The Best 13 Documentaries About Hiking (Ranked)

Hiking and backpacking through some of the most epic trails in the world (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail, John Muir, Coast Mountains and Camino de Santiago). I’ve even got some docs on lesser-known trails such as the Hayduke.

Here are the top hiking/backpacking documentaries I found (ranked best on top).


1) Tell It on the Mountain

Only a few capture it on camera. They’re among the daring 300 annually who drop everything to trek the Pacific Coast for five months

“Tell It on the Mountain” showcases the highlights of those doing this 2,663 trek (from Mexico to Canada).

It’s April to October. A grueling 20 miles daily. Deserts, rivers, snow… they face it all.

Witness their raw, unfiltered journey.

Pacific Crest Trail… A Congress-protected gem (National Trails System Act, 1968). 33 wilderness areas, many parks.

Deserts hit 100°F. Water? Scarce, 35.5 miles apart sometimes.

The Sierra Nevada? Snow, icy rivers.

Their goal? Reach Canada. Before winter blankets the trail.

It’s a race against nature’s clock.

You can buy (but not rent) the doc for around $13.99 on YouTube (through link above or here: or on Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play etc.).

See for the details .

2) Highline

2020’s release. Five friends over ten days backpacking through Northern Utah’s Uinta Highline Trail.

PTSD, addiction… The film dives deep. Personal battles, redemption arcs—it’s raw and real.

Chris Smead of Outmersive Films. Gordon Gurley co-directs.

Key hikers:

JOE VALESKO: Outdoor gear company genius.
MATT FAVERO: Gear brand manager.
WILL WOOD: Renowned Youtuber, blogger.
BENNY BRADEN: Record-setter; 924 Smoky miles in 43 days.
STEVE KAISER: Veteran thru-hiker, larger than life.
Local insights? Archeologist Tom Flanigan. Ryan Buerkle of Ashley National Forest. Gordon Hirschi from Uinta Basin Backcountry Horsemen.

Watch Highline for free on Tubi or Vudu or rent it on Apple TV, Amazon’s Prime Video (through Outside TV Features or Echoboom Sports), Google Play and Vudu. See here for details:

3) The Long Start to the Journey

Trailer – The Long Start to the Journey – ATLFF15 Official Selection from Atlanta Film Society on Vimeo.

The setting? The Appalachian Trail.

Chris Gallaway’s mission? A challenging thru-hike. His trail name? “Frost,” inspired by writer Robert Frost.

The Director is Chris Smead of Outmersive Films. His goal? Resonate with AT aficionados. By doing so, he hoped to intrigue newcomers too.

Key moments:

Mile 137.3, Last Chance: Gallaway finds camaraderie. He meets “Last Chance,” a friend crucial to his journey.

Mile 198.9, the Smokies: Arguably the toughest segment. Bitter cold, zero-degree nights. Friends suffered frostbite; Gallaway’s resilience was tested. Yet, amidst adversity, beauty shone.

Mile 413.6: A memorable segment. Joined by family and girlfriend Sunshine, Gallaway treks from Damascus, VA to Grayson Highlands. The experience? Magical—wild ponies, clear nights, starry skies.

If you want more Appalachia hiking, I include 3 more lower in this article.

And, beyond hiking, there’s also The 16 Best Documentaries About Appalachia ranking I wrote (that covers coal miners, moonshine and more).

“The Long Start” is a visual feast. It’s Robert Frost’s words juxtaposed with Gallaway’s challenging experiences.

You can watch 5 video clips of the documentary for free on YouTube here:; and some cool trail notes/pics here:

4) Wizards of the PCT

Team “Bad Wizard” attempts to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (from Mexico to Canada). It’s something only a few hundred attempt each year.

The 2,600 mile trek (through California, Oregon and Washington sees wildfires, snow, rain.

While the trek is intense, this doc has lightheartedness of the trail including spontaneous singing and dancing, eating giant burritos and weird night vision shots.

“Authentic” is a word a lot of reviewers use to describe it.

And nice tune “Apathetic Nature” by The Golden Butter Band.

You can buy the DVD of Wizards of the PCT here: or here:

5) Figure it Out: on the Hayduke Trail

There are a lot of docs about the Pacific Coast Trail (West Coast) and the Appalachian Trail (East Coast). But here’s the Hayduke trail (the challenging, 800-mile backcountry route crossing Utah and Arizona).

Some highlights of Figure it Out:

  • Trail’s History — Mike Coronella, co-founder of the Hayduke trail, recounts its inception. Two decades ago, without G.P.S., he navigated uncharted territories, turning a personal journey into a recognized trail after a feature in Backpacker magazine.
  • Trail Names — Our lead starts with four friends, emphasizing the camaraderie on long-distance hikes. They adopt unique trail names, cementing their unique experiences — from “Fitty Shrimp” to “Money Shot”.
  • We meet various hikers: from “Big Wave Dave” to “Ohmboy”. Each has a unique backstory, emphasizing the diversity and allure of trail life. Personal anecdotes, like the tale behind “Scoops”, adds depth to the trail community.
  • By Day 3, realities hit. Fitty Shrimp, facing daunting descents and dwindling supplies, decides to leave — emphasizing that hiking is a personal journey, not a forced endeavor.
  • Water Scarcity: They trekked 38 miles just for water. Springs can mislead; some rush past.
  • Snow in Bryce Canyon. Meets “Number Two” in Tropic. The journey becomes smoother, hits a rhythm.
  • Wins permit to see “The Wave”. Limited access makes it special.
  • Desert Heat: Extreme temperatures, reaching 112°F. Air burns, ground’s heat seeps through shoes.
  • Last Town Stop: Three days from the Hayduke’s western terminus. Leaves Colorado City; enjoys a frozen yogurt treat.

Watch “Figure it Out: on the Hayduke Trail” for free on YouTube at

6) 2000 Miles to Maine: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

2000 Miles to Maine is an 85 minute doc from 2004 that was inspired by Bil Bryson’s print travel memoir “A Walk in the Woods”. Walk in the Woods (1998) was Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail (Robert Redford and Nick Nolte later starred in the film version of it).

Director Douglas Morse focuses on different hiking groups who plan this hike for months, often leaving families and jobs for what is often a 6-month journey on the AP.

The hikers they meet give a good composite taste of what it’s like to journey on foot from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

You can buy the 2000 Miles to Maine doc for $9.99 at Grandfather Films at

7) Mile…Mile and a Half

The John Muir Trail (“The JMT”)… a month long hike.

The film centers around the stunning and captivating visuals of the John Muir Trail (JMT).

Lauded as the most breathtaking video on the JMT, it has motivated viewers to embark on their own hiking adventures, including the JMT itself and other trails like the Arno Trail in Austria.

The filmmakers have captured unique perspectives, including moments with other hikers on the trail, adding authenticity to their work.

One highlight is the deep water crossings which aren’t typically featured in JMT documentaries.

The soundtrack, including a piece “Take Your Time” by Opus Orange, adds depth to the visuals.

The quality of the filming of this doc shouldn’t be a surprise given the team behind it:

The Muir Project’s core team for JMT comprises:

  • Jason Fitzpatrick and Ric Serena as Co-Directors and Directors of Photography.
  • Jennifer Serena handles still photography and production. Check her work at
  • Durand Trench is on board as the Location Sound Recordist.
  • Zee Hatley serves as the Camera Operator.
  • The musical side features Paul Bessenbacher as the Music Composer, and Bernard Chadwick as a Musician and Installation Designer.
  • Rounding out the team are David & Kelly Finlay, educators from Colorado.
  • Music: Emoto Music
  • Composer: Paul Bessenbacher
  • Executive Producer: Paul Schultz
  • Music Supervisor: Lindsay Froemke

To watch Mile… Mile & A Half you can stream it for free at Tubi, PlutoTV, Freevee, Plex, Roku or Flimzie; or you can rent it on Apple TV or Amazon or Vudu Fandango (check for details). Or, you can go straight to the film makers and rent it for $2.99 or buy it for $10.99 at

8) This Mountain Life

While This Mountain Life has 4 stories, there is one excellent one that is purely about hiking: a 60-year old mother and daughter undertaking a 2,300 KM trek through the treacherous Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Their goal is to do it in 5 months.

The mom has a fear of water (being fully submerged).

They need 5,500 calories per day and plan out 180 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. The mom starts dehydrating food a year in advance!

The other 3 stories are excellent too: a married couple living off the grid in the mountains for 50 years, avalanche survivors, Roman Catholic nuns living in an isolated nunnery in the Garibaldi Ranesa group of Roman Catholic nuns living at an isolated nunnery in the Garibaldi Ranges.

Watch This Mountain Life for free on YouTube at or on Kanopy (with library card or student ID) at,

It’s also available on Hulu at; Prime Video at There are other options (Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV, Plex, Flimzie and Freevee) too. Check out for all options

9) Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

Directed by Lydia Smith (known for “They Kill Things”), this 2013 doc captures the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

Pilgrims: Six distinct souls embark on this journey. They include:

  • Tom, an American, seeks purpose after retirement (age 55).
  • Wayne from Canada wrestles with a recent diagnosis.
  • Tatiana, young (23), grapples with a lost love.
  • There’s a Brazilian duo, a French woman, and more…

Scenes are often emotional and spiritual such as this one:

TATIANA: Why am I even here?

MOURNER: For closure and healing.

Insightful dialogues, raw emotions, stunning Spanish landscapes… the 84-minute doc offers a sensory and spiritual experience.

Walking the Camino is free to watch on Kanopy (with library or student ID) at The doc is also available to rent on Amazon, Apple TV and more (see for details).

10) Only the Essential: A Hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail

Summer 2013. Casey Gannon and Colin Arisman embarked on a trek through the Pacific Coast Trail. Carrying cameras, they captured “Only The Essential” of the PCT.

A 5-month, 2668-mile foot journey: Mexico to Canada. Through California, Oregon, and Washington’s wilds. All footage by hikers.

It’s 39:56

Watch Only the Essential for free on YouTube by clicking the video above or going here:

11) Appalachian Impressions: Hiking the Appalachian Trail

“Appalachian Impressions: Hiking the Appalachian Trail” paints a vivid journey: Georgia to Maine with a look at small towns along the way.

It’s a 6-month, 2,173-mile adventure on the world’s renowned hiking trail…with tales from hikers along the way.

Hikers: With backpacks, they share tales of trail life.

Essentials: Footwear, food, shelters… the daily grind.

Highlights: They cover all 14 states. Seasons changing. Volunteer crews.
“Leave No Trace Ethics” ethos stands out.

I don’t see Appalachian Impressions available to stream anywhere. But you can order the DVD at the Director’s Flagler Films web site:

12) Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward

“Six Million Steps” covers the Pacific Crest Trail.

This 2,650-mile hike spans three states. It’s a 5.5-month journey.

“Thru-hikers) tackle snow, desert, mountains. They leave society, becoming “thru-hikers”.

Their goal? Reach Canada. It’s a mental journey too.

You can waatch Six Million Steps by renting or buying it on Amazon’s Prime Video at

13) Travel Light

Travel Light Extended Trailer from Lindsay Thompson on Vimeo.

Four filmmakers use 2 cameras to cover the 500 mile across Spain known as “Camino de Santiago”.

In this 79 documentary, the team walks the Camino de Santiago with just their backpacks, basic supplies… and their cameras.

They start in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and cross over the Pyrenees into Spain, finishing in Santiago de Compostela.

They hand out disposable cameras to pilgrims they meet on the way. The photos from the cameras are then used within the doc.

You can watch it on Amazon’s Prime Video for $1.99 here:

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly