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6 Exhilarating Hiking Movies To Inspire Your Next Trek

There is no adequate substitute for spending time in the great outdoors. Hiking, climbing, camping — anyone who spends hours — or days — out in nature knows that the wilderness is both restorative and addicting. But unless you want to become a park ranger or a professional hermit, you can’t spend all your time traveling.

When you’re stuck inside, you can at least get a bit of that wild charm by watching a movie that puts the natural world front and center. Today, we’re looking at six hiking movies that anyone who loves a good trek will thoroughly enjoy — that is, unless living vicariously through these on-screen adventures backfires completely and you end up more frustrated than before. If that happens, then you really need to get outside.

Southbounders (2005)

Genre Drama, Adventure
Stars Amy Cale Peterson, Scott Speiser
Directed by Ben Wagner
If you want to watch a movie that does a pretty good job of showing the hiking experience as it is instead of as Hollywood imagines it, this is a fine choice. This small indie film from 2005 is free of A-list stars and didn’t have much of a budget, but it’s still compelling, amusing, and engaging. It tells the story of a woman who sets out to hike the Appalachian Trail alone in search of some answers, but ends up finding friends and new questions along the way. Yes, that summary is a bit heavy on the cheese, but it’s accurate, dammit.

The Way (2010)

The Way
64 %
pg-13 128m
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Stars Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Deborah Kara Unger
Directed by Emilio Estevez
This film, starring Martin Sheen, is highly respectful of the ancient, reverent hike across Spain known as the Camino de Santiago. The Way (as the pilgrimage is often called) serves as the backdrop to a story of a man coping with the death of his son, but the scenery and the spirit of the Camino de Santiago end up serving almost as characters themselves.

The Way Back (2010)

The Way Back
66 %
pg-13 133m
Genre Drama, Adventure, History
Stars Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan
Directed by Peter Weir
If you ever wondered whether you would enjoy being in a Soviet prison camp and then hiking across hundreds of miles of the Siberian wilderness and across a few mountain ranges, then watch the 2010 film The Way Back. You will quickly come to the conclusion that, no, you would not like those things. The movie is based on a gripping biography of a Polish man named Sławomir Rawicz. It later came to light that Rawicz had wildly embellished the stories he told his biographer; while he was a prisoner in a Soviet gulag during part of WWII, he did not escape from the camp and did not hike from Russia to India. Still, the movie is gripping, exciting, and at times quite brutal. It shows how cold and harsh nature can be, yet also showcases the indomitable human spirit.

Wild (2014)

74 %
r 115m
Genre Drama
Stars Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Keene McRae
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
The 2014 Reese Witherspoon movie Wild is centered on a woman hiking the PCT after her life falls apart following the death of her mother, a divorce, an abortion, drug use, and more. She sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in hopes of finding herself. The movie is based on the well-written memoir of the same name by author Cheryl Strayed and is full of stunning Western scenery, a few laughs, and some pretty heavy moments. Witherspoon received an Academy Award nomination for her acting in the movie, which was generally well-liked by audiences and critics alike. If you head for the PCT, watch this film first, and plan things out better than its protagonist did.

Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild
73 %
r 148m
Genre Adventure, Drama
Stars Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt
Directed by Sean Penn
In an all-out adventure style film, Into the Wild is a somewhat true telling of the real-life Christopher McCandless, who gave up his entire life and all his savings after college to hitchhike to Alaska. Referenced as a true story in the film, it is actually based on the Jon Krakauer novel, which is based on McCandless’ journal he kept during his journey. Full of unique natural and human interactions, we witness a story of beauty and tragedy as Chris experiences all that life has to offer. This film will inspire you to get out and see the world, so long as you have a backup plan and plenty of food and supplies.

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

A Walk in the Woods
51 %
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson
Directed by Ken Kwapis
This buddy comedy stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Based on the book by Bill Bryson, Bryson (played by Redford) sets out to hike the Appalachian Trail with one of his oldest friends. While not exactly outdoorsmen, the pair work their way along the trail, rekindling their friendship in the process.
A Walk in the Woods Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Nick Offerman, Emma Thompson Movie HD

For an even longer Netflix binge session, move away from the outdoors and into education with the best documentaries streaming on Netflix now.

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Movie images and data from:
Nate Swanner
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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