Take a Virtual Hike in our National Parks!

Wendy Redal March 9, 2012 3
Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon. Photo credit: naturevalleytrailview.com

Nature Valley Trail View may be the next best thing to being there…

While nothing can compare with actually standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon gaping into the chasm’s shadowy depths, or wandering Yellowstone’s trails listening to steaming geysers and bubbling mud pots, or drinking in the misty air of the Great Smoky Mountains, a new digital tool can get you closer than ever before—right at home!

If you need a quick mental break, want to plan a trip or experience a taste of the hiking options in three of our most iconic national parks, Nature Valley Trail View takes you there.

The online tool created by the granola bar manufacturer takes the concept of Google Street View and applies it to the national parks, offering a range of immersive content through panoramic views and interactive guides to Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains national parks.

Nature Valley Trail View calls its multi-faceted platform a “blend of boots-on-the-ground fieldwork and future-forward digital technology,” which actually takes you on virtual hikes in a rich visual realm by clicking on specific trails, zooming in on landmarks, and using directional arrows to navigate your “hike.”

Mt. Washburn

Yellowstone’s Mt. Washburn Trail, as seen on Nature Valley Trail View.

The website is the first large-scale application of experiential, street-view style camera technology to the national parks. The remarkable footage was captured last August and September by a team of 4 to 8 people who hiked 300+ miles of trails at the three national parks in a period of just under two months. Editors from Backpacker magazine led the crew through the parks.


The backpack-mounted 360-degree camera used to create Nature Valley Trail View imagery. Photo credit: Mat Bisher.

Outfitted with a unique 360-degree backpack camera, the team spent 8-10 hours a day, averaging 6-13 miles, recording every step taken on trails ranging from easy to expert. The Dodeca 2360 camera, mounted on a backpack, utilized 11 lenses to capture 360-degree imagery that was stitched together into one immersive view.

Nature Valley, a subsidiary of General Mills, has launched the new digital platform to encourage outdoor exploration and education, an expansion of its long-standing commitment to America’s national parks through its “Preserve the Parks” program with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

Preserve the Parks is designed to encourage Americans to get outside and visit the parks, while raising funds for their preservation. The program has funded restoration projects in support of several of our nation’s parks, including Acadia, Biscayne, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Joshua Tree and Yellowstone. In 2012, projects near Everglades National Park will also benefit from the program. General Mills has donated more than $820,000 to the group in 2010 and 2011.

Try out Nature Valley Trail View for yourself, then take the next step: visiting our parks in person! On Nat Hab’s Canyons of the Southwest adventure, you’ll find the quieter side of Grand Canyon National Park on the North Rim, where we explore from our base at the classic stone-and-timber Grand Canyon Lodge. (This trip also visits Zion and Bryce!)


Bison, Yellowstone National Park. Photo: National Park Service/Josh Robbins

And there’s no better option for discovering Yellowstone’s wonders – out of the way of tourist crowds – than with our seasoned naturalist Expedition Leaders. Check out our summer and fall Classic Yellowstone Wildlife Safari , our wintertime wolf-watching expeditions, and our summer and winter photography tours. You can also put together a fabulous custom family adventure in Yellowstone – details on all these options are in the American Adventures section of our website, or speak with one of our Adventure Specialists at (800) 543-8917.

If you’d like to learn more about how Nature Valley Trail View was conceived and produced, check out this feature story in the New York Times and watch the video footage on The Verge.

Here’s to our exploring our national parks,



  1. My hat is off to the Nature Valley Trail View team! I know what it’s like to carry that camera system, power it, manage hard drives, connections etc. It is not easy, and I stand in awe of their accomplishment here. I first took a Dodeca 2360 to Denali NP in 2005 and hiked with it there. By 2009, I had recorded panoramic imagery with it in 7 more National Parks on my downtime from recording street-level imagery on a, seemingly, endless work roadtrip.

    In 2010, I tried to take it on a private Grand Canyon river trip, but the logistics were simply impossible with my budget (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/GrandCanyonGigaView/grand-canyon-gigaview). I ended up going with the GigaPan system to create ultra-high resolution images instead of continuous capture imagery. To date, over almost a half a million users have explored Grand Canyon GigaView via Google Earth (via 360Cities.net), GigaPan.org, Photosynth.net, & Bing Maps Photosynth Map App. Created over an 18 day private river trip on which I rowed one of the rafts, it is a set of 33 GigaPixel images at or near the river level. Anyone can zoom into the Canyon on Google Earth and find it there represented by round, red 360 icons.

    In the three years since I worked with the Dodeca 2360, I’ve honed my craft in gigapixel panoramic imagery, posting over 400 panoramic images to Photosynth.net account (GigaView), many from the National Parks. In January, I joined the crew of Google-Trusted Photographers as part of the new Google Business Photos program, creating high-resolution virtual tours for the INTERIORS of businesses on Google Maps – https://maps.google.com/help/maps/businessphotos/

    I love what I do, but I would have loved to have been a part of Nature Valley Trail View, too. I can’t wait to bring the technology I’m using today back to our National Parks and shoot 360° video through Lava Falls in Grand Canyon while I’m at it.

    Thomas Hayden, Portland’s Google-Trusted Photographer

    • Miguel Barrios August 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      I’m an avid hiker with a passion for nature and ambition to spread knowledge about the beauty of mother nature. I’ve been hiking Southern California trails for a number of years and am very eager to continue exploring more. I love that you finally have brought to reality something that I’ve been pondering about for years! I’ve wanted to something similar but lower budget for local hiking trails.

      Anyways, I would love to help out if you need any assistance with any national parks in the Southern California area. I’m also a graphic designer so I can assist with marketing and design ads!

      Keep up the good work!


  2. Adazi March 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    I like U.S. National Park,and I’ve reproduced your Blog,thank you so much 🙂

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