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<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/hiker.jpg” />If you are anything like me, you spend the majority of your time during the day at a computer. Although a desk job has its perks, one of them is certainly not a benefit to your cardiovascular system. Every once in a while, you simply need to unplug, get away from all electronic devices, and get out in nature. Even a few short minutes away a day on a hiking trail will do wonders for both your physical and mental conditioning.
Anywhere in the globe (just about) there are plenty of walking, hiking, running and backpacking trails available – long and short, difficult and easy. You just have to know where to find them.
AllTrails is probably the most comprehensive of the sites I’ve used. They let you search by location, and then there are tons of options to narrow down your search by trail length, distance, skill level and more.
Once you’ve picked your set of options, you can select which location interests you. Each trail has a profile and rating, with reviews and comments on the hiking trail. After you are done with your hike, you can create an account and leave a review of the trail to help others in their search.
United States, Canada and Puerto Rico only.
Trails.com and AllTrails actually look like their base trail databases come from the same source. So as far as completeness of trails, they will be about the same. As with AllTrails, Trails.com allows you leave reviews for trails but also is set apart by two notable features.
The first is that you can view and print topographical maps of the area. They are vanilla, not having the trail path labelled, but are good to have if you are unfamiliar with the terrain.
The second neat option is the ability to upload GPS coordinates from your hike. These plot out the hike on a map, and is a neat way to track where you’ve been. There are many tracking apps available for smartphones, and you can also export them from dedicated GPS devices.
EveryTrail bills itself as a “GPS Travel Community”. Unlike the prior sites which first built out their databases using pre-existing sources, Everytrail has been built from scratch using GPS imports from actual hiking trail experiences.
The good part to this is that each trail is ‘real’ and someone else has done it. Many trails also have photos and more information about it. On the down side, this site is less comprehensive than the above sites especially with regard to smaller local trails.
Another feature that sets EveryTrail apart is its mobile applications which let you track your trail and save it to the site, with pictures and video. EveryTrail has apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.
Everytrail is International and includes hikes from all over the world.
TrailLink is a project of the Rails-to-Trails conservancy, which means it mainly consists of railroad tracks and grades that have been converted to trails. These trails are great for walks, biking and general ‘commuting’ since they connect locations together.
TrailLink is US only at this time.
Localhikes is another US-only site which has guides for many trails. This site has less trails in number, but each hiking trail has a nice writeup for it and also has many comments which may have valuable hints for the trail.
Google Earth Layers
Google Earth has partnered with many organizations to provide trail map and information in its program. Once you have installed Google Earth, there are several Layers which provide trail information. Look for:
- Trimble Outdoors Trips
In addition to these built in layers, many of the sites listed in this article have Google Earth integration via a .kml file. Look on each site for links to “View in Google Earth” to load them and launch the viewer.
Google Earth works for trails worldwide.
WikiWalki is probably the hidden gem of the group. The interface allows you to map any trails or walks, and it is primarily ‘map focused’. However, the trail database is lacking in completeness, making this site hard to use for people in most areas. Hopefully more and more trails will be uploaded, and it would be great to see this as a primary site for finding walkable paths.
WikiWalki is for international trails.
Wikiloc is the website component to the Google Earth layer mentioned above. Their site, much like WikiWalki, allows you to upload your trails and then view profile information and map them in Google Earth.
In my opinion, Wikiloc’s interface isn’t as visually appealing at WikiWalki but they do seem to have more data which is a definite plus. Their search function didn’t appear to work correctly for me, but using the map to narrow down to my area did help find trails relatively close.
Wikiloc works for trails worldwide.
Traildino bills itself as the largest hiking trail database. Traildino is a bit different in that it does not track the trails itself, but works as a sort of directory to links of the website of many trails. Traildino is international, so you can find trails all over the world.
I’ve found that Traildino does have many of the more famous trails, but do not expect to see smaller local trails listed here.
The final site is more of a ‘social fitness’ site which connects together groups of individuals looking to attain a physical fitness goal. As with some of the other sites, MapMyHike has a free iPhone app named iMapMyHike [iTunes link], which is a personal fitness app which can help you track your physical fitness. They also have separate apps that can map your hikes, bikes, walks and more – and upload them to the site.
They are currently developing a new version of their site (included in screenshot above) and looks to be an up and coming website.
When All Else Fails
What happens if the sites above don’t have a trail listed near your location? Well here is the good news, you actually don’t even need a website to tell you where to walk. You can simply turn off your computer and walk out your door and you have unlimited miles to walk for free. I never thought it made much sense to drive to find some place to walk, but in many urban areas this is simply the case.
Let us know if you have any other favorite places to track down interesting walks, hikes and more!
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