It Just Got Easier to Hike in National Parks Thanks to These Google Map Updates

Google Maps' latest update will offer walking and biking directions, as well as a display of an entire trail route.

Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park in Summer

Lightvision, LLC/Getty Images

Google Maps is making it easier to hike America’s national parks with several new updates to the user experience. 

The new updates, introduced ahead of National Park Week, include easier ways to navigate trails along with introducing photo pins of the most popular sites, Google shared with Travel + Leisure. The new map features were developed with help from National Park Service park rangers and directors.

“As someone who has visited 24 of the US National Parks, I’m really excited we’re bringing these helpful updates to Google Maps that will make it easier for people to explore, navigate and discover things to do in parks around the country,” Michael Curtes, the product manager for Google Maps, told T+L. “Now, Google Maps has all the information you need in one place so you can save time planning and spend it exploring.”

Going forward, hiking will be easier with the map highlighting an entire trail route from start to finish, rather than just showing a red pin at its center, according to Google. The map will also offer walking or biking directions to the closest end of the trail (as opposed to the center).

Additionally, Google will include information for trails like how difficult it is as well as add a “more discoverable button for downloading a park for offline use, positioned alongside the other common actions for a place.”

Beyond the trails themselves, park entrances will now be shown on the basemap. And the map will show popular places (think: attractions, campgrounds, and visitor centers) as photo pins.

The new updates come as the NPS prepares to celebrate National Park Week from April 22 to April 30. All entrance fees will be waived to kick off the celebration on April 22, one of several fee-free days in 2023.

Overall, there are 63 different national parks in the United States, but some are more popular with visitors than others. Yellowstone National Park is the most popular of all national parks, according to data from Google that tracked direction requests and interactions on Google Maps over the last year. That was followed by Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

On the other end of the spectrum was Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii, which Google considers a “hidden gem” thanks to the fact it received a rating of 4.8 but has amassed fewer than 1,000 reviews on Google Maps.

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