Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Zion… these National Parks are icons of the American outdoors experience, each a unique public place preserved and open to anyone willing to hike and explore.
This year, to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, REI has committed to a multi-million dollar partnership that includes content, guides, live experiences, and an app, the REI Co-op Guide to the National Parks.
We downloaded the app this week for a first look. In short, the REI Co-op Guide to the National Parks app is an amazing tool for anyone looking to explore little-visited or well-known parks within the NPS system.
REI’s stated goal is to help people “go deeper into the National Park System.” This is accomplished by tools that provide maps, descriptions, and a realtime location marker (as long as you have cell/GPS signal) for hikers heading off from trailheads and beyond the drive-up overlooks that get crowded in peak season.
Off-grid, the app works beyond cell networks because content is stored on the phone and the user’s location can be shown via GPS.
Comprehensive ‘Guidebook’ App For National Parks
It was developed by the creators of the popular Mountain Project app, a group which REI acquired in 2015. (Mountain Project has more than 3 million users who consult climbing data on 100,000+ routes.)
The REI National Park Guide & Maps app is the first major new launch post-acquisition, and it was created over the past three and a half months by a small development team. It uses technology and content from the Hiking Project, an existing app with a database that includes more than 47,000 miles of trails.
This past fall, an early prototype of the app was shared with REI employees and with the National Parks Foundation for feedback and contribution. The final version launched this month to the public.
How is this app different? A key distinguisher is that, along with comprehensive maps you can browse, it shows your “blue dot” location in realtime so you know exactly where you are inside a park or on a trail.
Realtime Location, Navigation Tools
Bring a paper map and a compass as backup for sure. But the app works as a tool for navigating trails, recording your GPS track, and clicking to read about campsites, waterfalls, vistas, historic sights, and waypoints highlighted in the Parks.
There are “gem” picks at each park, which are mini guides to highlighted spots and trails. The app provides utilitarian resources like park hours, phone numbers, seasonal considerations, and fees.
Map All National Parks
REI wants to map “every single trail in every National Park” around the U.S., and the co-op already has a good start, including robust content and maps available now on seven major parks featured on the guide’s landing page. REI says it is adding hundreds of miles of mapped and detailed trails every month.
Users can create an account in Hiking Project, upload photos, and share information on their hikes in National Parks. REI has a vision to create a comprehensive crowd-sourced guide built not only by experts but everyday hikers and enthusiasts.
Check out the REI Co-op Guide to the National Parks app now. We are impressed with its comprehensive information, detailed maps, user-friendly design, and its crowd-sourced backbone, which should keep content fresh and relevant from National Park devotees who hike, paddle, camp, climb, and explore in these wild, protected places around America.
–Beyond the National Park Guide & Maps app, REI is supporting the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by its sponsorship of “National Parks Adventure,” a film to be released in IMAX theaters next month, and via monetary contributions to the system. REI Adventures is donating 10% of the retail price for each national park trip sold to the National Park Foundation. The co-op is also hosting Outdoor School events and launching a new podcast series (“Mileposts,” with Fitz Cahall of “Dirtbag Diaries” fame). Check out the spread of National Parks initiatives at REI.com/h/national-parks.