How MetroParks has just made planning your hikes a piece of cake

Outdoor adventure seekers who want to explore the expansive trails the Dayton area has to offer can now easily investigate trail conditions and plan their hike from the comfort of home.

Google recently incorporated 360-degree virtual imagery of hundreds of miles of Dayton-area parks and trails into Google Maps thanks to the combined efforts of Five Rivers MetroParks, Outdoor Adventure Connection and the Dayton Hikers. An experienced team of four members of the Dayton Hikers along with MetroParks staff members captured more than 600 miles of hiking, equestrian, mountain bike, paved and water trails last year.

"This project is the most comprehensive of its kind in Ohio," said Amy Dingle, director of Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor connections. "Its success is a true reflection of the outdoor culture here."

The Street View Trekker backpack was mounted onto a utility cart to capture the nation’s largest paved trail network and secured on a kayak to record images of the rivers and lakes. The Dayton Hikers did the heavy lifting – literally – as they wore the 50-plus pound backpack unit, complete with 15 cameras, to capture 100 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

"Carrying this thing was fun for 10 minutes and then it was work," said Andy Niekamp, founder of both the Dayton Hikers and Outdoor Adventure Connection. "There were a lot of considerations. We had to keep it level at all times and had to use it only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to get the right lighting."

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Rain meant losing a day of capturing images. While it wasn’t easy, it was definitely worth it.

“The Dayton Hikers wanted to do our part to showcase the awesome trail system, not just to local hikers but around the world,” Niekamp said. “You can now check out trail conditions in advance and have more information about your visit.”

Information is key.

“Is the path four-feet wide and crushed stone or narrow and more of a wilderness experience – the more you can see the better,” said Brent Anslinger, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation program manager. “It allows someone to better prepare and match up the experience with what they want.”

From finding more accessible trails for a hike with kids and a stroller to gaining a better understanding of the waterway before a paddling trip, the Google Trekker images can be a tool for preparation and planning.

“And it can definitely help increase someone’s comfort level,” Anslinger said.

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The Google Trekker images may also increase the number of adventure seekers from outside the region who decide to travel to Dayton for their next outdoor adventure – a significant benefit as the recently-released economic report by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that outdoor recreation accounts for more than $887 billion in consumer spending annually.

“You have to be proactive,” Niekamp said. “We are the Outdoor Adventure Capital of the Midwest, but we don’t take that for granted.”

Images of the MetroParks' trails and public spaces as well as other regional parks and trails – like Bill Yeck and Grant parks and the Great Miami River and Stillwater trails – can be found at

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