Why Guidebooks are Better Than Geotags, Wilderness Press

Why Guidebooks are Better Than Geotags

Leave No Trace recently released their new social media guidelines, asking outdoor enthusiasts to pause for a moment to think about the impact their social media post may have on the lands we love.

The first guideline is “Tag thoughtfully,” referring to the geotags (a link to the exact spot where someone took their epic Instagram photo) we all have added at least once to our posts. While geotags may have started out harmless, they’ve caused places to get overrun by tourists and have harmed delicate environments.

If you’re a person who has admittedly scrolled through Instagram looking for just the right scenic spot to take your new profile pic, it’s ok! Now that we know better, we can do better. You can use a guidebook to hike and discover magical, Instagram-worthy spots yourself.

Guidebooks will get you to a location safely.

Sure, you can come across a pretty photo, click a geotag, then zoom in on a map and try to get yourself to that exact spot. However, a map on Instagram won’t show you how long the hike is or how steep the climbs are or if you should take a left or a night at the fork. A guidebook, on the other hand, will give you all of that information (and more!), so you can decide for yourself if the effort will be worth it.

Guidebooks keep you on the trail.

One big issue with photos is that you can’t see what’s happening beyond the frame. You don’t know whether someone took a closed trail or trampled on some fragile plants or disturbed some nesting wildlife just to “do it for the Insta.” The one purpose of a guidebook is to allow hikers to appreciate the outdoors while keeping them educated and informed.

Guidebooks will give you more than just the directions.

Forget the adage “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Looking at a pretty photo and clicking on a tag doesn’t tell you about the geology, the history, or any fun tidbits about the ground you will walk on. But do you know what will? Guidebooks! They’re like having your own tour guide on call at all times and help you appreciate your hike.

Guidebooks can lead you to even better locations.

Let’s be real—anyone can park their car at an overlook and walk a few steps to take a well-posed photo that crops out the road and the crowds and the visitor center. An author of a guidebook knows trails backwards and forwards, knows all open the side trails, and can lead you to even nicer and more remote views that are worth the effort to get there.

So next time you’re itching to explore somewhere new and are looking for ideas, put down your phone and pick up a guidebook. Our lands will thank you, everyone will wonder where you took those breathtaking photos, and you’ll have a secret spot for years to come.


Tanya Twerdowsky

I am a Jersey girl living in Alabama who loves to run far and eat lots.

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