For the past few years, my friend Guthook ( Ryan Linn) has been working on a set of iPhone apps to incorporate the best features of a smartphone with a hiking trail guide in order to supplement paper guides (never to replace). Just over a year ago, he released the first set of those apps, a guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now, after many major improvements, with a lot of encouragement from friends in the hiking community, he’s finally got the Appalachian Trail Hiker app ready to go!
If you had a chance to use the PCT apps over the last year, the new map should look familiar– There’s a basic topographic map with the Appalachian Trail and major side trails. Little icons show points of interest like water sources, campsites, peaks, views, shelters, and trail heads. Tapping any of the icons will let you see more info about the point, including photos, elevation, and descriptions of what’s available there.
The feature that hikers asked Ryan for the most last year was an elevation profile. And that’s here, too! The profiles show major points of interest along the trail, which can also be tapped to get information just like on the map. You can scroll and zoom the profile, as well. You can also jump from points in the map to the same point on the elevation profile, or vice versa, from the point-of-interest information screen. Best of all, the elevation profile will show your location if you’re within a hundred yards or so of the Appalachian Trail.
One of the most useful features on the point-of-interest info screen is a virtual trail register. Hitting the “Write in Trail Register” button lets you write info or snarky comments about the area. Once you’re done writing, the register entry is broadcast to all other app users so that they’ll see a list of register entries when they open the info screen. If there’s something about a shelter or campsite that needs to be shared, that info will get out as fast as you like.
Along similar lines, there’s also a section for “Trail News”, which is for sharing info that’s more widespread. If there’s a major trail relocation, a new permit system (like in the Smokies), a festival happening near the trail, or even if you’re just sharing a the contact info for people doing shuttles to the trail, that news will get sent to other hikers as well. Of course, app users can mark news posts as useful or not useful, so that spam gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and important information is the most visible.
Ryan has been working like a madman to get these apps together in time for hiking season this year, so I hope you all like them. Right now, the new version of the apps is only available for the first 450 miles or so of the Appalachian Trail, but He’ll be updating the PCT apps before the end of the month, and there will be other trail sections coming soon. Happy trails!