Street View-Style Tour of National Park Hiking Trails Coming to Your Computer

Hiking path in Gros Morne National Park

Natalie Lucier / Flickr / CC BY 1.0

Nature Valley is pulling a Google and bringing national park hiking trails online street view-style. The company hopes to raise awareness of the significant problems national parks face, including widespread closures, by getting the gorgeous scenery on our computer screens and getting people interested in visiting or at least preserving these wonderful spaces.

Fast Company gives us the news that Nature Valley released Trail View in early 2012. Trail View features vistas from the Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, and many more locations. There are about 100 miles from each location shown in the images. It will be essentially virtual hiking.

There are ups and downs to this. The ups include:

  1. Yay!! for getting more people to see what nature has to offer.
  2. Yay!! for showing our awesome national parks off so that people are aware of what they offer us.
  3. Yay!! for the potential to boost support to protect these parks and keep them open.
  4. Big Yah!! Nature Valley is donating $3 million dollars to the National Park Foundation to restore 10,000 miles of hiking trails.

But of course, the con is will it really get people off their butts and out the door to actually go enjoy that nature?

Studies have shown that being out in nature makes us happier people, so we can only hope that yes, for at least some, Trail View will be an inspiration. And for those that don't get outside, well, hopefully, it will inspire some generous donations.

“This initiative lets [Nature Valley] stand for something,” says Leslie Sims, executive creative director at McCann. “They aren’t just pushing granola bars on hikers.”

Not an Easy Project

Apparently Trail View wasn't all that easy of a task, either. According to Fast Company, the National Park Conservation Association is usually very picky about filming on their grounds, but the company had a strong enough relationship with the organization that they got the thumbs up as long as they kept their promise to make no environmental impact. After all, "leave only footprints" goes for everyone. And getting the actual footage required a few teams:

The actual filming went off without a hitch, however, barring the occasional alarming grizzly bear scratch mark on trees. From a distance, the assembled masses would have looked like a caravan of settlers. The field crew from Backpacker Magazine (or “bear bait” as Patterson referred to them) headed up the front, setting the pace and keeping the operation environmentally sound. Shortly behind them were the agency creatives, who scouted locations and points of interest. The next wave included the tech team--who kept lenses clean, adjusted settings, and kept the cameras out of contact with each other--as well as master cameraman, Brandon McLane. Finally, trailing behind, was a sweeper team, who made sure nothing was left behind. Although some of the crew only stayed for shorter periods, the hike lasted 45 days total.

We were excited to see the first stage of Trail View in February of 2012 and will look forward to seeing how the release affects the support of our great national parks.