So you're ready to get on the trails, you are hyped about the great weather that is on the forecast for the weekend, and you get on your favorite trail locating resource (AllTrails: Trail Guides & Maps for Hiking, Camping, and Running | AllTrails), and you can't find anything in your area... Yeah, a big bummer. Or is it?
AllTrails is a member-driven community with 300,000+ trails. The keyword is "member-driven" or submitted by the greater hiking community at large. While I am sure that they have a crack team of hiking enthusiasts that are on the case of creating trails, let's be realistic here and recognize that our public lands are so expansive, that it would be hard to document everything by a single company that's sole mission is to provide the means to access the world.
Kudos, bravo, and high-five to AllTrails for the platform, but we all have to do our part to help build out the community of trails and recognize, that just because you search and don't find it, that doesn't mean that it's not out there.
So before we get started, let's rewind for a moment to ground ourselves in a few resources, check out the following Blog Posts on types of land and mapping.
Help Resources Related to Hiking Trail Types
Let's start with the blog on Types of Public Lands for Hiking, Photography, and Your Dog: National/State Parks & Forest, BLM, WMA, this resource is good to ground yourself on where you can actually hike without gaining permission from the land owner.
With a wealth of options make sure that when you look at the AllTrails map that you're somewhat familiar with where you're seeking to go hiking, and even this one doesn't cover all the types of classifications
Additionally, depending on if you are trying to head out regardless of the AllTrails maps not present in your search, check out our resources on TrailHack#101: Mapping: Finding Trails on Your Own and the Apps to ‘Lifehack’ Your Adventures to help you navigate where to go.
Getting Back to AllTrails and Where's My Trail?
While in a perfect world, all the trails would have a map already associated with them, you'd be able to download them for offline consumption and get outside. Unfortunately, many places just don't get enough traffic to warrant content just yet. That doesn't mean that you can't help with this. So what can you do?
User Generated Content on AllTrails
You could do like many friends of the trail community and sign-up for an AllTrails account find the trail on the map and submit it for review. While it's under review, depending on your account subscription, you can download the offline map to your handheld.
Map Your Own Trail
See the aforementioned blog on TrailHack#101: Mapping: Finding Trails on Your Own and the Apps to ‘Lifehack’ Your Adventures, which is much more intense than just picking another trail around on AllTrails.
Give Me Some Context for Unmapped Trails
Let's talk about the idea behind user-generated content on AllTrails. One of our favorite places to hike is G.R. Thompson State Wildlife Management Area. The dog can run fairly free since it's a Wildlife Management Area, it's close to home, and it's low traffic. You could probably argue that it's low traffic because there are few trails mapped, but let's use this as an example for giggles.
As you can see from the AllTrails Map of Trails near G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area, there are plenty of trails to meander your way through the WMA. And frankly, you could go out and just walk. Fair warning, those are some lengthy segments, so be prepared to walk quite a bit if you venture into an area you're unfamiliar with.
But clearly, there are plenty of switchbacks, loops, and egresses from the roadway to entering the trail system. AllTrails has about 4 trails pegged on this one.
If you were to click on each of these 4 trails, you'd see that there were a significant amount of trails that are unmapped (see below). And let's be clear, it's not AllTrails fault that there are a few trails that are unmapped ... no one is being negligent or vindictive, it's just they haven't been submitted. It boils down to scarcity, unlimited needs, and limited resources.
So you can either venture out on the trails and navigate via offline maps, although this one probably has cell coverage since it's close to Front Royal. Or you can map it in the software and submit it for a trail map.
For the record, that loop in the center is one of the best trails to hike in that area. It has a fairly good up and down that will get your lungs going and a small water feature midway through the trek (if has recently rained). But if you click on each trail for the area, you'll see that the circle in the middle is missing (we submitted a trail for it with this blog post, by the way).
So what does that mean? Clearly, there is a trail that is there, can I hike it?
Theoretically, if the trail is there, it's plausible you can hike it. Most of the trafficked areas like this are maintained and it's probable that the trails are there
HOWEVER, this is where I put the disclaimer ... refer to your state and local government websites for closed trails and information about trail maintenance
For what it's worth, even the ones that are mapped are not always a guarantee. We hiked Sleepy Creek in West Virginia on a 7-mile loop around the lake that WAS mapped out in AllTrails and on Garmin, EXCEPT there was no trail for 4 of the 3 miles.
How Do I Map and Suggest A New AllTrails Trail?
So not that you've pinpointed on the map where you want to go and draw out the map itself, you can submit it for the moderators at AllTrails to review. You've done your part and progressed the community forward.
Once you've submitted the map, you'll see the Pending status and if approved will be available for regular consumption. And you might need to embrace an adventurous spirit and go hike it before you submit it, but you'll feel accomplished when you do.
Now hop on AllTrail and get outside! Happy Hiking!