Welcome to Devil’s Backbone, part of the Devil’s Den cavern and crevice system in Devil’s Den State Park Arkansas. Arkansas has amazing hiking, terrain, and apparently the people in Fort Smith are pretty nice too.
Hiking is a family vacation tradition for the Long’s dating back to the days of “high socks with stripes” and uncomfortably short shorts.
When I got the chance to go to Fort Smith, Arkansas I knew I wanted to take an extra day and go hiking, but I was unfamiliar with the parks around Fort Smith. So I began my Google map investigation. My goal with this post is to show you how to use Google maps to help you find the best and most relevant travel destinations for you. In my case that means getting back to nature.
Your first step in finding a hidden treasure using Google maps is to learn about the area. Simply, what is around Fort Smith, Arkansas?
Next I decided that I wanted to spend my time in an area that had a pretty high elevation change, so I used the “Terrain” button located in the more section of Google maps. I could tell by looking at the terrain that there is a 1000′ elevation change from the bottom of Lee Creek to the hills that surround the Devil’s Den State Park. This gave me a pretty good idea that the area not only had a nice winding creek, but indicated the area might be good for my hike.
Photography and the internet give you a more realistic idea of what you may encounter. In this case I could see waterfalls, caverns, cabins, bluffs, etc. Most of the map photos come from Panoramio as it allows the photos to be tagged with geographic locations.
In a separate trip to San Francisco I was able to find the Tourist Club near Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods using this same technique of user generated photography map discovery. Aww hell, I think that needs an acronym – UGPMD (User Generated Photography Map Discovery). Google does a terrific job of helping you find unique and scenic experiences.
If you’re brave enough, skip the “touristy” excursion on your next cruise and make one of your own by uncovering the scenic wonders of Chankanaab Park, Cozumel, Mexico from Google Maps (I also suggest additional planning to account for safe transport).
Another Google map travel insight is to plot your route and distances using the directions feature. It is also a “must” that you print off your maps and take them with you.
Even though you iPhoners may cringe at the thought of paper, I suggest you print maps for convenience and because “truly getting away” often takes you out of cell phone range.
Google Maps has indicated that my trip to Devil’s Den Arkansas from Fort Smith should take 55 minutes and is mostly an interstate route of 46.9 miles. However, I live in Houston and am tired of interstates. I might venture to say that I hate them.
So, I am going to use Google maps feature that allows me to drag the route to a particular road. I have now changed my trip to a more scenic route that drives up highway 220 and winds through some awesome terrain. My trip now has changed to 1 hour and 37 minutes at 47.8 miles. My concern however is with experience and not time, so I am satisfied.
One word of warning though – apparently in Arkansas, highways can be “dirt roads”. It was an adventure climbing over mountains passes in a rent car on highway 220, and one of the best drives ever. I would however suggest you decide if you are the type that can be out of phone range in rugged terrain separated from civilization. For me it is a yes.