15 Hiking Horror Movies To Watch If You Love The Outdoors

The reason people run towards the wilderness is often the same reason they run from it; in its depths lurks the tantalizing promise of the unknown, which can represent reckless freedom or total violent chaos. This might also explain why audiences run towards wilderness horror movies — who wouldn’t want the chance to see how humankind fares against nature? Survival horror films focused on the outdoors often represent humankind’s most primordial anxieties about what the wilderness can manifest, their stories tracking viewers’ waking dreams to their inevitable descent into living nightmares.

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It’s easy for horror films set in creepy woods, haunted forests, and barren fields to become predictable and monotonous. After moviegoers have seen one group of hikers get killed in a slasher film, they’ve seen them all. But filmmakers are changing the rules of the game all the time. Sometimes the hikers face supernatural foes, and sometimes they’re their own worst enemies.

Updated by Kayleena Pierce-Bohen on August 26th, 2021: Audiences have been getting more restless these days, eager to visit wide open arboreal spaces and escape the bustling torpor of their everyday lives. That being said, rather than place themselves in the danger and suspense that can be inherent to a hiking horror movie, they can enjoy the turbulence of humankind versus nature from the comfort of their own homes with these titles, including the recent reboot of the classic survival horror movie Wrong Turn

15 The Ritual (2017)

Four friends try to honor the memory of their deceased friend by hiking in the Scandinavian wilderness, but a shortcut leads them into an area of the forest occupied by a bizarre cult. The residents have been granted unusually long lives and freedom from sickness, provided they worship an ancient deity that stalks the trees.

The men are either marked for worship or sacrifice and when they try to escape, they are hunted by the Creature. With strong visual effects, creature design, and dramatic tension, The Ritual is one of the decades most underrated horror movies.

14 Deliverance (1972)

Deliverance movie

Audiences can’t discuss horror films set in the great outdoors without mentioning Deliverance. It’s the epitome of the survival horror genre and sets a precedent for making horror fans terrified of the woods. The story starts tame, with four friends from the city leaving their wives and lives behind to escape to the mountains, but soon turns into a vacation from hell.

Their time in rural Georgia was supposed to be filled with hiking, canoeing, and hunting, but they soon realize they’re the prey when a bunch of backwoods sadists savagely attack them. One of Burt Reynolds greatest movies, watch it for him wielding a bow like a boss, nail-biting suspense, and that catchy “Dueling Banjos” track that was ’72’s “Toss a Coin To Your Witcher.”

13 Willow Creek (2013)

Willow Creek

Most people mention The Blair Witch Project as the epitome of found footage horror, but Willow Creek begs to differ in a big way. From the mind of Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, that screaming comedian from the early ’90s) comes a story about a couple trying to make a controversial documentary about the fabled Bigfoot creature.

The plot begins a little slowly, with the man and woman enjoying long nature walks and stunning vistas as they track down clues to Bigfoot’s whereabouts. But there’s one harrowing scene in a tent at night that will make audiences never want to go camping again.

12 Backcountry (2014)

Partially based on the frightening true story involving Mark Jordan, who received the Star of Courage from Governor Michaëlle Jean of Ontario, Backcountry focuses on a man and his girlfriend whose hiking trip in the backcountry of Canada turns into a fight for survival.

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Mark and his girlfriend Jacqueline Perry thought Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park would make an ideal area to explore away from their hectic city lives, only to discover that their every move is being tracked by an enormous man-eating bear. It takes the plot of ’76’s Grizzly and turns up the terror, putting tension and surprise to good use.

11 The Descent (2005)

Like Deliverance, The Descent presents a grueling survival slog that will exhaust viewers’ senses and nerves. By the film’s end, audiences feel like they’ve fought every step of the way just like its protagonists. When six women decide to go cave-diving to help one of their companions get over a horrible car accident, they experience a new level of trauma in one of Neil Marshall’s best movies.

The women encounter evidence of a previous group of spelunkers, as well as other occupants that may have not left the caves. In the claustrophobic caverns, the women realize there’s no way out but to go deeper — deeper into psychological and physical terror, that is.

10 Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek

This Australian fright-fest begins at Wolf Creek National Park, where three friends are exploring the Australian Outback. Amid their hiking adventure, they lose their way, requiring the assistance of a local bushman named Mick Taylor.

Taylor starts friendly and helpful at first, but soon the trio discover that their car won’t work, and they’ll be stuck in Wolf Creek unless they rely on Taylor, who always seems to show up when trouble starts. The film was based on a real murder story that took place outside of Sydney in the ’90s.

9 Preservation (2014)

A young woman named Wit goes on a wilderness hunting trip with her husband and his brother, intent on helping her ailing marriage and her brother-in-law’s PTSD. They head towards a game preserve which is closed for the season, but they proceed undeterred anyway, deep into the forest’s interior.

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As the rocky relationships of the trio simmer to the surface, they’re only aggravated by an overnight that results in all of their gear being stolen. Each is marked with a black “X” and has become the prey of a group of mysterious hunters who begin to close in as each person turns on the other.

8 Devil’s Pass (2013)

Based on the 1959 film The Dyatlov Pass Incident, this found-footage horror film chronicles the mysterious disappearance of several U.S. college students who attempted to trace the route of Russian hikers who also never returned from their skiing expedition in the Ural Mountains.

Devil’s Pass proposes a tenuous link between the American military conspiracy the Philadelphia Experiment and the Dyatlov deaths, indicating there was something more than natural causes implicated in the demise of the skiers. This moody, atmospheric film is a worthy update of the original, providing modern horror techniques to a stalwart premise.

7 A Lonely Place To Die (2011)

A hiking trip to the Scottish Highlands turns perilous for five mountaineers when they discover a young Serbian girl imprisoned in a chamber in the middle of the wilderness. They must discover a way to free her as well as get her to safety while avoiding her kidnappers.

Full of pulse-pounding action, A Lonely Place to Die has some solid special effects, and the unique narrative of pitting five military veterans against Balkan war criminals makes a compelling story. The cat-and-mouse game they play will keep viewers on the edge of their couches.

6 Killing Ground (2016)

When a young couple decides to spend New Year’s Eve camping in the Australian Outback, they get a friendly tip from a local to pitch their tent near a romantic waterfall. When they arrive at the site, they spot an abandoned campsite with no sign of its occupants.

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After some fleeting bliss, they encounter a traumatized toddler covered in blood. The boy was the only surviving member of the family who camped at the site days before, and the couple must keep him safe from the murderers who have returned to finish the job.

5 The Descent 2 (2009)

As if spelunking with carnivorous cave creatures wasn’t already enough of a nightmare, Sarah returns to the site of the excursion that ended with all of her companions dead in The Descent. With limited memory of what happened, she’s joined by a sheriff and several potholing specialists on an expedition to search for survivors.

The Descent 2 may not offer anything new to fans of the original movie, but like most survival horror movies the narrative focuses more on the reactions and interactions of its characters in increasingly perilous situations. This time around, Sarah makes different choices that. As the best heroines in the genre demonstrate a dedication to the world-building, this might even mean that The Descent 3 can happen.

4 Cub (2014)

Feral boy covered in dirt from Cub

Award-winning Belgian movie Cub focuses on a Cub Scout group camping trip gone wrong, with the horror beginning slowly when an impressionable member of the troop starts to believe his leader’s unnerving tall tale about a feral boy living in the wilderness around their campsite.

Other than a movie like Lord of the Flies, there aren’t many survival horror movies concerning preteens that are this psychologically stimulating as well as viscerally engaging. The young cast does an admirable job of selling the scares, especially considering they’re all boys on the cusp of manhood, enabling the viewer to empathize with them as they pretend they aren’t frightened out of their minds.

3 Wrong Turn (2021)

wrong turn 2021 reboot

In a recent reboot of the early ’00s horror franchise of the same name, Wrong Turn follows a father’s desperate search for his daughter and her friends who have gone missing while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Most of the movie takes place from the perspective of the hikers as they wander off the main trail and get lost in the wilderness, pursued by strange men in elk skins who are part of a mysterious settlement called The Foundation.

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Fans of wilderness horror movies that also incorporate the supernatural and mysterious cults will enjoy Wrong Turn for its disturbing visuals, symbolism, and more than “cool kills” to its odyssey-type structure.

2 YellowBrickRoad (2010)

Liz consuming poisonous berries in Yellowbrick Road

When a film crew arrives at the town of Friar, they intend to discover why all of its former 572 inhabitants simply wandered into the wilderness after viewing The Wizard of Oz. The town’s obsession with the movie somehow drove them to abandon their lives, with most of them dying from the elements or something more sinister. Of the 572 citizens, only 300 bodies were ever recovered, making the crew think they can discern what happened to the other 272.

A curious amalgamation of true-crime drama, surrealism, and pop culture nostalgia, YellowBrickRoad has just enough mystery and kaleidoscopic visuals to make viewers want to walk along its namesake to see what lies at the end (a few Wizard of Oz theories might offer a clue).

1 The Canyon

Lori and Nick start a fire while visiting the Grand Canyon in The Canyon

When a couple decides to elope and spend their honeymoon touring the Grand Canyon, they never expect to get stuck in it, forced to do unimaginable things to survive. From watching their guide die a slow and agonizing death to fending off ravenous wolves, it remains uncertain if they’ll ever reach the surface alive.

Giving a whole new meaning to “til death do us part,” The Canyon turns the tables on the principles of marriage in innovative ways. It threatens to become monotonous but never does, instead becoming more claustrophobic and nerve-racking as time goes on despite the environment changing very little. To a couple that could survive this, married life would be a walk in the park.

NEXT: 5 Horror Movies To Watch If You Don’t Like Gore (& 5 If You Crave Blood)

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