Google Maps Just Launched New Updates to Help You Navigate National Parks

Your experience will become safer and much more seamless.

So, you managed to choose which national park to visit first this summer—congrats! With 63 gorgeous parks to choose from, it surely wasn't an easy task. But now comes the real issue: How do you make sure you make the most of your visit without missing out on secluded viewpoints and iconic landmarks? And most importantly, how do you avoid getting lost in the wilderness?

Google Maps probably has all the answers you need. Thanks to a partnership with the National Park Service, Google Maps has just rolled out a series of updates tailored specifically to our gorgeous national parks.

Real park rangers and directors participated in the research process, and managed to help Google Maps improve its platform and make it easier for travelers to navigate and discover the parks. Of course, data was taken into account too, and the team at Google Maps took into consideration both visitor and staff pain points as well as map accuracy data to create a solid and reliable tool.

With the new updates, travelers will get a much more seamless experience when navigating national parks on the platform. Starting today, the basemap will show park entrances, which is of huge help when you're planning your trip and need to decide what trails to take to get to their destination. If you're visiting a park for the first time, you will likely benefit from another Google Maps addition, which adds photo pins for the park's most popular spots. The concept is similar to Neighborhood Vibe, but it's applied to parks, meaning Google Maps will show the most popular attractions, campgrounds, visitor centers, and trailheads as photo pins at shallow zoom.

In an e-mail interview with Thrillist, Google Maps Local Guide Jeremy Janus pointed out that most park visitors don't have a long period of time to experience a park, so these features will help them plan ahead and make the most of that time.

"It's very easy to get distracted by the beauty of the parks when it’s right in front of you and you should take time to experience being in the moment," Janus said. 

Park trails will also be easier to find with the new updates. Trails will be much more visible on the platform, and once you search for a specific trail, the map will now highlight its entire route instead of just showing a red pin in the center of it. Additionally, users will get walking or cycling directions to a trail to make it simpler to access it.

It will also be easier for you to share your experience and help other travelers out, too. For the first time, Google Maps is launching support for user-generated content photos and reviews of trails in their Placesheet (the info window that pops up once you click on a Google Maps location), and it will also include helpful info such as trail difficulty, type (loop, in-out, etc) and "good for" suggestions, all powered by structured questions.

Finally, slow internet won't be an issue anymore. With a new and more discoverable button, Google Maps will let you download a park for offline use, which will not only make it easier but also safer to navigate national parks when there is no Wi-Fi available anywhere near you.

"Most parks have little to no cell service once you enter the park so this will help tremendously," Janus added. "I can't tell you how many times this would have helped me in the past from my experiences."

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.