I’ve mentioned in previews that I’m not very good at guessing distances for park walking paths. My method consists solely of visualizing my junior high’s quarter-mile running track, and then trying to decide if a path I walked is longer or shorter than going around the track. I think we can all agree this is an unreliable method for judging distance.
But during a conversation with a park administrator about unrelated questions, he tipped me off about online running maps. I visited a couple sites and really like On The Go Map.
You enter the park name and city in the Go to Location field and the map moves to that park. Zoom in or out as needed. On a phone or tablet touch and hold to get your start point on a walking path or trail. (I’m assuming a mouse click works on a PC.) Then touch and hold for waypoints and your end point. Your route will be highlighted, and the distance measured. You can also select an automobile if you want to measure distances on streets.
I don’t think the distances are completely accurate. They seem to report slightly longer measurements than what is actual, based on a couple tests I did where I already knew the distance. But being off by a few hundredths of a mile is a much better option than my running track visualization method.
For anyone with mobility issues, this is a useful tool to aid you in deciding how accessible a specific area of a park is for you. Though of course, it won’t tell you how level or not trails and walking paths are, or whether benches are available for rest stops.
Another online map service I was tipped off about during the same conversation is the King County iMap service.
I often stress the value of looking at Google satellite view for getting a good visual idea of park layout before visiting. But parks are often renovated, so the satellite view can be very outdated for all or a portion of a park. The Magnuson Park wetlands are a good example of this.
On the King County iMap you can sometimes get a more recent aerial view. The most recent available is 2013. The map covers the entire county, so any park in Seattle, several suburbs, and unicorporated areas, is included.
On the iMap page enter the park name in the search field and you will be taken to that map location. Then click on the menu item at the top that shows four squares and you can select the most recent aerial view.
One of the best things about these King County aerial maps is that you can zoom in fairly close and still get a clear image. The drawback of aerial views is that while you can visually see layout, distances, and often park bench locations for accessibility purposes, you can’t tell how level or hilly the terrain is.