Thursday, April 25

AllTrails is essential for hikers of all levels

Close your eyes and imagine a stereotypical hiker. Do the words “rugged” and “rugged Ford” come to mind? Are they wearing khaki shorts? Does a tube attached to a CamelBak hang from their mouth?

Whatever you imagined, this hiker is probably using the app All trails. In fact, almost everyone is. Even people who don’t know what a CamelBak is or have no idea what the term “round trip” means. In the world of AllTrails, a hiker, whatever their level, remains a hiker.

Many of them find the app the same way.

“Just through Google, How to Get Started Hiking, AllTrails would come up a lot,” said co-owner Jessica Wood Custard, an ice cream parlor in Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s a free app, so we said, ‘We’ll download it and see what happens.’ » “We never deleted it.”

This is of course intentional. What started in 2010 as an idea backed by a seed accelerator — Silicon Valley talk of an incubator program — quickly became a juggernaut that swallowed up many of its competitors. Three years later, AllTrails had raised nearly $4.5 million in funding. In 2018, previous fundraisings were eclipse when the company raised $75 million.

However, like so many pandemic-proof businesses, the app, which contains details of hundreds of thousands of hiking trails around the world, has truly seen its star rise in the wake of Covid.

“Even before the pandemic, we were still seeing very high growth rates,” said Ron Schneidermann, who took over as CEO of AllTrails in 2019. (The company’s founder, Russell Cook, left in 2018.) “But in 2020, we suddenly saw triple-digit growth during lockdown. There was nothing else to do.

Ms Wood, who describes herself as “a brand new hiker with no experience”, used AllTrails “almost every day” during the summer of 2022 while she and her husband Alex waited for business to end, which allowed for headache.

“It really felt like a professional hiker was telling us how to hike,” she said, referring to the frequently updated trail reviews that other users leave with details about the trail. condition of a trail or if it is a safe place to bring animals or children. .

“I would say my toxic trait is that I’m a very avid reader of reviews,” said Eva Jee, a food writer and restaurant professional in Denver. “If I’m planning a big hike, especially if we’re spending the night in an area I’m unfamiliar with or on a trail I’ve never hiked before, I’ll scroll down and read the hike reports from the recent weeks.

Ms. Jee, 41, says she will often use these assessments to determine what shoes to wear, whether a trail is shady enough to wear a hat and what time of year is best to see the aspens change color or to take in wild flowers.

“You can glean so much information,” she said.

Gabby Rumney, a 28-year-old project coordinator for the National Grocers Association Foundation in Philadelphia, said she turned to the app before and after hiking the 2,193.1-mile Appalachian Trail in 2021. ( “That 0.1 really matters,” she added.)

“It was a good introduction to understanding trails, reading maps and understanding terrain differences,” Ms Rumney said.

And even if she prefers the application Far For more difficult hikes like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, she said AllTrails is much more accessible to a wider range of hikers.

“I think in hiking there’s often this connotation that, ‘Oh, you have to be physically fit and have all this expensive equipment,’” Ms. Rumney said. “Part of this is true because it makes things easier. But at the same time, we walk, and unless you have a disability, it should be accessible to everyone.

At AllTrails headquarters in San Francisco, the word “accessibility” comes up a lot. “A lot of people were coming to us or were interested in the outdoors, but they didn’t consider themselves outdoor enthusiasts,” said Carly Smith, who joined the company in 2021 as director of marketing.

Ms. Smith arrived after two major milestones at AllTrails: In January 2021, the company reached 1 million paid subscriptions to AllTrails+, which allows users to download maps for offline access, among other features. (Trail maps and basic aspects of the app’s search function remain completely free.) And in November of that year, AllTrails announced that it had obtained $150 million in additional funding.

Under Ms. Smith’s supervision, AllTrails has become sleeker and more lifestyle-oriented. Where hikers were once offered the chance to “find your next favorite trail», they are now invited to “find your outside”. Within the app, users can view their stats for the year and track how long it took them to complete a hike using an interface that’s not that different from fitness apps like Peloton or Strava.

Now redesigned to appeal to your Gen Z cousin as much as your crunchier, outdoorsy uncle, AllTrails has been named Apple’s 2023. app of the year for nurturing “the community through comprehensive trail guides and outdoor exploration for all.”

“In software development, there aren’t a lot of award shows,” Mr. Schneidermann said. “This looks like our Pulitzer Prize.”

And like any 21st century company, AllTrails has redoubled its efforts to expand its network of brand ambassadors and influencers. During Black History Month, for example, the company unveiled a clothing and accessories collaboration with three black artists in support of the association Adventures of the Vibe Tribes. In March, AllTrails products highlighted of six brands led by women.

Evelynn Escobar, the founder of the non-profit association Hiking Clerc, said she had recently been in contact with AllTrails about a potential partnership. Although she doesn’t credit AllTrails with introducing her to the joys of hiking — that honor belongs to an aunt who took her hiking in and around Los Angeles as a child — the app is ” at the heart of my outdoor lifestyle,” she said. “I build my hikes from what I find there.”

As a result, Ms. Escobar provided each member of Hike Clerb’s inaugural class of hiking guides with an AllTrails+ subscription, so they can better plan their hikes, which are aimed primarily “at black, brown, and indigenous women, as well as than to people of a broad gender.

“The outdoors is still a very homogeneous space,” Ms. Escobar said, citing her early trips to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. “I noticed that in these outdoor recreation centers, there are always only white people here.”

But if AllTrails succeeds, the national park system could soon be filled with a younger, more diverse user base. In March, the company revealed its Public Lands Program, a partnership with land managers at 270 parks across the United States that allows them to access real-time data on trail activity and also send real-time trail condition alerts to users from AllTrails. Participation in the program is free.

According to AllTrails, a 2023 pilot test with Olympic National Park in Washington resulted in a 66% decrease in search and rescue incidents on two of the park’s most popular trails and a 62% decrease in such operations on all park trails compared to the previous one. year.

Connecting park rangers directly to users could also help avoid negative press, such as an incident last fall when SFGate reported that AllTrails was giving users directions to a dangerous tourist attraction on the Hawaiian island of Kauai that has been closed for more than a month. In response, the company encouraged users to “help us maintain accurate and up-to-date trail information by suggesting changes or leaving reviews.”

AllTrails relies on users not only for edits and warnings, but also for advice on adding trails. The company’s data integrity team investigates and then approves or rejects the suggestion. “We’re going to first take this through a whole layer of machine learning, computer vision, validation, and then it all goes through a whole level of human healing first,” Schneidermann said, even though he readily admitted that the exterior is, by their nature, subject to change.

“Once a trail goes live on our site, it doesn’t mean it’s static, but it will be forever,” he added.

Just like the trails themselves, hiking habits can change over time. Some think this means eventually moving away from AllTrails and venturing out on your own.

“If I were in the shoes of someone whose beginner hiking experiences were through AllTrails, I would say it’s absolutely worth a try to stop,” said Ryan Tripp, a student in 21-year-old environmental engineer at Dartmouth College who grew up hiking. near his home in Oakland, California, and led his own hikes.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say turn off your phone, turn everything off and go into the woods,” he continued, “but I think a gradual letting go has the potential to be really rewarding and to expose people to what I think are the benefits of being outdoors,” such as feelings of self-sufficiency and independence.

“Technology will continue to seep outward,” Mr. Tripp said, citing the ongoing debates on whether mobile phone service and infrastructure should be expanded in national parks.

But Mr. Schneidermann insists that AllTrails are strictly for the outdoors, even if users look at their phones rather than at weather-impaired trail signage. It no longer views other hiking apps as its competition and instead focuses on being an alternative to tech companies like Facebook and TikTok.

“There are incredibly strong, well-fortified companies recruiting some of the best minds, you know, designed to keep people behind the screen, inside all day,” he said. “And obviously, we are the anti-Metaverse.”