Using Google Earth for Hike Planning If you have been around the Internet for the a while you probably already know about Google Earth. Google Earth is a satellite imagery system that is available for free for your computer. The program allows you to vie w 3D images of our planet, and zoom in very close to a location. You can search for landmarks, addresses, and many other items using the layers available for it. Something that I have recently started doing (primarily just out of plain curiosity) is using Google Earth to see where I am going to hike. By no means does this replace a topographical map, but it is a lot more enjoyable to be able to see where I plan on hiking from the expansive satellite imagery available. All you need is to know the general ar ea of where you are hiking, and you are generally able to find the trail head; by following the roadways to the parking lot. Another option is to download the GPS data for it and Google Earth will plot the location. At www.AlbertaTrails.ca, they actually plot the trail as well, so you are able to follow the path you will take. As mentioned earlier, this doesn't replace any maps that you will need on the trail, but it is a nice addition to your hiking trip. Don't confuse Google Earth with Google Maps, altho ugh Google Maps does offer satellite imagery. Google Maps is a web based service primarily used for searching for directions or local businesses. AlbertaTrails.ca implements Google Maps on their website, showing the hiking trail from a birds eye view. Google Earth is a 3D model, where a user can rotate, zoom in and out, and "fly to" other locations on the map. These two services offered for free from Google are a very powerful duo allowing potential hikers to see where they plan on going before hand. It is also nice to return to your computer after hitting the trails and see where you hiked. Google Earth is available for download as part of a Google Pack, which includes Picasa for organizing, editing and publishing photos, Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar for safer browsing and Google Talk, an instant messaging program. Note that you can choose to just download Google Earth by deselecting the other software. Article courtesy of Alberta Trails.ca http://www.AlbertaTrails.ca - Find a hiking trail in Alberta Alberta Trails.ca has a growing database of hiking and scrambling trails in Alberta. The website offers an interactive search by map feature for hikes near you.