It was a beautiful morning in February 2020 when Brien O’Brien (Bob) and I began our 9-mile hike to Feather Falls near Lake Oroville. The trail was mostly empty that day as Bob and I filmed a video showcasing the beauty of the Feather River Canyon, before it was completely burned by the Dixie Fire.
When we arrived at the overlook for the 410-foot waterfall, we heard a noise in the distance. We had no idea that the action right in front of our eyes was actually the filming of Top Gun: Maverick.
I’ve been to a lot of airshows and I knew the noises headed towards us in the canyon were top-of-the-line military aircraft. We pointed the camera at the noise and this video is what we ended up with (pardon the language, we were stoked):
The voice referring to Top Gun in the video was mine, but I didn’t think much about the fly-by until I read that the sequel’s film production had been secretly filming at nearby Beale Air Force base in 2020. In fact, the film was supposed to be released in 2019, but the producers weren’t happy with the final scenes so they asked the daring pilots at Beale for some more movie magic in early 2020. It turned out to be our lucky day.
A few weeks ago, Bob and I went to see the movie and sure enough, the final dogfight scene flies right over the Feather River Canyon, pre-Dixie Fire. We knew then that we witnessed the filming of the best movie of 2022 – Top Gun: Maverick.
A lot of press discussed the Lake Tahoe scenes in the celebrated sequel (they were beautiful), but it was the Feather River canyon that provided a lot of the scenery for the final dogfight. I would categorize those final Top Gun: Maverick scenes as one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. It was that good.
So there you have it. The best movie of the year was filmed in Northern California more than two years ago, and I got to witness it by just being in the rugged outdoors. What a world.
Here’s the full Feather Falls video hike for your viewing pleasure, even though the trail remains closed after the Dixie Fire:
We also talked about the experience on the Talking NorCal Podcast: