Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. Image credit: Josh Myers, winner of National Parks Photo Contest on Trails.
It seemed like a good idea. Now we know it was a great idea: an online community with a trails wiki as its centerpiece.
Introducing Sierra Club Trails. The response to our recent beta launch has been met with excellent reviews from bloggers and reporters in the outdoors and green lifestyle genre. Here's how it works: Using a simple online form, I post a trail, including as much info as I can about its location, length, elevation and GPS coordinates (if I've got 'em), whether it's good for wildflower viewing or pets or bicycling or the like, and whether there are cautionary notes like exposure, flash floods, or sensitive areas. Using the wiki, I also write a description of the trail, directions to the trailhead, and anything else I feel is important to add. Here's an example.
Joe comes along and it turns out he knows a few things about the trail that are important to add. Let's say I mentioned an old cabin on the left, and Joe is able to add its history in detail. And he also mentions that the crossing at Spring Creek is the last chance to filter water on this trail. Others who become "fans" of the trail can add photos to the photo gallery for that trail. They can also add Trail Updates, like, "The mosquitoes were really bad up there last weekend so bring repellent!" or "A small landslide wiped out a hundred feet of the trail and you can't get around it right now."
We've got nearly 500 trails up now, ranging from very short footpaths and bike routes, to multi-day backpack trips and paddling runs. Over time, with participation from those who join the community, this will be the best, most comprehensive collection of trails on the web. And it's free!
In addition to adding trails, those who join can start a group - they range
now from "Yosemite Lovers" and "Birdwatchers" to "City Rambler" and "You Know It Was a Good Trip When " You can spark a discussion in the Forums section, like the one with a poll on whether guns should be allowed in national parks, or the one started by the Midwestern couple looking for suggestions on where to hike during their first-ever San Francisco to Seattle road trip.
We've got the On Track blog, too, where we just announced the winner of our National Parks Photo Contest. There were more than 260 entries, and the Trails community voted for a picture of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, taken by Josh Myers of Port Orange, Florida—that's his image at the top of this post. Check out the crazy story from the road trip Myers was on when he got that shot, and see the 20 finalists. There's also a birdwatching post on the blog every Wednesday, and an astronomy post every Friday.
There's more! You can post or find trips and events, listen to a collection of audio clips called Nature Notes (why should you avoid scaring a vulture, and what should you do if you see a mountain lion?), and find tips about getting into the outdoors.
You can join Trails by clicking here to register (a very simple process) and create your profile (you can add details later). Then dive in! Add some trails!
(Sierra Club Trails is one of three online communities recently launched by the Sierra Club. The others are Climate Crossroads and the Sierra Student Coalition.)