Maine’s one-stop shop for outdoors adventure gets an upgrade.
By Will Grunewald
[dropcap letter=”M”]aine has trails aplenty, from coast to mountains to north woods, managed by a jumble of land trusts, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. “There’s no guidebook you could make, with enough pages, that any human would want to carry with them,” says Stephen Engle, director of the Center for Community GIS, a Farmington-based company that provides digital mapping services. The web, he figured, was the only medium that could hold a clearinghouse of trail info for hikers, mountain bikers, and paddlers. So, in 2010, CCGIS launched Maine Trail Finder, at first featuring a few dozen trails, mostly in Franklin County. Since then, with funding from grants, the site’s coverage has grown to span the whole state. “My family is an avid user,” Engle says. “Like, ‘Hey, we’re driving home from visiting family in western Massachusetts, and I gotta get the kids out of the car. Where’s a great hike right off I-95?’” This spring, he and his team rolled out a sleek new look for the site, and he took us on a stroll through some of his favorite new features.
Racking Up Miles
In its second year, Maine Trail Finder cracked 100 trails; today, it’s in the neighborhood of 900. The goal, Engle says, is to hit 1,000 by next year. And now the site lets you log your hikes. Hit certain milestones — hiking seven trails in seven days, say, or completing 10 trails with historic landmarks — and you can earn digital badges, for bragging rights on social media.
The Blue Dot
Maine Trail Finder was built more as a planning tool than as a substitute for paper maps, Engle says. (A website isn’t much help if you’re out of range of data service.) But MTF does something an old-school map can’t: if you can load the website on your phone while hiking, a little blue dot, à la Google Maps, will now pop up and trace your progress.
Clickable trailhead icons that link to driving directions, pet-friendly trail designations, an events calendar for conservation fundraisers or birding expeditions — all new to the site. A “trailside resources” tab is under development, for inns and breweries and gear shops to advertise, as is a blog for curated travel ideas. “You love Tumbledown?” Engle proposes. “So does everyone else, but here are six great hikes within 20 miles of there to put on your radar.”