Big brother–style tech is helping hikers avoid crowds

In Washington State, a group of researchers is mining social media posts and photos to identify overused trails and turn your next weekend adventure into a real escape

Appeared in Outside Magazine

When you head out for a hike this summer in many areas in the mountains just east of Seattle, a government-sanctioned program will be watching your Flickr photos and Instagram posts, noting where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to. While this sounds like creepy Big Brother invading your privacy, the researchers aren’t actually interested in you personally.

Instead, they’re training the tools of Big Data on social media in hopes that the information they gather can improve your future visits to public lands.

The program in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is the first of its kind in the country. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, which lies on the west side of Washington’s Cascade Range between the Canadian border and Mount Rainier, is one of the most popular national forests in the nation, with an estimated 2.2 million visits in 2015. That’s likely increasing, thanks largely to Seattle, the fastest-growing big city in the nation. More than 940,000 Seattle-area residents said they hiked in 2017, a number that has doubled over about a decade, according to the Seattle Times… (continue)