trailI’ve always loved Nature Valley — those crunchy granola bars were the only healthy thing I liked as a kid. Well now I love Nature Valley a whole lot more. Why? Because the company’s given the “Google Map” streetview treatment to some of the prettiest trails in national parks across the US, and they’ve put in all of it online. So now there is a database of virtually accessible hiking trails that everyone can enjoy without even leaving their homes.

Make no mistake, this is a great marketing tool — “Hey look at this awesome thing we did!” But the thing is, it is an incredibly awesome thing. What the company undertook last year deserves an award.

What Nature Valley did is send a group of very in-shape 20-something hikers with high-tech recording equipment out onto trails in the Great Smokies, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Sequoia national parks. It took months to complete, but their tenacity is as-near if even more impressive than the streetview recording Google Maps crew. These guys are on foot and carry walking sticks.

The final project has been called Nature Valley Trail View, and it offers more than 400 miles of 360 panoramic views of trails within these parks. And it’s more than just clicking the forward-progress arrow or the backward progress arrow to take in the sights. They’ve also added Fun Facts, Preservation Notes and Panoramas (including audio, so you really feel like you’re there) to make the hiking even more interactive.

Like many of the things my spinal cord injury prevents me from doing, not being able to independently explore the woods hurts. Hiking was always something I enjoyed as a nondisabled child, so when I heard about Nature Valley’s online trail views, it was like God had been listening to me bemoan and gifted me with this. It’s truly one of the coolest sites I’ve seen online.

I have been to Yellowstone in person, so for me the Yellowstone trail views were a blast from the past. It was so cool to be able to finally “walk” the Uncle Tom’s Trail, since in-person it’s a steep stairway 500 feet down. And the Grand Canyon perspectives are just as stunning, especially the perch-like views of the trench captured by their agile hikers (damn them and their working legs ha, ha).

While these online panoramas and 360 trail views are nothing like seeing them in-person — that would require a much better graphics card — it’s truly awesome to even be able to see them, especially from the comfort of my fluffy bed.

These trail views are fuel for me to devise a way to actually see them in-person one day. It may never happen, and if that’s to be, I’m very grateful to good ‘ol Nature Valley for being so awesome and capturing these trails for everyone.

View the trails: Nature Valley Trail View

Have you devised a way to hike inaccessible trails despite your disability?