Is there such a thing as “armchair hiking”? Maybe a “Monday morning backpacker”? Ok, so Monday Night Football it’s not, but hiking America’s national parks this month has become more accessible to the masses thanks to a combination of technology and an investment of resources by the granola company Nature Valley.
Called Nature Valley Trail View, the Google-maps-like platform provides a virtual hiker’s-eye view of more than 300 miles of trails on your computer screen. The interactive content and guides are available for three parks to start, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone.
The technology was introduced this week at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. According to Nature Valley, the project took more than a year to create and is the result of “boots-on-the-ground fieldwork and proprietary technology.”
A quick visit to NatureValleyTrailView.com was an eye-opening experience for me. In the strange virtual-hiking world I could learn about a hike in Great Smoky Mountains or the other parks, and then (the kicker!) I could actually see every step of sections of trail in the park, all with the click of a mouse, hiking boots not required.
You can “hike” along the virtual trails by clicking arrows and minding an onscreen compass. There are panoramas to view, complete with the white noise of a forest and moving water. Zoom in close to examine rocks on the ground or a cliff face.
To build this experience, the project required hikers to carry cameras and record every foot of the highlighted trails. The site’s software melds the still images, creating a hiking experience akin to Google street view but way out in the woods.
You watch the moving, movie-like footage on a computer screen while your GPS location, elevation and compass direction sit along the screen. The experience is annotated at specific points to offer in-depth parks information for trip planners.
Nature Valley’s technology certainly won’t replace getting out there yourself. But the site is informative and, for me, got the juices flowing to hike somewhere new. Breathtaking panoramas drew me in and I soon found myself digging for my hiking shoes. And this is really the whole point.
The project’s goal “is to inspire consumers to enjoy all that nature has to offer,” a company marketing manager said. “Our vision. . . is to get people interested in visiting, and even preserving, our beautiful national parks.”
Sold. Now it’s time for me to get away from this computer and hang up a sign, “Gone Hiking.”
—Sean McCoy is a contributor in Denver.
- Latest Articles
- Are You Man Enough? Patagonia Launches 'Technical Knickers' (we test them out)
- Toddlers Compete On Push-Bikes... Strider Launches 'National Championship' Series
- 'Slide Un Cable En SpeedRiding'
- 10 Lantern Giveaway: Goal Zero Products Up For Grabs (10 readers will Win!)
- Active Lifestyle Luxury Goods, All Made In USA (major trend in 2014?)
- Carabiner Has Built-In 'Hook'
- American Wins Boston Marathon… Wearing Skechers Shoes
- This Light Powered By Sack Of Rocks
- Boston Marathon Winner Wore Names Of Victims On Bib
- Running Paris: Salomon 'CityTrail' Video
- Popular Articles
- Innovative Axe Design Revolutionizes Wood-Chopping Technology
- Not A Mummy: Zipper-less Design Offers New Sleeping Bag Experience
- American Wins Boston Marathon… Wearing Skechers shoes
- Taco Cat Is A Bike-Only Taco Delivery Service
- World's 10 Most Dangerous Mountains
- 1,000-Year-Old Native American Canoe
- Huff, Puff And Power Your Gizmos: Portable Wind Turbine Made For Outdoors
- Goal Zero Camp Lantern Provides Light, Built-In Charging Station
- 12 Good Boots: Find Your Perfect Hiking Footwear For Spring 2014
- No Reel Needed: Patagonia Fly Fishing Kit Is Simple, Light And Effective
- Friends of Gear Junkie
- Monopoint Media
- Adventure Blog
- Adventure Journal
- Outside Online
- Cold Splinters
- Sender Films
- Elevation Outdoors
- Rock and Ice Magazine
- Trail Runner Magazine
- REI Blog
- Weekly E-Newsletter
Sign up for our e-news for a weekly update on new gear, adventure travel, and prize giveaways.