The best hiking documentaries

Trail Tales: Top 13 Hiking Documentaries

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A world of deadly beautiful landscapes, daring adventures, and the untamed spirit of the great outdoors… These hiking documentaries will transport in a dimension that comprises all these and more. That is a promise.

Exploring the most breathtaking trails, stories of resilience, and delving into the transformative power of nature captured on film, documentaries hold a special place in our hearts. From towering peaks to hidden gems, these take us on a cinematic journey celebrating hikers’ beauty, challenges, and indomitable spirit worldwide. 

Pull the metaphorical lace tight. It is time for the next hiking escapade through the lens of these documentaries. Here are the top 13 hiking documentaries you must watch.

Top 13 Hiking Documentaries

1. Mile… Mile & a Half

IMDb Rating: 7.3

Inviting us on their adventure with the line, “Come laugh, limp, sing and walk with us,” this documentary features five friends all set to hike California’s 211-mile John Muir Trail in 25 days. A true story of the group’s bond and dedication and the people they meet on their way.  

2. Meru

IMDb Rating: 7.7

With a review that calls the climbers “Highly skilled, smart, obsessive, no fear and a bit crazy…you have to be,” Meru is a documentary with exceptional reviews. Described as a piece that puts you into a climber’s mind, Meru captures three elite climbers fighting through to scale this peak, a blend of spirituality and madness in equal measure.

3. Unbounded

IMDb Rating: 7

Standing true to its title, this documentary follows a crew of four young travelers navigating unaided through dense forests, snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes, and barren deserts. It is immersive and beautiful and showcases four months across which they follow the route of the ‘Greater Patagonian Trail,’ the longest continual trail network in South America. Showing the extraordinary culture and history of the place, the documentary walks us through the volatility and fragility of the Patagonian landscapes.

4. Alone Across Australia

IMDb Rating: 8.6

With some of the highest IMDb ratings you can see, this documentary follows Jon Muir, an adventurer who has left his footprints from the North to the South Pole. Returning to his native Australia, this adventurer has one goal: to walk across the entire country from north to south, with no navigational technology and supplies, bringing only a camera and his loyal dog with him. A raw and captivating documentary shows him overcoming personal tragedies, dangerous weather, and many health problems to reach his goal.

5. The High Sierra Trail

IMDb Rating: 8.4

A documentary featuring Chris and John on their journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Facing numerous close encounters with lightning, tackling the highest peak in the continental US, and unraveling the trail’s rich history through vivid 3D animations crafted from historical photos courtesy of the NPS, they embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

6. Touching the Void

IMDb Rating: 8

The story of two young climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, is set in 1985, and these men set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They embark on the treacherous descent down the mountain, where tragically, Simpson breaks his leg, making Yates responsible for two lives. Threatened by the storm and the decision to betray his companion, the documentary is raw and beautiful.

7. Highline

IMDb Rating: 7.9

Director Chris Smead follows five friends who trek across the Uinta Highline Trail in Utah. Unfolding over ten days, this single trek bears the weight of the ancient history of the trail and is woven together with the personal history of each hiker as they get back in touch with the world and each other.

8. Walking with Freedom

IMDb Rating: 5.9

Capturing the experience, adventure, pain, and joy, this documentary follows Michael Daniel as he traverses the Eastern Seaboard on foot along the 2173-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Showing everything from snow to rain, blood to tears, it shows the journey towards the final summit of Mount Katahdin. Filled with a beautiful background score, the documentary is a story of the human spirit. 

9. The Art of Walking

IMDb Rating: 5.9

An intriguing question lies at the heart of this documentary, “Would you see the world differently if you walked?” with powerful learnings and stunning shots taken of the whole documentary, this handful of crew members walked a combined total of over 2,600 kilometers in 10 days to capture breathtaking images of the rugged coast. John Francis (environmentalist and author of PlanetWalker), Katarina Witt(one of the most successful figure skaters of all time and DeNiro’s co-star in Ronin), and Michael Milton (the Paralympic skier who has won 12 gold medals and is the fastest Australian skier) undertake a fantastic journey on foot. 

10. The Alpinist

IMDb Rating: 7.9

“Beautiful and moving,” when a documentary has these words in its review, you know it will be good. Far from the limelight, on remote alpine faces, Marc-André Leclerc, a  free-spirited 23-year-old Canadian, makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history. However, such feats do not go unnoticed, and he is argued to be one of the best solo climbers ever.

11. Into the Cold

IMDb Rating: 6.8

With a single underlying message – If the Great North goes, so goes humanity, this documentary follows two men embarking on an expedition to the North Pole. One of the world’s roughest and least known terrains, this journey spans over four hundred miles on foot. Facing harsh temperatures below 50 degrees F, Into the Cold is a gripping and intimate look at what it takes to reach the top of the world.

12. The Beckoning Silence

IMDb Rating: 7.4

When someone says no to what makes life worth living to you, you do not simply take the answer. After sustaining several life-threatening injuries, Joe Simpson was told he could never climb again. In this documentary, Joe explores what motivated him to continue climbing. He travels to the Eiger to tell the story of one of mountaineering’s most epic tragedies.

13. Only the Essentials

IMDb Rating: 7.4

A 40-minute documentary that unfolds across the summer of 2013, this is the story of Casey Gannon and Colin Arisman. With cameras in hand,  ‘Only The Essential’ is the story of their 5-month, 2668-mile journey on foot from Mexico to Canada across the wilderness of California, Oregon, and Washington.

That’s a wrap on our top hiking documentaries. Stay tuned for more, and be sure to comment on which one was your favorite!

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