User-created thru-hiking videos are a great way to get through winter, even as early-bird Appalachian Trail folks gear up to head out as early as February.
We’ve rounded up some of the best ones we’ve found on YouTube. Some are feature length, others are shorter but equally impactful.
We haven’t included videos from the hiker Dixie. She gets more than enough traffic on her own, and we didn’t find the quality to be the quasi-cinematic experience we were looking for. She does a great job reviewing gear and doing things for first-timers, but it’s not hitting our criteria. We also didn’t include the Crawfords. We reviewed their book on this site, and there are very self-absorbed behaviors, including his use of drones, that we highly discourage along the trail. No need to give them more of an audience.
Australian Hiker Brad McCartney is a personal favorite. On the trail, he’s known as Shepherd. He approaches thru-hiking with an indefatigable attitude. He seldom talks about gear (but he does review it, check his website www.bikehikesafari.com). It’s all about his experiences on the hike.
Shepherd has done the Triple Crown, and he’s recorded videos of his attempt to ride his bike from Alaska to Argentina. The journey isn’t yet complete, but it’s still incredible.
When you do visit his website, note that he’s documented his experiences on a variety of hikes, even if he doesn’t have complete videos of them. Pictures and experiences on the Triple Crown and the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand are an awesome bedtime read.
As Mainers, this is one of our favorites. A documentary created for Boothbay public television follows a father and son from Boothbay in their trip from Georgia to Maine. They’re joined by UMaine alumna Emily Leonard, AKA “Black Bear” (who has written her own book about her trail experiences). It’s a great effort that couples progress on the trail with the various concepts along the way.
Hiker “Jupiter” is a very mellow dude, the only “ultralight” hiker we have in our platter of videos. He conveys positivity as he tackles many trails. His channel on YouTube is worth watching, but we’ve included his monumental achievement, hiking the Eastern Continental Trail, from Canada to the Florida Keys.
From REI: Paul’s Boots
This video tugs at the heart, though it’s perhaps the shortest video on this list. After watching the video, you can ruminate on just what our national trail system means to so many people, connecting our population to wonderful wilderness experiences.
Paul was an Australian who didn’t live to fulfill his dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, but a trail community of strangers honored him in an amazing away, showing the connective tissue wilderness can be for humankind.
Some Dutch Folks Hike the PCT
Set to a stirring soundtrack lifted wholesale from video games and Hollywood, an affable couple from Europe thru-hikes the Pacific Crest Trail in a year of wildfires. They’re sweet people, fun to watch, even if they abuse Copperplate fonts.
Australians and New Zealanders seem to love our trails. Who can blame them? In this fun video, two blokes from New Zealand, an Australian, and a fella from Boston walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Great video quality, some interesting experiences.
There are so many more documentary videos on YouTube.
On one hand, we gripe when we encounter folks on the trails, narrating their experiences into a smartphone camera. They crowd the vistas, gabbing in a way that many of us are already trying to get away from when we hike to begin with.
On the other hand, not everyone can break away from life for a thru-hike. For many, especially during this never-ending pandemic, even breaking away for a long section hike or trip seems out of reach. Given that, we’re grateful these folks took the time to collect the footage and then edit into long-form videos for our enjoyment.
Do you have a trail video that resonated with you? Share in the comments.