Trail Finder Makes Discovering Outdoor Recreation as Easy as Putting on Your Hiking Boots

Two people walking down a trail in the woods.

Getting outside is easy. But figuring out the best place for hiking, biking, paddling and everything else? That can be a challenge. Maybe your favorite trail is closed for maintenance. Maybe you're in an unfamiliar town. Or maybe you're simply looking for something new.

That's where Trail Finder comes in. Trail Finder makes discovering trails in New Hampshire and Vermont as easy as putting on your hiking boots. That's important in New England, where outdoor recreation brings in $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue annually, according to a 2017 study by the Outdoor Industry Alliance.

"There are so many hidden gems and amazing places to hike that most people don't know about," says Emma Tutein, a natural resources and land conservation field specialist with Cooperative Extension. "We're finding communities are particularly interested in leveraging their natural resources for the local economy."

Trail Finder brings together trail information, maps, and GPS data into one easily searchable, mobile-friendly website. Users can explore trails by activity, location and other categories. Looking for an easy, pet-friendly hike or a more intense trail run? Browse Trail Finder on your phone and you're good to go.

The site is a collaboration between Cooperative Extension, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA), the National Parks Service's Rivers and Trails Program, the Center for Community GIS and Vermont Parks and Forests. Information comes straight from the agencies responsible for each trail. Lelia Mellen, the New Hampshire projects director for the NPS Rivers and Trails Program, says the site is vital for users and trail managers. "The trail managers provide the data, and users can see what's being offered to them," she says. "It's good information."

Hundreds of trails are already on the site and more are added each week, giving hikers a wide range of choices. Additionally, it publicizes the work land trusts and other conservation groups are doing.

"We know that trails have a major economic impact on their communities," says Russell Hirschler, UVTA's executive director. "People using the trails benefit from Trail Finder, communities benefit from it and businesses are benefiting from it."

This story originally appeared in the 2017 edition of Radius.