Exploring National Parks Has Never Been Easier

Shannon DavisNPF Blog

"This was one of the best days my girlfriend and I have ever experienced in a national park,” said Glen Crippen, a Rocky Mountain National Park hiker on vacation from Ohio. “We had only one day to visit the park and had done minimal planning. But we ended up photographing moose, elk, pikas, and marmots, and hiking several short trails to uncrowded alpine viewpoints, not far from Old Fall River Road. This app showed us just what areas and hikes to target. And – no joke – the moose sighting occurred right where the hike description said it would!”

Rocky Mountain National Park has more than 350 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes, and 72 peaks higher than 12,000 feet inside its 415 square mile borders. That’s a lot of natural beauty to navigate – and it’s just one of America’s over 400 national parks! 

So in celebration of the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, REI Co-op created a free comprehensive guide to hiking and sight-seeing in the parks, to make it easy to get beyond the trailhead and have more meaningful adventures. As of this post, the crowd-sourced app has data and descriptions for every mile of trail in YellowstoneGrand CanyonYosemiteZionGrand TetonGlacierAcadia, and 27 more parks.

Huge waterfall at the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park

Lower Falls at Yellowstone National Park

Tom Carter, Hiking Project

Simply scroll through parks, sorted by popularity, proximity, or alphabetical order, tap on your dream park, and start planning.

REI App showing National Parks sorted by popularity

The park’s main page includes information to help you explore with the savvy of a local, from camping and lodging to seasonal highlights.

REI App showing weather and other details of Rocky Mountain National Park

Find the best hikes for you by scanning the topo map, photos, or the “best of” curated through star rankings from the hiking community. You can also sort hikes by difficulty or target natural “gems,” a park’s most iconic natural wonders. Hiking with kids? Tap the family-friendly tab.

REI App showing options for sorting hikes

On trail, you can track your progress in real time on a terrain or satellite map and elevation profile. It works even out of cell range. And then, the rest is up to you and mother nature.

REI App showing map of Sky Pond Trail at Rocky Mountain National Park

“We’re setting out in a few days and will be visiting several parks – this app is exactly what we need,” says user Jodie King of Wichita, KS. “The guides are written by real trail users and makes planning a breeze.”

The real magic of our parks happens off the pavement, down the trail, with that condor or moose sighting, a quiet moment of total awe at a crowd-free summit, the panic and perseverance and laughter of a sudden rain shower, and the way the evening light plays across a grassy valley. And here’s one tool that can make finding that magic much, much easier.

Last updated August 10, 2016.

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