Exciting New Changes Coming to Google Maps

If you love getting lost in nature, that will become more difficult in April this year. Google Maps on iOS and Android will get four new updates for America’s national parks to delight hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. What are the changes, and how will they enhance your national park experience?

Top Attractions in National Parks

Savage Alpine Trail, Denali National Park
Savage Alpine Trail in Denali National Park & Preserve. Photo credit: NPS Photo / Emily Mesner

With assistance from the Maps community, visitors can quickly find important park information, including top attractions, popular activities, trailheads, campgrounds, and visitor centers.

Let’s look at an example using Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Search for the park, and you will quickly get photos highlighting attractions like Brandywine Falls, Ledges Overlook, and Beaver Marsh. Want more information? Tap an image. Now you can see videos and reviews from people who have been there. It will even tell you when to see attractions to avoid crowds. Making itinerary decisions, even on the fly, is a snap.

Blazing Trails

If you struggle with direction, this feature is a dream come true. A past Google Maps search for a trail resulted in a pin. Somewhat helpful, but not really. Now, it will highlight the entire path from start to finish, providing details such as the type of trail, distance, difficulty rating, and if it is best suited for running, walking, or cycling. 

You can quickly identify wheelchair-accessible courses. Plus, you can see photos and reviews from visitors who have hiked the trail. You will know exactly where to find the path and what to expect. No more getting lost at the proverbial fork in the road.

Guided Tours

After determining the attractions you want to see and the trails you want to blaze, Google Maps is your tour guide, leading you there with simple, accurate directions. Google Maps will highlight park entrances, mark restroom locations, and provide walking and cycling directions to trailheads. You appear as a dynamic blue dot on the map so you can easily track your progress or find your bearings. 

Some parks have multiple entrances, leading guests to question which one to use. With visual tools and detailed information in your hand, this no longer needs to be a point of stress. Need help to figure out where to park? Google Maps, your virtual park ranger, will also provide guidance here. 

Download Maps for Offline Use 

Are you concerned about reliability? National parks deliver wildlife adventure in spades but regularly leave you with little or no cell reception. Google Maps has you covered here as well. You can tap a download button, safely storing your map for offline use should you find yourself without internet access or cellular data. Your backup plan is in place.

Perfect Timing

The updates for Google Maps come at a perfect time, with National Park Week occurring from April 22 – 30, 2023. All national park sites will waive admission fees for visitors on Earth Day, April 22. The future has arrived. Pick a park to explore, try the new Google Maps features, and enjoy nature.

Choosing a Park to Visit

With these enhancements, your hardest decision will be which park to visit. According to Google Maps data provided by Product Manager Michael Curtes, these are the top-rated national parks in America:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, and Tennessee
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  3. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
  4. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  6. Acadia National Park, Maine
  7. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  10. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Getting Lost in the Woods

The Google Maps updates will roll out throughout April, covering all national park sites in the United States. Future updates will include parks from around the world. Although these technological advances can enhance your park experience, remember the main point of going into the woods is to lose yourself in nature.

Featured image credit: NPS Photo / Emily Mesner

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About the author

We are Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.