Witherspoon's WILD movie, featuring the Pacific Crest Trail, explores the transformative power of wilderness

Reese Witherspoon as “Cheryl Strayed” in Wild. Photo by Anne Marie Fox

, starring Reese Witherspoon debuts in theaters Dec. 12

It is not every day that our nation’s public lands play a lead role on the big screen. That changed when the movie Wild hit theaters on Dec. 12.

Oscar Nominated Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) and starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon (Best Actress Nomination) is based on Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir by the same name. Strayed's story chronicles her experience of confronting a destructive path her life had taken by embarking on a solo trek covering 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.

There are few stories that embody the transformative power of wilderness quite like Wild. The Wilderness Society is working with Fox Searchlight to share in this message.  The story is a reminder of something we say often--that wild places are important for the way they connect us, not only to each other, but to ourselves. They are places for tranquility and soul searching.

In the book and movie, Cheryl Strayed chooses to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone after the haunting loss of her mother Bobbi (Academy Award Actress in Supporting Role nominee, Laura Dern) to cancer. After years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Strayed makes a rash decision to hike the trail with absolutely no experience.  Wild powerfully reveals her experience as she forges ahead on a journey that maddens, strengthens and ultimately heals her.

"In the wilderness, what I found is my strength again." - Cheryl Strayed

Beyond the powerful message about the importance of wilderness in the human experience, Wild shares with viewers the beautiful scenery of one of our nation's world-class distance trails. On the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed was able to hike from California's Mojave Desert through California and up to Oregon and Washington, passing through spectacular wilderness areas, national parks and monuments on the way. The trail itself passes through 48 federally-designated wilderness areas as well as five state parks, six national parks and 25 national forests.

We hope this film will inspire more people to protect wilderness. Don’t miss your opportunity to see some of our nation’s most famous public lands on the big screen and to get inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s story of going from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Find a screening of WILD near you.


Catch glimpses of the Pacific Crest Trail the Wild  trailer


Explore the Pacific Crest Trail and the wild places in the movie

The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the nation's best known long-distance  national scenic trails. It is part of the "Triple Crown" of long-distance trails, which includes the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail. The PCT, as it's commonly called by hikers, runs continuously from the  border of Mexico up through California' Sierra Nevada, then onward to Oregon and Washington and the Canada border. Its approximate 2,650 miles travel through some of the most spectacular hiking terrain in the country, from the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada in California to Washington's rugged North Cascades.

If you're planning a "thru-hike" on the PCT, you will need several months--usually about 5--to complete the full trail. Many backpackers also enjoy shorter week-long or multi-day trips. And of course there are countless sections of the trail that can be conquered in a day!

54% of the PCT travels through federally designated wilderness.

Spectacular terrain

Looking for breathtaking scenery? Just point to any place on the PCT map and you'll find it. The trail travels through:

  • 48 federally designated wilderness areas
    More than half of the trail travels through wilderness, including well-known places that The Wilderness helped gain protections for, including the Ansel Adams Wilderness and the John Muir Wilderness in California and Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Sky Lakes Wilderness in Oregon.
  • 6 national parks
    Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park,  Crater Lake National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park
  • 4 national monuments
    Devil's Postpile National Monument, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and the newly designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
  • 5 state parks
  • 25 national forests

Are you ready for a long-distance hike? These tips will help you get started.

Photos: Reese Witherspoon on the PCT, by Anne Marie Fox; Hiker on Washington portion of the trail, by Asaf Antman, flickr.

 Map: places Cheryl Strayed passed through on the Pacific Crest Trail

Slideshow: Experience the Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT runs through some of the nation's most spectacular scenery. Covering terrain from Southern California's Mojave desert to Washington's  dramatic North Cascades, the trail is remarkably diverse.


Federally designated wilderness areas on the Pacific Crest Trail:

  • There are 48 wilderness areas:
    • Southern California section: Beauty Mountains Wilderness; San Gorgonio Wilderness; Hauser Wilderness; San Jacinto Wilderness; Sheep Mountain Wilderness; Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness; Kiavah Wilderness.
    • Central California section: Owens Peak Wilderness; Chimney Peak Wilderness; Domeland Wilderness; South Sierra Wilderness; Golden Trout Wilderness; John Muir Wilderness; Ansel Adams Wilderness; Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness; Yosemite Wilderness; Hoover Wilderness; Carson Iceberg Wilderness; Mokelumne Wilderness; Desolation Wilderness; Granite Chief Wilderness.
    • Northern California section: Bucks Lake Wilderness; Lassen Volcanic Wilderness; Trinity Alps Wilderness; Castle Crags Wilderness; Russian Wilderness; Marble Mountain Wilderness.
    • Oregon section: Soda Mountain Wilderness: Sky Lakes Wilderness; Mount Thielson Wilderness; Diamond Peak Wilderness;  Three Sisters Wilderness; Mount Jefferson Wilderness;  Mount Hood Wilderness; Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness.
    • Washington section: Indian Heaven Wilderness; Mount Adams Wilderness; Goat Rocks Wilderness; William O. Douglas Wilderness; Mount Rainier Wilderness; Norse Peak Wilderness; Alpine Lakes Wilderness; Henry M. Jackson Wilderness; Glacier Peak Wilderness; Stephen Mather Wilderness; Pasayten Wilderness.


Photo: The PCT crosses California's John Muir Wilderness. Photo by Mason Cummings.


The real Cheryl Strayed

See what the author of Wild has to say about wilderness

Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir Wild is a true friend to wilderness. She celebrated wilderness with us earlier this fall with her public service announcement below. We are pleased to have selected Cheryl as the recipient of our We Are the Wild Inspiration Award.

See other celebrities, including Felicity Huffman and Madison Bumgarner tell their wild stories

Where’s your wild?

Do you have a great photo, video of story of your own about a powerful or memorable moment in nature?

Join others who are celebrating wilderness on our We Are the Wild interactive hub site, where you can upload your photos and stories.

Share your story here


Photo by Anne Marie Fox






Buy your copy of the book Wild through Amazon Smile and we’ll receive a .5% donation

How to:
1. Simply go to smile.amazon.com and log on as you normally would when you shop at Amazon.com (use your same username and password).  
2. When prompted to select a charity, type The Wilderness Society into the search box.
3. Once you select The Wilderness Society, all subsequent purchases will be credited to us!