trail guides

11:52 a.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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I was unsure of whether this topic should be here or off-topic, but I digress...


When planning a trip to an area I have not yet hiked in, I do as much research as possible. I use trail guide books, search the web for individual accounts, and search with great frustration and little result, for videos of the trails...especially the trickier parts.


my current process to search for said videos is on youtube, but i usually get more information about who was hiking or about the easy flat sections that I'm not concerned about than I do about what I'm truly looking for.


Anyone know of any sites that have this info? If not my plan is to start one, so this is documentation of my original idea, no plagiarism allowed.

2:35 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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I have been mapping on EveryTrail. Then it uploads and I can see the EXACT trail. I do this a lot for our climbing group so that the approach to a given wall has the real life map of the approach. You can go to all those web sites..Everytrail. MapMyHike etc. and see them over a google map and/or arial of the trail. It is a pretty good way to see how the trail really pans out as opposed to simply a line drawn that does not get all the info incorporated in it. I post the links and wall names in our outdoor group page on facebook. It has really made planning for climbs easier for people. Especially since approaches are not really as obtainable as a trail hike. Maybe a good idea here to have a place to archive links to trails?

2:57 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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thanks gift - do these google maps arial views zoom in to the actual level you'd see on the trail though? While I'm sure those are very useful, I'm looking for a better point of view perspective on the tricky sections of trails, along with a possible narrative from the experienced hiker about how to manage those parts of the trail.

In my research, such a resource is brand new, and I can't find that type of info anywhere.

3:19 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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Doesnt that take away from the experience??

7:41 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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maybe dwoods, but others like myself could say that it helps prepare for conditions of a trail that they haven't been on yet, which improves safety and increases the chances of being prepared.

Also for people who can't hike or who are stuck in an office it could be a good run down memory lane or a good chance to day dream about the next hike they want to do with a POV experience.

9:14 p.m. on November 8, 2011 (EST)
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It depends on the satellite shots. I like to take pictures along the way and those are there to see. Gives an idea of some of the trail.

2:20 p.m. on November 20, 2011 (EST)
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dwoods8581 said:

Doesnt that take away from the experience??

Dwoods, I've wondered about this myself.  I tend to study and analyze potential trips in excruciating detail before going.  This helps because it gives me an idea what to expect in terms of overall conditions, where I can expect to go, find campsites, etc, etc.  On the other hand, sometimes I do find myself on the trail wondering if it would be more "interesting" if I didn't know exactly what to expect.

I guess my very nature leads me to plan this way.  And doing project management for a living undoubtedly plays a role.  But part of it is that there are just so many choices of places to go, that I want to maximize each one by selecting the "best possible one".  The end result is that by the time I hit the trail, I already know the mileage, I've seen pictures of the area, and I have a pretty good idea where I'm headed & even where I'm likely to camp, at least on the first night...

I guess there are trade-offs either way, like with anything else.

2:55 p.m. on November 20, 2011 (EST)
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First off, this topic is very much in this forum's subject matter. Trail guides and other sources of information are Step 1 in any Trip Planning.

When headed to a new area, I use the following:

A. old traditional methods - which still give the best information

A1 - from experienced people who have been there. This does not mean someone who once hiked the trail. It does mean people in whom I have a personal knowledge of their experience and dependability. Personal contact is best. Internet inquiries always seem to bring a mix of a couple of people who really know, people who hiked there once, people who never hiked there but read the guidebook, people who never hiked there but know someone who hiked there, people who never hiked but are full of "advice", etc.

A2 - local rangers and guides. Caution - many of  these will tend to exagerate the difficulties, because they don't know you or your experience, and don't want to deal with rescuing inexperienced newbies with lots of macho who get themselves in trouble. Great source of beta if you establish your bona fides. Experienced people will understand what I mean by this.

A3 - guidebooks. Read these carefully. Old guidebooks may have obsolete information.

A4. Published paper maps. Again, maps get out of date, and some have errors from the surveys. Maps in many third world countries still are poorly surveyed, if available at all.

B. "We are in the electronic age!"

B1. Computerized maps and routes for GPS receivers. Be careful when using computerized maps, just as with paper maps. Plus a number of computerized topographic maps do not have surveyed elevations or photogrammetry, but instead use a grid of elevations, some with grids as coarse as 1 km intervals, on which the contour lines are drawn with interpolation schemes that are a poor match for the real terrain.

B2. Satellite and aerial photography. Satellite photographs are generally limited to small scale (that is, objects and features appear small). In both satellite and aerial photographs, trails are often not visible, particularly in forested areas. Also, things change. For example, in one satphoto on-line service, the imagery for my neighborhood is over 3 years old, so that some major construction is not visible. Imagery of a nearby Open Space Reserve does not show trails constructed or revised recently. In another area I am familiar with, a landslide wiped out a section of trail with the new trail opened about 8 years ago not visible (nor is the landslide visible, but the old trail appears clearly).

B3. Trip reports in websites specializing in a particular area - these can be excellent, but, as with personal reports, you should know something about the person who wrote the report or responds to your RFI. I have been accused at times of sandbagging - "that trail/climb/ski tour was really easy", when someone with less experience finds it super challenging.

B4. YouTube and similar video reports - as you already noted, these tend to be excerpts and taken on the easier parts of the trails. The proliferation of helmet cams, such as the GoPros that several of us on Trailspace have, helps here. But to get complete information, you have to record the whole trip. Are you going to sit through the entire 3 weeks of the John Muir Trail, if someone actually recorded the whole 200-300 hiking hours? And it only shows what was visible in the frame (yeah, the GoPro I have has a 170 deg FOV, but that doesn't really show that much detail of what was off the sides).

Always try to ascertain the currency of the information and the experience and skill level (and veracity) of the source.

2:14 a.m. on November 21, 2011 (EST)
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dwoods8581 said:

Doesnt that take away from the experience??

 What experience are you talking about? Getting lost or hurt because you don't have a clue where you are? Being the cause of a SAR operation?  A friend of mine was killed, along with two other people, on just such a mission-looking for a lost hiker. Want to be responsible for something like that? BTW, he never was found-his buddy left him and that was the last anyone saw of the guy.

As you might suspect, I don't have much sympathy for people who deliberately go into the backcountry unprepared and then expect others to risk their lives looking for them.

12:40 p.m. on November 21, 2011 (EST)
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All I do is look at online and paper maps of new area's but read nothing at all about the area. I like to find out firsthand on my own everything about a new hike/camping trip from on the spot experience.

4:51 p.m. on November 22, 2011 (EST)
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I am a planner, I enjoy it.

I use maps, Google Earth, sat photos, trail guides, internet searches, YouTube videos, and forums like Trailspace.

Basically anywhere I can get info to plan with.

6:31 p.m. on November 22, 2011 (EST)
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trouthunter - so are you saying that if there were video diaries of much of the trail, including the difficult parts and some dialogue about how to safely approach those sections, that you would use such a service?

7:19 p.m. on November 22, 2011 (EST)
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iClimb said:

trouthunter - so are you saying that if there were video diaries of much of the trail, including the difficult parts and some dialogue about how to safely approach those sections, that you would use such a service?

 Yes to some degree, I wouldn't want it to be a spoiler, but the rough sections which many people don't video due to the difficulty of doing so, would be helpful, including work a rounds. Then again a lot of my past trips are in areas with no trails and that's part of the reason I plan so much.

I used to do a good bit of 'blue lining', which is navigating with river systems instead of trails. Hopefully I will do some more soon and I plan to take some camera equipment along from now on. I wish I had started a long time ago taking more photos and video.

I have always enjoyed watching video of other peoples trips and seeing what it looks like where they go, that really makes me want to go too!

A good example is Sean Emory over at Hammock Forums dot net, he has documented several multiday trips in several 10 minute segments on YouTube, although he does not do exactly what you are proposing.

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