Walk The Distance is the type of program that will motivate a very specific type of person to get off the couch and get some exercise. Instead of walking you avoid zombies or catching Pokemon, it lets you virtually hike long-distance routes like the Appalachian Trail (AT) and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – perfect for those who don’t mind our local hiking trails but want something a little more scenic. .
For every mile you drive at home, you’ll see a small icon where your photo moves across the map, going between popular landmarks like Springer Mountain in Georgia or Kennedy Meadows in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. And as you reach certain points, Walk The Distance will give you pictures and facts about them. It’s like playing in a way The Oregon Trail, instead of sitting in front of the computer, you do some exercise. (It should be noted that in fact there is the official Oregon Trail app (It does something similar if you prefer a more historical trip.)
When I used it, I enjoyed coming home from a ride and looking at the app to see what landmarks I passed. The descriptions it gives you are short and sweet, explaining things like the weather or scenery in a particular location, or going over certain aspects of hiking the trail, but for me, the photography makes them worth checking out every time. I also found myself looking at the map ahead and planning how far my next hike would be – I used AllTrails (another great app) when I read a description of Hawk Mountain Shelter that said the next stop was about seven miles away. Find an eight mile hike nearby.
In theory, all my short walks will add up to thousands of miles and I’ll complete the Walk The Distance version of the AT. The app also offers a variety of short hikes through different national parks and cities if you want to start with a slightly less intimidating goal.
Since you saw the screenshot, let me get this out of the way real quick: I don’t think Walk the Distance is a great-looking app. Actually, I think it’s a little ugly, to be honest. If you can look past that, though, the app’s functionality is pretty solid — you can see where you are in relation to other users who have virtually walked it, review your ride history to see how many miles you’ve logged each day, and revisit points of interest you’ve already passed. The full backpack also has valuable settings that allow you to customize a lot of the experience.
There’s even a social element to Walking the Distance, though I can’t say I’ve played it much. In addition to all users publicly broadcasting their progress, you can also add friends to ride with, and the app has a mode that simply shows where you and your friends are on the trail. (If developers are looking for free advice, this should be the “tramily” section, not the “friends” section. trail and family portmanteau This is used in the hiking community. It would be a great theme, along with the app letting you choose a “track name” instead of a screen name.)
I also – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – appreciate Walk The Distance’s pricing structure. This gives you a lot of flexibility in how you want to pay for the app, or whether you pay at all. You can do the first part or two of the big rides for free, then pay to unlock the rest. Unlocking the entire AT is $4.99 and unlocking the PCT is $9.99. A few of the national parks and city tours are free, while others cost $0.99 each.
If you don’t want to pay for everything in installments, there’s a $2.99 monthly / $29.99 annual subscription that lets you do all your rides for free and unlock syncing with Fitbit or Garmin. Syncing with Apple Health or Google Fit is free (and since I use another app to sync my Fitbit data with Apple’s system, Walk The Distance picks up that data right away).
So far I haven’t reached the point where I have to start paying; For the AT, this happens at about 155 miles. However, I plan to at least buy this trail. REI, an outdoor gear company, actually estimates that hiking the Appalachian Trail is the same it costs about $6,000I really come out ahead doing this for five bucks.
Of course, Walk The Distance’s form of motivation won’t work for everyone, as not everyone is a huge hiking enthusiast. However, for those of us for whom it works, going to the next virtual retreat might be just the motivation we need to get off the couch and get outside a little. Personally, I’m looking forward to making significant progress on my virtual Appalachian Trail journey when I hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, because it’s something I find very funny.
Walk The Distance is available for free App Store and Google Play Store.
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