The current COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on passionate travelers. Social distancing and self-isolation can quickly become boring, which is particularly true for hikers and people who love the outdoors. Watching great outdoors or hiking movies is one way of keeping in touch with the hobby. But these movies are not just to pass some time. They also offer inspiration for life and times when you’ll be able to get back to the wild.
1. Into the Wild (2007)
Inspired by a true story, the movie is based on a man who decided to abandon his possessions and immerse in nature. The movie is based on the book written by Jon Krakauer with the same name. Despite being a high-honor graduate, Christopher McCandless becomes disenchanted with the modern world. He destroys his IDs and credit cards and rejects his usual life.
He donates almost everything he had to a charity, leaves everything behind and hikes into the Alaskan wilderness. He sets up a campsite in what he called “The Magic Bus”, an abandoned city bus. Although it all ends in a tragedy, his majestic journey allows him to rediscover himself and come to the conclusion “happiness is only real when shared”.
2. Tracks (2003)
Although among the lesser known movies, Tracks is a story of a young Australian woman who sets out to trek 1,700 miles of Western Australia’s harsh desert to reach the ocean. She is accompanied by four camels and a dog in her self-discovery journey. Tracks is also inspired by a true story of a life-changing journey that boasts incredible landscapes and great visual representation.
3. Wild (2014)
The Pacific Crest Trail
The film revolves around the story of a woman who lost all hope after the death of her mother and marriage dissolution. She ventures out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. Her 11,00-mile-long journey is emotionally resonant and shows how sheer determination can overcome the lack of experience and gear. Both the internal and external scenery is beautifully captured in an epic trek to self-discovery.
4. The Way Back (2010)
The film is a story of three men attempting to flee a Siberian gulag in communist Russia. From freezing nights to endless desert and lack of water and food, they had to endure everything one can possibly imagine. They also have to deal with many ethical dilemmas in their 1,000-mile walk to freedom. The survival drama is a constant battle between humanity and nature, and a pure drama-on-the-road.
5. Figure it Out: On the Hayduke Trail (2019)
Utah and Arizona
The 800-mile trail (Hayduke Trail) is one of America’s most challenging trails because of its extreme remoteness and lack of marked paths. It’s not a big-budget film, but you don’t need a ton of money to make an engaging documentary that shows what it takes to hike the long, hot and dry miles of the challenging trail.
6. The Way (2010)
El Camino de Santiago
The Way is a tale of a father (Tom) whose son died while taking the pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago due to a storm. He heads there to recover his son’s body and take the pilgrimage. The inspirational family story is about the challenges of a complicated world we live in. Being an inexperienced hiker, Tom soon discovers that he needs to be with other humans to complete the journey. He meets with other pilgrimages along the way who are also looking for a meaning in their own lives.
7. Mile… Mile & a Half (2013)
John Muir Trail – California
The film revolves around a group of people that decides to complete the 211-mile journey within 25 days in winter with snowfall. The original group continues to grow along the way as other adventure seekers, musicians and artists join them. The film remains true to the real experience of the John Muir Trail and captures the exhilaration, exhaustion and sense of accomplishment associated with hiking the trail.
8. The Long Start to the Journey (2015)
The Appalachian Trail
The documentary is considered to be one of the most accurate depictions of the Appalachian Trail and covers all the highs and lows of thru-hiking the trail. From breathtaking landscapes to brief historical accounts, the film has it all for those who want to learn more about thru-hiking the 2,000 miles long trail. It took over 7 months of hiking and almost 2-years post production time to complete the film and is worth the time.
9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
After working for a magazine for around 16 years and getting tired of his tedious life, a negative asset manager finds himself stuck between his office and home. Being a daydreamer, he often thinks about escaping this world and living in a fantasy world full of epic adventures. Searching for someone makes him venture out on an unbelievable adventure to Greenland, which turns out to be more epic than anything he could have imagined.
10. Touching the Void (2003)
Siula Grande – Peruvian Andes (Peru)
The story revolves around two friends who set out for a feat unaccomplished by any climber until 1985. Climbing Peru’s Siula Grande via the West Face is no easy feat and although difficult, things turn out to be alright during the ascent. But they encounter some serious problems on the descent with their chances of survival being very slim. Survival and separation are big parts of the film, which are accompanied by spectacular mountain scenery and dangerous crevasses.
11. Meru (2015)
Meru is the struggle of three elite climbers who set out to climb one of the most coveted prizes in mountaineering. Stakes are high in big-wall Himalayan climbing and requires a mix of stubbornness, obsession and determination. Meru is a non-commercial and pure climbing, which helps the film standout from the rest of the pack that revolve around conquering summits like the Everest.
12. Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward (2011)
Pacific Crest Trail
The documentary records the lives of hikers who set out for the 2,650 miles Pacific Crest Trail, leaving all modern-day conveniences behind. It took them 2,650 miles, 165 days and 6,000,000 steps to realize the true meaning of life and experiencing fear, hunger, regret, loneliness and pain. They became a community with common goals in their six-month journey, which for them is like a new way of life.
13. A Walk in the Woods (2014)
The Appalachian Trail
The comedy adventure is based on travel writer Bill Bryson’s own journey and bestseller. The story is based on him and his old friend who together set out to hike the 2,200-mile-long AT. Aiming to find real peace and tranquility, they find anything but. Both have very little hiking training, leave unprepared and become exhausted just a mile later. They still have more than a thousand miles to cover and a few more months.
14. Wildlike (2014)
A daring teenage girl ventures out to hike the Alaskan wilderness as conditions become unbearable at her new home. She has to hike through the Alaskan wilderness alone, but meets a lone backpacker along the way, who helps her to reach Seattle. Her healing journey takes viewers through spectacular backdrops, landscapes and scenic locations.
15. Dirty South Bounders (TV Series)
The Appalachian Trail
The multi-part TV series chronicles the adventures of a group of hikers who set out to hike Southbound Appalachian Trail. It aims to help adventurers capture the essence of how it’s like to hike SOBO AT. The series covers different aspects of hiking the trail, including trail towns, challenges, trail conditions, gear and shelter, making it a great resource for interested thru-hikers.
16. The Ritual (2017)
The Netflix Original film is based on Adam Nevill’s book with the same name. It revolves around four university friends who venture out into the Arctic Circle wilderness. Tensions rise as the only single man realizes he has very little in common with the other three. A shortcut turns into a situation that could potentially cost the hikers their lives. The film makes hikers think twice before stepping foot into the wilderness.
17. Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago (2013)
Camino de Santiago
The documentary film follows the spiritual journey of six pilgrims as they cross Spain on foot with bare essentials. The pilgrims belong to different countries and have their own unique personalities. There are many instances when they are pushed to their limits during the walk and things start to get complicated. It’s not a big-budget adventure film and focuses more on real-world experiences of people from different backgrounds traveling together for a common purpose.
18. The Forest (2016)
Aokigahara forest is Japan’s infamous forest also known as the Suicide Forest, which is Japan’s most popular place to commit suicide. The film follows an American woman out there to find her twin sister, who was last seen in the Suicide Forest, which is so dense that corpses can remain undiscovered for years. She is certain that her sister went there to camp and finds a guide to help her in the search. The film is loosely based on Japanese mythology, but the forest and supernatural terror is real.
19. Snow to Sand (2019)
The Pacific Crest Trail
The film involves two thru-hikers who completed Pacific Crest Trail’s first ever winter expedition in subzero conditions and extreme winds. They used ultralight gear to achieve their target of covering over 20 miles per day. The determined hikers even walked over 1,700 miles without coming into contact with another human, enabling them to become the first to conquer the trail in the winter months.
20. The Dark Divide (2020)
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
After the death of his wife, a butterfly expert sets out for a 30-day hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to document butterflies and hopes to find something new. Although an expert in his field, he is still new to hiking and has to encounter the challenges associated with hiking solo in the wilderness.
21. Edie (2017)
Mount Suliven – Scotland
The film is about an 83-year-old woman who believes it’s never too late to turn your dreams into reality. She finds some old camping and backpacking gear and gets ready to climb Mount Suliven, an adventure she always wanted to do but could not because of her controlling husband and life commitments.
22. A New High (2015)
Mt. Reiner – Washington
A New High is a documentary about a small group of recovering drug addicts who see summiting Mt. Reiner as their ‘new high’. An ex-army ranger gives them hope and leads to a mountain that’s considered to be too steep for most casual climbers. The group of men and women come together for an unorthodox drug recovery program, which includes a one-year intense physical and psychological training program. The beautifully photographed and compelling film can be a source of motivation for those who are dealing with big obstacles to reach their objectives, even if they have fallen to the lowest points.
23. The Summit (2012)
The documentary covers the deadliest day on K2, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous mountains on Earth. Eleven mountaineers died on 11 August 2008 due to unforeseen circumstances and unforgiving weather conditions. The film presents multiple points of view and includes recreations and a collection of interviews to document what might have gone wrong that day.
24. Never Hike Alone (2017)
Camp Crystal Lake
The film is a YouTube tribute to Friday the 13th by a fan and follows Kyle McLeod, an adventure blogger who aims to uncover the remains of CCL. His survival and hiking skills are put to the test as he discovers dark secrets of the recreational camp.
25. Redwood Highway (2013)
The independent film tells the story of an old woman who is deeply unsatisfied with her surroundings and desires a change. She sets out for an 80-mile hike to attend the wedding of her granddaughter and become a totally unexpected guest.
We hope these 25 captivating hiking movies and outdoor documentaries will get you, passionate adventurers, through covid lockdowns with joy and dignity. If you’re looking for other healthy source of hiking and outdoor inspiration, as well as valuable knowledge in the field, check out our timeless adventure & hiking book list here:
What do you think about our picks? Leave a comment of your impression or suggestion on this topic. We’d love to hear from you!