The Film

Colin and Casey in Southern California on the Pacific Crest Trail

In the summer of 2013 Casey Gannon and Colin Arisman thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with cameras in hand. Only The Essential is the story of their 5 month, 2668 mile journey on foot from Mexico to Canada across the wilderness of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Growing up in a culture increasingly disconnected from the outdoors, we have felt the pull of wild places our entire lives. The natural world shaped us as we grew up in Vermont and this experience left us with a deep feeling of responsibility to share the "power of the wilderness" and the necessity of conservation. Only The Essential reflects the power of connecting to nature and the profound beauty of immersing ourselves in the subtler wisdom of the wild. The title Only The Essential comes from a Henry David Thoreau quote that speaks to the inspiration for our film.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau

Our goal was to capture the brutal, yet breathtaking, ebb and flow of thru-hiking (a term for hiking a long distance trail from end to end). The film serves as a window to experience the Pacific Crest Trail and witness the value of simplifying life to a point where “only the essential” remains.

Only The Essential is directed and produced by Colin Arisman -

 Casey Gannon capturing the journey.

Casey Gannon capturing the journey.


The Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) spans 2,668 miles as it traverses the mountainous spine of California, Oregon and Washington. The Pacific Crest Trail was officially finished in 1993, and crosses 26 national forests, 7 national parks, 5 state parks and 3 national monuments. It typically takes thru-hikers around five months to hike the entire trail. If you aren't up for the whole thing, don't worry - the trail is easily accessible to day and section hikers. 

Support the trail through the Pacific Crest Trail Association and learn more about hiking the PCT at

Map by Artist Susan Abbott