If you are traveling in winter, keep in mind that Wyoming winters can be harsh, so bring winter chains for your tires and check weather warnings.

4. Jackson to Boulder

490 miles (8 hours 10 minutes)

Why this route is significant: Continuing on their quest for the Fireflies and leaving Joel's brother Tommy and his community behind, Joel and Ellie travel to Boulder to find the Fireflies in the fictional University of Eastern Colorado.

While on your search for the Fireflies, you will find plenty at this destination, as Boulder is located on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains which is home to Colorado's native species of fireflies!

Why you should make this trip: This is a short and manageable distance that would make a scenic weekend getaway. You will get to visit Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests as well as Fort Collins on the way.

Exterior of the Administrative Building of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado
You might not be able to visit the fictional University of Eastern Colorado, but you can visit Colorado State University in Fort Collins on the way, which is allegedly what the Last of Us version is based on!
Paul Brady Photography/

Real-life filming locations: The filming location for the University of Eastern Colorado in the TV series is the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology campus in Calgary.

How to get there: Follow US-191 out of Jackson and switch to I-80 past Rock Springs. Heading north on US-287 will get to your destination in Boulder.

Our highlights: The University of Eastern Colorado might not be real, but it is actually based on a real one that you can go visit! Colorado State University is the inspiration behind the fictional university and is located in Fort Collins, which lies directly on this road trip route.

You won't be able to visit the Colorado Mountain Plaza, which is a fictional mall in the game, but you can visit the popular Pearl Street Market for all your shopping needs.

When you aren't being chased by mushroom-laden zombies, head to Colorado Chautauqua Park for some inner peace and contemplation.

Striking rock formations described as “what makes Boulder Boulder”, you will find many trails in the vicinity of the Flatirons, ranging in length and difficulty.

Fun facts/trivia: The production company of the game version of The Last of Us, (allegedly) Naughty Dog created a website for the Colorado Mountain Plaza with three of the stores in the mall having their own websites. Talking about attention to detail!

Even though The Last of Us wasn't technically filmed there, Colorado is a favorite filming location for apocalypse-themed games and movies such as Wasteland 3, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Homefront, the Dead Rising series, Call of Duty: Ghosts and World War Z and Call of Duty: Ghosts.

When to visit: best time to visit Boulder is arguably spring or fall. Because the city is surrounded by incredibly scenic landscapes such as the Rocky Mountains, you will get to enjoy spectacular views of fall foliage or gorgeous spring blossoms.

Useful information: Boulder gets quite snowy during winter, so make sure your car is prepared and that you check the road conditions before setting off.

5. Boulder to Salt Lake City

520 miles (8 hours)

Why this route is significant: This is one of the most important sections in the storyline of The Last of Us and a lot of important events happen on the way from Boulder to Salt Lake City.

After learning that the Fireflies have relocated to Salt Lake City from the University of Eastern Colorado, Joel and Ellie head to the big city with a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Luckily, you won't have any obstacles on this journey as you will be traveling on safe interstates and major highways. This road trip will be just as action-packed (but in a good way, minus the zombies!).

Why you should make this trip: This is a varied road trip with outdoor opportunities for all seasons. Though these activities were not what was on Joel and Ellie's minds at the time, you can make a detour to visit Denver, go skiing in Breckenridge, Vail or Aspen, explore White River National Forest and admire the scenery that surrounds Provo.

Temple Square, a granite structure that took 40 years to complete, and is a popular tourist destination. Temple Square is own by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
One of the actual buildings you can easily spot in the game version of the Last of Us, the iconic Salt Lake Temple is worth a visit to see up close.
Jillian Cain Photography/

Real-life filming locations: Most of the series was filmed in Alberta, Canada.

How to get there: Take US-36 out of Boulder to visit Denver, and then follow I-70 all the way to Green River in Utah. From here, head northwest US-191 and US-6 to reach Provo. I-15 will then take you to the heart of Salt Lake City

Our highlights: You won't see giraffes roaming the city as Joel and Ellie do in The Last of Us, but you can meet these fascinating creatures at the African Savannah exhibit at Utah's Hogle Zoo!

While playing the game, you might have spotted the unmistakable silhouette of the famous Salt Lake Temple in the background. This Mormon temple boasts beautiful and unique architecture and is well worth a visit.

It is impossible to miss the majestic mountains that surround SLC in the game (moved closer to the city than their real-life counterparts, possibly to make them look even more dramatic). To admire the Wasatch Mountains first-hand, head to Big Cottonwood Canyon for a hike or two.

Not featured in the game, but we think a curious mind like Ellie would have appreciated a tour of the Natural History Museum of Utah, which features skeletons of several dinosaurs!

Where to stay: Even though we didn't spot Grand America Hotel's iconic building among the tall structures of SLC in the game, it still might be hidden in the background (let us know if you spot it!).

If you are lucky enough to stay on the higher levels, you will get to admire the cityscape from a great vantage point like Joel and Ellie did. Located in the heart of downtown, you will also be within easy reach of the magnificent Temple Square.

There are indoor and outdoor pools and a gym if you'd like to keep in top shape to outrun the zombies and a restaurant on-site that we highly recommend for refueling before you head out to brave the cordyceps once again!

Fun facts/trivia: Do you ever give your significant other chocolate or flowers to show them that you appreciate them?

The level designer in the game version, Peter Field took that one step further and named the baseball field featured in the foreground as Joel and Ellie enter Salt Lake City after his partner, calling it “Bethany Clare Field”.

Sculptures of giraffes at entrance to Hogle Zoo at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.
If you have played the game, you will remember the famous scene where giraffes roam free in Salt Lake City. The closest you can get to that in real life is visiting Utah's Hogle Zoo.
M Outdoors/

When to visit: Joel and Ellie arrive in Salt Lake City in April, which is a great time to visit (obviously for different reasons as you hopefully won't be looking for a cure to heal humanity).

However, if you visit in winter, you can take a peek at the glamorous Sundance Film Festival's star-studded crowd. Who knows, maybe you will spot Pedro Pascal or Bella Ramsey!

Useful information: You can visit Temple Square, but can only admire this unique structure from the outside unless you belong to the Mormon religion.

6. Salt Lake City to Jackson

280 miles (5 hours)

Why this route is significant: We don't know much about what happens on Joel and Ellie's journey but now that their quest to find Fireflies and a cure is over, they choose to return to reunite with the Jackson community.

This would allow them to have as normal a life as it is possible, given the zombie apocalypse is still going on.

Though you are following in the footsteps of our duo, the road trip from Salt Lake City to Jackson has so many hidden gems that you don't need to hurry to reach your destination, unlike Joel and Ellie.

Why you should make this trip: This is a scenic and relatively short road trip, so it can be easily done over two days or a long weekend. There are also lovely hot spring towns, amazing geysers, scenic reservoirs and rugged mountains to admire on the way.

Joel and Ellie of HBO's the Last of Us entering the Jackson community during winter, there are people on horseback and snow on the ground.
The Jackson, Wyoming scenes of HBO's The Last of Us were shot in Canada, and the resemblance is definitely there!

Real-life filming locations: As mentioned above, Canmore, which is located to the west of Calgary, was used as the filming location for Jackson in HBO's version of The Last of Us.

How to get there: Follow I-5 out of Salt Lake City and Malad City and Arimo before heading east to arrive at Lava Hot Springs. Head further west to Soda Springs and switch to ID-34, driving past Caribou Mountain to Alpine and then Palisades. Cross from Idaho to Wyoming to arrive in Jackson.

Our highlights: Taking a dip in hot spring pools might be a luxury out of Joel and Ellie's reach as they travel back to Jackson, but we definitely recommend taking a relaxing dip at Lava Hot Springs on this road trip.

Ellie would have been impressed by the famous geyser of Soda Springs, definitely worth a visit.

If the TV series hadn't chosen to film the episodes in Canada, we can imagine Alpine would have been an amazing option with its dramatic, mountainous backdrop and scenic landscape.

You don't need to be a survivalist or living through a zombie apocalypse to look for an excuse to whip out your fishing rod and show of your skills. Palisades Reservoir provides ample opportunity to catch cutthroat and brown trout, kokanee, and mackinaw lake trout.

When to visit: Warmer months are better to set off on this road trip, as this region gets quite a bit of snowfall. You will drive through beautiful scenery, so planning your trip in the spring will mean you can get to see nature come back to life through blossoms.

Similarly, traveling in the fall would mean that you can spot some gorgeous red-colored foliage on the mountain slopes as you drive past them.

It is likely that Joel and Ellie make this journey mid-year, and summer is definitely a great option as well. Traveling during the warmer months will allow you to enjoy outdoor activities to their fullest.

Useful information: Palisades Reservoir is open for fishing year-round and some of the best fishing happens in the spring and fall months due to the cooler waters keeping more active.