Good news, nature lovers! Google is making it easier to explore national parks with Google Maps. The updates will start to roll out this month ahead of National Park Week starting on April 22nd, the day entrance fees are waived.
Until now, finding directions to a trailhead has been a crapshoot on the app. Navigating the trail itself can be even harder without a preview of the route on Maps. For national parks at least, that should start to change.
The updates will start to roll out this month ahead of National Park Week starting on April 22nd, the day entrance fees are waived
With this update, when users search for a particular trail within a national park in the US, Google Maps will show the entire route of the trail instead of just a pin. It’ll also serve up walking and cycling directions straight to the trailhead, and let you download a map of the park so that it’s accessible even without internet access.
Not sure where to start at a huge national park? Google Maps can help with that, too. Searching for a park in Maps will now bring up photo highlights for its most popular attractions. You’ll see reviews from other users as well as information about each spot. For trails, there’ll be details like how strenuous the route is and whether it’s best traversed by foot or bike.
Similar features should “roll out globally in the coming months” to Google Maps on iOS and Android, according to the company’s blog post. But it doesn’t say whether we should expect similar features for trails outside of national parks.
AllTrails is my go-to app for mapping most hikes because it usually has more information than Google or Apple Maps, especially for smaller or less popular trails. AllTrails shows maps, reviews, and trail conditions as long as you’re online — but you’ll need to purchase a subscription to download its maps.
In case you’re wondering which national parks people seem to like the most, Google also shared a list of the parks with the highest user ratings on Maps. They each got more than 1,000 reviews with ratings of 4.5 or higher.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Redwood National and State Parks
- Olympic National Park
- Haleakalā National Park
- White Sands National Park
- Arches National Park
- Sequoia National Park
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- North Cascades National Park
Correction April 12, 11:33AM ET: This post has been updated to clarify that Google Earth is not involved in these changes to Maps.