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Guidepost: REI.com's New Trail-Locating Service

REI.com has just introduced Guidepost, a new trail-finding resource primarily for hiking, but also for cycling, climbing, paddling and numerous other outdoor pursuits. Here's the scoop on this new service:

Where to find it: Near the top of any page on REI.com, click the LEARN tab, then click Guidepost in the green bar that appears below the main tab.

Guidepost homepageWhat it offers: REI's Guidepost taps into content supplied by Trails.com, an aggregator of route descriptions found in outdoor guidebooks published by some of the best-known names in trail guides: The Mountaineers Books, Wilderness Press, Menasha Ridge Press and Falcon Guides among them.

What tools Guidepost provides:
• A regional trail-locator map (based on Google Maps).
• An activity filter. You can 1) choose all activities or 2) narrow your options; select only hiking, for example; or hiking and birding, or any combination.
• A brief overview of individual excursions (extracted from a guidebook).
• Driving directions (generated by Google Maps).

Guidepost also supplies trail data (in most cases, all of the items below):
• Suggested activity (hiking, cycling, at al.)
• Nearby city
• Trip length
• Elevation gain
• Skill level
• Duration
• Suggested seasons
• Trailhead elevation
• Top elevation

How to use it: Pick a geographical region. Zoom in or out as you please. When you zoom in, clusters of routes will appear in gray circles. Zoom in closer and individual trips (marked by orange pointers) will appear. (Note: If markers disappear from your screen, just adjust the map a bit with the hand tool; I find they pop back into view.) Scroll over the pointers and the name of a trip will appear. Click to see details. If a screen appears unresponsive, REI's tech crew tells me to try viewing Guidepost in a different browser.

Guidepost sample: King County, Wash., region

What to expect: You will find driving directions to the trip's starting point, the basic trail data listed earlier and a general overview of the trip. You will not, however, see the detailed description that the guidebook provides. Nor will you see maps or photos that accompany the description. That is premium content available via Trails.com, and a discounted 1-year subscription to Trails.com is available to REI members for $29.99. (Here's a sample of a subscriber's experience.)

Guidepost sample: Mt. Elbert, Colo., trip dataNotes on using Guidepost:

1. Driving directions offered via Guidepost are generated by Google Maps, which automatically chooses the shortest possible route it can calculate. This usually works well for paved roads, but when dealing with the labyrinth of unpaved roads that crisscross federal lands, some double-checking would be wise. I investigated a trip involving a favorite hike at Mount St. Helens using Guidepost and found the driving directions steered me onto a Forest Service road that, while more direct to the trailhead, was one that I know from past experience is too rough for a low-clearance passenger vehicle.

Trail signTip: Before heading out on any trip that involves travel on secondary, unpaved roads, research the conditions of those roads. Seek out the ranger district that manages the area you are visiting and contact that office (via website or phone) to determine current road conditions. If an alternate route to a trailhead exists, it's good to know that in advance. Always carry a map of roads found on federal land.

2. More than one trail description for a particular destination may appear on a map.  This is because Trails.com is citing 2 or more guidebooks that describe the same trip. That's often a sign that the destination is particularly worthwhile. It won't hurt to compare the information provided.

Happy Isles sign3. Physical guidebooks remain excellent resources of outdoor knowledge, and flipping through their pages is an enjoyable exercise in armchair adventuring. In the Northwest, I've hiked with authors who I regard as 2 of the best, Doug Lorain and Craig Romano, and know that the big publishers and their top authors are diligent to publish revised editions and keep trail info accurate, detailed and on target. REI carries a fine assortment of the best trailguides in circulation.

Tip: It's a good practice to carry a photocopy of a trail description during a backcountry excursion. If a trail junction puzzles you, an author's comment can help you make a confident choice about which path to travel.

4. Cynical minds may think REI is using Guidepost as a sly way to coax people into purchasing premium content. (As a four-star cheapskate myself, I admit the thought occurred to me.) Not so, my higher-ups tell me. REI envisions building Guidepost into a premier trail-locating service and foresees the future addition of customer trail reviews and trail-specific photo galleries. The goal: Make Guidepost and its mix of free and premium content an indispensible first-choice resource for adventure-minded people.

Posted on at 6:20 PM

Tagged: Cycling, Guidepost, Hiking, Travel, guidebooks, national parks, paddling and trails

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africaflyboy

This is pretty cool! I've wished I could find something like this online before. Will users be able post reviews of trails or add trails they find themselves? Will there be any international content available?

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SLO walker

A great website called WikiWalki.com provides trail locations, elevation gain, distance, etc. I use it a lot to measure trails I've found, which I can then submit to the system that makes it public! Definitely worth checking out!

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SLO walker

Also I forgot to mention that it does provide international trails!

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bccarlso

Would be useful if you could filter trips by distance and/or elevation gain, so you can find a specific type of hike easier.

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MamaBiker

TrailLink.com is also worth checking out. It provides free information about trails, including maps, descriptions, and trail facts. Users of the site can also post photos, ratings, and reviews, which is really helpful!

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