- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - People interested in getting outdoors in Vermont and New Hampshire this summer have a new online tool for learning about trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and other activities.

The new Trail Finder website allows residents and visitors to search for trails by town, trail name or any of 15 outdoor activities, such as backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, officials said Wednesday. There are 289 trail areas on the free website, which has interactive maps, high-quality graphics, information on difficulty levels and other details, they said.

“A lot of what’s in here are the small local town trails that you might not know exist. So you wake up in the morning and say, ‘I would like to take my dog on a hike to a waterfall.’ And you can search for that,” said Russell Hirschler, the executive director of the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, which developed the website along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Center for Community GIS, a digital mapping company based in Farmington, Maine.

Unlike many trail programs or apps that are created with input from users, the trails featured on the Trail Finder website are built with the permission of landowners and trail managers, organizers said.

“Anything in Trail Finder means that it’s been vetted, is a place that the public can go and walk, ride a bike,” said the Alliance’s trails director, John Taylor. “We have motorized vehicle use in here as well.”

Chipman Hill, in Middlebury, Vermont, for example, has an elevation about 360 feet above the town’s center, offers wonderful views and is good for walking, hiking and mountain biking along a 5.1-mile trail, the Trail Finder website says. Sugar River Recreational Rail Trail, in Claremont and Newport, New Hampshire, boasts a picturesque 9.7-mile riverbank path good for riding motorized vehicles, biking, hiking and horseback riding, it says.

The website evolved from a site begun by a Burlington group. While the site can help people learn about the difficulty of a potential hike and offers photos from the trail, it’s not going to replace trail guidebooks anytime soon, Taylor said.

“We want to help fit people to the right trail system,” he said. “It’s not going to have all the detail a guide has.”

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Online: https://www.trailfinder.info/

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