High-Tech Trailhead

We hit the trails to escape modern technology, right? While this is mostly true, we still like to maintain some link to the 21st century even when we make a point to commune with nature. Lots of us use apps like Strava to track our steps or biking miles. It’s also wise to just have your phone on you for safety purposes. Let’s discuss, then, why it is a great idea for trailheads to have free Wi-Fi.

The reason that trails don’t just have a beginning trailhead and an ending trail head is much the same reason we have exits every few miles on the interstate highways. There needs to be several access points along many miles for both safety and convenience. Some trailheads are just a sign post and a parking lot. That’s fine and we need those types too. But who among us doesn’t love to see a trail head with facilities, trash cans, maps and pamphlets, and most of all a sign reading “Free Wi-Fi”?

The Depot Street trailhead on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail is simply a sign and some parking spaces.

Here are THREE main benefits to having free Wi-Fi at your trailhead

1 Safety– If you happen to be in an area where your cell service is weak or non existent, getting to the trial head with Wi-Fi allows you to at least contact help if you have an emergency, need a ride because your car needs a jump, or don’t feel safe. Even though we love to unplug, we also want to feel secure on our adventures by being able to contact the outside world should it be necessary. 

2 Convenience– Mobile devices have become an integral part of our society and they are not going anywhere soon. You don’t have to feel like you are selling your family short if your trail time includes mobile devices. We love to take photos for ourselves and to share on social media. It’s nice to be able to look up information about nearby restaurants, gas stations, and lodging while at the trailhead. As long as your devices are not taking over the experience of being on the trail, you are doing great. 

3 Attraction– Trailheads that are well developed are good for small towns along the trail to attract tourism. Everyone needs to start a trip or make pit stops somewhere. If you live in a trail town, then one of the goals is to make your town “the place” where everyone wants to kick off a trip or make sure they stop by. The Rail-Trail system can be an economic boom for many little towns. 

The Uniondale trailhead on the the D&H Rail-Trail has a bike rack, picnic table, port-a-johns, trash cans, and a large sign with maps available.

Now that you know there are great reasons to have free Wi-Fi at your trailhead, how do you go about making it happen? In our town, this was a combined effort of our local businesses alliance, the trail council, and phone company. If you are a trail enthusiast, start with the trail council. Bring the idea and its benefits to someone who can get the ball rolling. Then, volunteer to help with the project. Many hands make projects like this actually happen. 

What other elements make a great trailhead? What other reasons are there for developing a trailhead and adding free Wi-Fi?

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