Mountains Make their own Weather
Have you ever planned a hiking trip in the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, or the Catskills, and tried to figure out what the weather is going to be like or what gear you need to bring along? It can be real frustrating, because mountains make their own weather, and weather forecasting services aren’t granular enough to give you highly localized information about conditions on the ground.
The only way to get any accurate information is to find recent trip reports from other hikers or to try to piece together a forecast based on regional weather forecasts and previous knowledge of the area that you’re going to.
But if you live in the Northeastern US, there is a fantastic hiking search engine, called TrailsNH.com, that indexes and organizes all the information you need to plan a trip. The brainchild of web designer and developer Kim Rexford, TrailsNH continuously scans trip reports from many regional hiking forums and popular blogs, geotags them, and plots them on a map so you can quickly scan through them to see what the weather is like in the area where you want to hike. Very Cool!
My Trip Planning Process
When I plan a mountaineering trip in the White Mountains, the first thing I do is check recent trips on Views from the Top, a hardcore peakbagger and hiking forum that has reports from all over the Northeast, including the Adirondacks and Catskills. If there isn’t a trip report for the peak or trail I’m planning to hike, I look for other reports in the vicinity about what trail conditions are like and whether there are alternate routes I can use that are broken out.
After that, I look at the High Summits forecast and the Waterville Valley Ski Report, and then I try to figure out how the high and low pressure areas and wind forecasts will manifest themselves in the different ranges and notches across the White Mountains. For example, I’ve found that when Crawford Notch has lots of snow, there’s often far less to the south, in the Sandwich Range.
Admittedly, there’s a certain amount guesswork, experience and voodoo. involved Plus, I always plan an alternate hike to fall back on.
Hike Planning with TrailsNH.com
But TrailsNH does most of this work for me now, pulling in trips reports from Views, as well as
- New England Trail Conditions
- Rocks on Top
- Hike-NH Forum
- ADK Forum
- ADK High Peaks Forum
- MW OBS Forum
- Alpine Zone NE Hiking
- New England Hiking Meetup
- and about a dozen northeast hiking blogs, including SectionHiker.com
But There’s More!
On top of that, TrailsNH.com also maps warning and advisories from the following official sources:
- USFS Road Status
- WMNF Visitor Alerts
- RMC Grey Knob Report
- AMC Huts Snow Report
- Waterville Valley Conditions
- NOAA/NWS Snow Depth
I didn’t even know that some of these information sources existed!
Trail Condition Listings
If you’re a peakbagger, you can view links to all of the latest trip reports for the NH 4000 Footers or the ADK 46 by clicking on a single home page link. I love the way that Kim displays the information here.
For example, for NH 4000 footers, you can see all recent trips reports and locate them on a map, including the trails that were used to summit the peak. Clicking on a trip report link takes you back to the original post itself, so you can see any pictures posted there, comments or additional details.
The Evolution of TrailsNH.com
Kim Rexford is an avid hiker, and as he describes it, TrailsNH.com originally started as a simple web application for his own personal use that read Views from The Top, and listed hyperlinks to the trip reports there, so he wouldn’t have to go searching through the forums for them. Over time, he incorporated other open source software with his application and mashed it up with Google Maps and RSS feeds from all of the forums and blogs, so hikers can see the latest information available at a glance.
While the information indexed by TrailsNH.com is incredibly useful in winter, Kim says that hikers use the TrailsNH.com search engine slightly differently in spring, summer, and autumn, to avoid muddy spots, locate peak foliage, or to find ideas for good hikes to go on.
Any way you slice it, I am completely WOWED!! by this free online web application for hikers and I will be using it for all of my hike planning in the future.
Disclosure: The author has no relationship with TrailsNH.com.