When you’re setting out on a trail, you want your level of preparation to be juuust right. You need to know enough about your route through nature so you don’t end up on a trail that’s too hard, too easy, too hot, or too crowded. But you still want there to be a sense of exploration and adventure.
Helping hikers, runners, and mountain bikers achieve that balance as they hit the dusty trail is the aim of Strava’s newest feature, Trail Routes. Released Wednesday, Strava Trail Routes are an interactive portion of the app’s map that shows trail networks all over the world to help users choose the route that’s right for them.
“People want to explore. They also want to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into,” MacBeth Watson, Strava’s vice president of design, said at an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “Planning and making decisions about where to go is an important part of the process.”
Trail Routes is the latest Strava feature designed just for paying members, joining perks like advanced performance metrics and a personal heatmap. (A one-year subscription to the app costs $59.99.)
As a subscriber, when you click on the Maps icon in the bottom of the Strava app, you can select for the activity you want to do, whether that’s hiking, mountain biking, or trail running. Then, when you zoom in on a trail network, you’ll be able to see individual routes with activity-specific information including distance, level of difficulty, elevation, and more. Then, you select a route, which generates a map for you to follow. As you traverse the trail, you’ll be able to see if you’re staying on course. And you can, as always, use Strava to track your activity, post photos, and add the map to your feed to demonstrate how you made it yours and rack up those sweet, sweet kudos.
When asked at the Los Angeles event how Trail Routes is different from competing trail map services like AllTrails and Komoot, Strava CEO Michael Horvath referred to the platform’s community. All of the trails are based on routes that Strava users have taken themselves, as is the data powering the information about the routes, such as average completion times. For example, when using the product in the Santa Monica Mountains near Inspiration Point, multiple trail options appear. There’s the Malibu Creek Trail, Inspiration Point, and one trail called MASH. A Strava engineer explained that some of the trails get their names from the open source map platform Strava builds upon. But other trails are named by community members themselves; the MASH trail is what Strava users call the route to the original filming location of the TV show M*A*S*H.
That said, it doesn’t have reviews and hiker notes, like AllTrails does. It’s less Yelp for hikes than it is a Google Maps for the mountains, built right into a platform many runners and cyclists already use to track their workouts.
Of course, no one wants to be looking at their phone while out in nature. But a map of a route that’s been both created and tested by fellow off-roaders is helpful to be able to consult at a moment when you’re trying to decide which way to start out on a loop, or when forks in the road appear. Case in point: When demonstrating the product in Los Angeles, a hike leader realized she’d taken a wrong turn right off the bat, and the group was able to quickly get back on track. Phew!