Using social media as data to better understand recreation on public lands

If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second

Appeared in Science Findings

The Snow Lake Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Less than an hour from downtown Seattle, the trek into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness provides spectacular views of waterfalls and a lake. The splendid scenery provides the perfect backdrop for photographing and posting wilderness experiences on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

A few years ago, outdoor recreation planner Sarah Lange and recreation program manager Dave Redman, both with the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, were frustrated by the scarcity of information on how specific trails or sites in the forest were being used. Lange was familiar with work by researchers at the University of Washington, who were using social media to track visits to national parks. She wondered if the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest could use social media posts by visitors, such as hikers on the Snow Lake Trail, to track visitation… (continue)