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When it comes to film genres, documentaries give us a chance to get a closer, more intimate look into places, people, or things that we normally wouldn’t have. This list of 5 California documentaries do just that about the High Sierra. From rock-climbing to a deep dive into the history of the Calaveras frog jumping contest, you’ll learn something AND be entertained at the same time.

Free Solo

Where to Watch: Hulu,Disney+

Yosemite and rock climbing go together like peanut butter and jelly. The vast amount of shear granite faces that pop up from the valley floor make you realize why this place has always been a hot bed for rock climbing. Jimmy Chin’s film Free Solo does a great job showing the beauty of Yosemite alongside a fantastic portrait of Alex Honnold. As you watch Alex attempt to conquer the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan’s vertical rock face, it will have you on the edge of your seat rooting him on.

Learn more about Yosemite & its rock climbing history.

Valley Uprising

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

For those wanting to go even deeper into the bold legacy of climbing in Yosemite, Valley Uprising is a must. This film tells the riveting, unforgettable tale of the counterculture lifestyle of those climbers who wanted to push their limits along with vying amongst each other on the granite walls surrounding the valley. Half a century of struggle against the laws of gravity — and the laws of the land.

Pretty Strong

Where to Watch: iOs, Android, AppleTV, Roku, and Chromecast

Pretty Strong – Official Full Film from Never Not Collective on Vimeo.

The latest release in the climbing world is a unique one. It’s a film made by women, about strong women, and for everyone. This is your chance to see Katie Lambert, a Bishop local and big wall professional climber, alongside some of her female compatriots, challenge themselves on the toughest walls in the world. Her psych is endless, and she loves hard granite lines. Don’t miss seeing Nina Williams and Katie Lambert as they explore the whole bag of granite tricks in Pretty Strong.

The High Sierra Trail

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

If you’re looking for your next great hiking adventure, check out the High Sierra Trail documentary. This multi-award winning film delves into the “little brother” of the legendary John Muir Trail. The High Sierra trail is located in the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, starting at the Crescent Meadow and ending at the top of Mt. Whitney. Join Chris and John as they tackle this endeavor. The film reveals the history and challenges of the High Sierra Trail, as seen through the eyes of a backpacker.

Click here for more about Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.

Jump – A Frogumentary

Where to watch: DVD / Amazon DVD

The story is what launched Mark Twain’s career into stardom. What was a small town tale has become one of the sports in the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. For more than a century, this bucket list festival in the High Sierra has thousands gather to compete on who has the longest leaping frog in the business. Jump tracks down the origins of this American oddity. It gives you a personal look into the sweat and sacrifice the Frog jockeys dedicate to their unique athletic passion.

Learn more about the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee.

For whatever reason you’re stuck inside, you might as well have fun learning some cool facts and about great adventures in the High Sierra. These California documentaries about the High Sierra are both entertaining and edifying.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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