Exploring U.S. National Parks Just Got Easier With This New Google Maps Feature

Want to see a trail route? If the path is paved and/or dog friendly? There’s now a helpful app update for that.

North Window in Arches National Park at dusk

New Google Maps features make it easier to navigate to famous sites, like North Window in Utah’s Arches National Park.

Photo by Shutterstock

It’s now easier to get lost in the United States’ national parks without actually getting lost.

Google and the National Park Service have partnered to help make visits to the nation’s 63 national parks safer and more seamless.

As of today, a handful of new updates have launched on Google Maps (both on iOS and Android) to help parkgoers better find their way around the protected lands. Those updates, which include detailed trail maps, were informed by both park rangers and directors, who had heard plenty of visitor feedback about Google Map accuracy within the national parks.

One of the new features will highlight trails from start to finish (previously, Google just used a red pin to mark the trail’s center) and share walking, biking, and driving directions from a user’s location to the trailhead. The site will also tease out helpful details from Google reviews, displayed on a sidebar, such as:

  • What type of trail it is (paved? dirt? loop or in-out?)
  • Level of difficulty
  • “Good for” suggestions (is it wheelchair accessible? are dogs allowed?)
  • Best time to go to avoid crowds

Google will make detailed, interactive maps of the national parks downloadable for offline use as well. It’s a handy feature considering that even though the national parks are popular (312 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2022), it doesn’t mean cell phone reception is always available.

Beyond the various trails, significant attractions (like Old Faithful in Yellowstone and the Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite), campgrounds, and visitor centers will be displayed as photo icons, which users can click to get more information and read reviews. They can also add these destinations to their itinerary and share thoughts afterward for future users to see.

The features will be available in all U.S. national parks by the end of April, in conjunction with National Park Week (celebrated April 22–30). Entrance fees at all parks (which range from $5 to $35, depending on the park) will be waived on April 22 for the first day of National Park Week. It’s one of five fee-free days NPS will offer in 2023.

Google plans to add the same features to national parks worldwide in the coming months.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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