Tech Review: AllTrails

By Ron Scopelliti

In the past, I’ve tended to ignore the hiking trails right in my backyard, looking to Western Massachusetts and New Hampshire for my increasingly sporadic walks in the woods. But Paul Lonardo’s recent series of articles on Smithfield’s walking trails has inspired me, as I’m sure it has many readers, to check them out for myself. Though I’m familiar with some of them, there are a few that I’ve either not visited in a while or never visited at all.

Of course, always wanting to go into the woods fully prepared, a hiking app for my phone has joined my Swiss army knife, insect repellant, and bear spray as one of my must-have accessories. After trying the Gaia GPS app and finding its selection of Smithfield trails seriously lacking, I decided to try out AllTrails.

Available through the Apple App Store or Google Play, AllTrails has both free and paid options. It allows you to search for trails, and filter the results based on their difficulty, the activities you want to partake in, whether or not they’re dog-friendly, and other parameters. It also suggests nearby trails based on your current location, or the area in which you’re searching.

It will show you pictures, descriptions, reviews, and detailed maps of the trails. A subscription to AllTrails Pro allows you to download maps to use offline, and allows you to access additional map layers with more map details. It also allows you to print out maps and to make custom trail maps.

Once on the trail, the app works as a GPS tracker, helping you navigate along on the trail and keeping a map of your journey. Upon completion, you can rate and review the trail, and share the results on all the popular social media platforms.

When I initially opened the AllTrails app, the first trail that appeared was the World War II Memorial Trail on Wolf Hill. But, since I was rapidly approaching deadline, I decided to check out the shorter trail at the Mowry Conservation Area, which Paul wrote about in the May issue of “The Smithfield Times.”

In addition to showing me a map of the trail, AllTrails showed me the length, the difficulty (or lack thereof), the altitude change, and the available activities along the way. After hitting the “record” button in the app, my location was accurately tracked in real time and recorded. AllTrails also kept a record of the distance I traveled, my elapsed time, the elevation change, and the estimated calories I burned (which it could have simply summarized as “not as many as I need to”).

Though the trail isn’t particularly difficult, some of the changes in elevation were more extreme than I predicted, and they made me wish I had access to the topographical map overlay available to paying users. At a cost of $2.50 per month if you sign up for a single year, or $1.65 per month if you sign on for three years, I can see where it would be worth it for someone who does a lot of hiking and mountain biking.

While I’m undecided whether I’ll spring for a subscription, I’ll definitely be accessing AllTrails to find new hikes, and to find my way on the hikes I’ve got planned for the future. Once I’m off deadline, I’m looking forward to revisiting Wolf Hill, and hopefully burning off more than my first recorded hike’s 281 calories.