I created a virtual nature trail

For the past 18 months, I’ve been working on a virtual nature trail that goes from Washoe Lake State Park to Virginia City, Nevada. It was created on the online Google Earth platform (it doesn’t work on the desktop GE software but I’m working on a downloadable kml version.) It works in the Google Earth App too. https://earth.google.com/earth/d/1hDxTAiM5LY0ZnEiebeIWUS1sEHTqcXKd?usp=sharing

The trail features info about plants, animals, history, and geology. It features lots of photos by iNatters and links to species and observations. The work was funded by the Nevada OHV Registration Fee Grants.

I’ve discovered one great thing about a virtual nature trail is that the info can be easily updated without printing and installing new signs. I think it could be a really great tool for nature preserves and popular hiking trails. I’m happy to answer any questions about how it’s built.

Edit: To expand on it a bit, Google Earth has both a WYSIWYG editor that allows multiple photos and formatted text, and an HTML option that allows fancier formatting. Many of the stops on my trail use the HTML option so I can include iNat photos that are linked directly to the observations. It also let me place the photos within the text instead of above, so stops like the Great Basin Geology can have images placed next to the relevant text.


this is good stuff.

another option for making virtual guides is StoryMaps in ArcGIS. examples:


Is there a phone app to use with story maps? We explored using them but we lack the right ESRI license to build and publish them and would have needed to borrow one from another agency.

i think the StoryMaps platform is meant to be entirely web-based, but it works well as a web app on my mobile device. for example, both the the Tidal Thames tour (one of the more complicated 2D tours with other mixed media) and the Race to Everest (one of the 3D tours) work just fine on my Android 11 Pixel 3a.

i wasn’t necessarily advocating ArcGIS StoryMaps over Google Earth. each have their pros and cons. i was just pointing out alternatives for folks who were interested in this sort of thing.

Wow, very impressive!


@jdjohnson That is a very cool idea, i think there’d be a lot of value in creating similar virtual nature trails for roads and trails our ranger district. Thank you for sharing your creation here.


I will likely be hosting an online workshop on how to build these trails at the Congress for Conservation Biology next summer if you need any help getting started.

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That would likely be of interest, thanks.

Very cool. Sounds like something you might be able to do with Geocaching’s Adventure Lab too!

That looks like a really neat platform, thanks for sharing!

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