If you’ve ever monkeyed around in Google Maps, you know that Street View gives you the chance to click on certain locations in major cities around the world and open a window that gives you a 360-degree, panoramic visual of what that location looks like from the ground. Yesterday Google announced that they’ve expanded Street View to include 13 more cities and Yosemite National Park.
You can click along anywhere on the park’s Street View-enabled roads to catch sights of park headquarters, landmarks, and campgrounds. You can even pick your own favorite stunning shot of El Capitan. It’s like taking a mini-trip, complete with Yakima-topped minivans snarling in traffic behind you.
We tracked down Peter Birch, project manager for Google Earth, who frequently hikes, bikes, and skis in and around Yosemite. “We’re driving on the street to get imagery on the ground level,” he said. “I’ve been to Yosemite a zillion times and every time I drive there I’m totally blown away every time I see El Cap, but it’s still great to have it there (online) no matter where you are in the world.”
The street view adds a new layer to map coverage. You can see how tall the trees are, read trailhead signs, even see how many campers were at Sunnyside Campground when the Google van drove by.
Yosemite’s the only national park on the list so far, but Google says they plan to include more — we personally can’t wait to virtually hike up Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier. It’ll be a great way to check up on our favorite spots in our national parks while we’re chained to our desks on deadline. The sometimes-pixelated photos aren’t quite as good as the real thing, but what is?
Birch couldn’t agree more: “There’s no substitute for getting out there.”
— Ted Alvarez & Kris Wagner