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Google Maps Will Finally Be Useful in State Parks

The app is getting maps that work offline, and the ability to show full trails.

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If you’ve ever been to a national park, you may have found it confusing to navigate. Trails seem to split off and recombine at random, and those vast expanses of natural wonder aren’t exactly dotted with cell towers and wifi hotspots to help you figure things out. Now, it seems Google wants to tackle the problem.

In a series of updates coming this month, the company aims to make Maps usable for navigating national parks. Between improvements to trail routing, highlights for attractions and sights, and that oh-so-essential internet-free mapping, Google Maps may soon be genuinely useful in a national park pinch.


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The first major update called out in Google’s blog post about the updates is highlights for “attractions” within national parks. Iconic locations within the parks — Google uses Old Faithful in Yellowstone as an example — will be marked on Maps just like any business. Photos, reviews, all the information you’ve come to expect from Maps.

Trails, too, are getting an upgrade. Rather than a search resulting in a single pin placed dead-center of the trail, Maps users will soon see the full length of their path; where it comes from, and where it goes. This will be massively helpful to anyone trying to get to those attractions — or just make it home to the car. Directions within those trails, too, will be made more precise and useful.

Finally, the big one: Offline maps. By downloading locations in advance, Maps users will be able to navigate through parks with limited cell service. National parks are famously untouched by modernity, which is great until you need your phone to tell you where the nearest bathroom is. Now, it can.

These few updates should make Maps much more functional for all your wilderness exploration and overland adventuring. Just, make sure you still take the time to pay attention to the park itself — that’s the whole reason you’re there.