Transport Yourself Outside with These Films | Cal Parks

Transport Yourself Outside with These Films

Published: May 4, 2020

Documentaries to Uplift and Empower You

If you’re at home or feeling stuck, watching someone else’s adventure unfold can be transportive and inspiring. Whether it’s climbing, biking, skiing, or mountaineering, these stories stick with you and highlight the critical role that the outdoors has played in people’s lives. Here are some of our picks that transport you from your couch to the great outdoors:

An American Ascent

An American Ascent is a documentary film about the first African-American expedition to tackle North America's highest peak, Denali. The film addresses often overlooked issues of race and the outdoors as it follows the team up the mountain, chronicling the many challenges of climbing one of the world’s most iconic peaks. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime. Watch An American Ascent | Prime Video

Content — Welcome to Gwichyaa Zhee

Welcome to Gwichaa Zhee

This short film explores the connection of threats faced to Bears Ears National Monument and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through stories and perspectives of the Diné (Navajo) and Gwich’in communities. Led through the eyes and experiences of Len Necefer, the documentary follows his journey in Gwichyaa Zhee (Fort Yukon) as he meets with people who are fighting to protect their land. Stream it on Vimeo.

Pretty Faces: The Story of a Skier Girl

Professional skier, Lynsey Dyer, directed this empowering film that encourages women to celebrate the outdoors and conquer their biggest desires. Released in 2014 complete with an all-female cast, this award-winning ski documentary film celebrates women who thrive in the snow. Stream it on iTunes.

Pretty Faces - The Story of a Skier Girl on iTunes



Naretoi, which means "women empowering women" in Maasai, follows a group of Maasai and American women on an expedition to the summit of Mt. Kenya. This expedition is unique in how the women overcome cultural and language barriers to collectively conquer a large mountain. The broader intent of this short documentary film is to raise awareness and funds for Maasai girls to go to school. Stream it on Vimeo.

Touching the Void

In 1985, two young mountaineers set off to climb the treacherous west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They deal with a snowstorm, broken bones, and near-death experiences in this harrowing journey. Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Touching the Void (2003) - IMDb

I Just Want to Ride” a Film By Rugile Kaladyte – Dates Announced ...

I Just Want to Ride

I Just Want to Ride is the story of Lael Wilcox racing the 2019 Tour Divide, a 2,750 mile self-supported mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico through The Rockies. Having set the women’s record in 2015, she returns to attempt to win the overall race. An all-star race field, an unprecedented summer solstice snowstorm and online noise fuel her race. Stream it on YouTube.

The Dawn Wall

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson take on the staggering challenge of free-climbing Yosemite’s most formidable rock formation. The pair lived on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks, igniting a frenzy of global media attention. But for Caldwell, the Dawn Wall was much more than just a climb. It was the culmination of a lifetime defined by overcoming obstacles. Stream it on Netflix.

The Dawn Wall (2017) - IMDb


California State Parks in the Movies

Instead of a documentary, maybe you want to test your state park identification skills? Try and spot one in a movie! You may have already seen these films and not realized they shot scenes in a California state park. Check them out and keep your eyes peeled for parks:

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

In the third installation of in the Star Wars saga, you can spot some Northern California gems. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Patrick's Point State Park are all featured in this classic film. Stream it on YouTubeAmazon Prime, or Disney+.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) - IMDb

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) - IMDb

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

During the movie, Captain Kirk lands a warship in San Francisco’s “Golden Gate Park.” However, the filming location was not actually the Bay Area – it was Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime.


Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman star in this 1995 thriller. It was predominantly filmed in Northern California and features scenes in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Stream it on Netflix.

Outbreak (film) - Wikipedia

Planet of the Apes (1968) - IMDb

Planet of the Apes

Malibu Creek State Park can be spotted in the original 1960s Planet of the Apes. Watch until the end and see Point Dume State Beach in the final scene. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime.

A Few Good Men

Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and… Crystal Cove State Park! This courtroom drama was originally a Broadway play. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime.

A Few Good Men - Wikipedia

MASH (1970) - IMDb


Malibu Creek State Park is home to the outdoor set of the movie (and TV series) M*A*S*H. You can still visit the set when you go to the park. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime.

Jurassic Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park can be seen in this 1993 film. Even Steven Spielberg can’t resist the beauty of California’s parks. Stream it on YouTube or Amazon Prime.

Jurassic Park (1993) - IMDb