Getting Lost in the Trailk AKA Alltrails App Review

So I’ll start with I’m not going to fault AllTrails for this, I didn’t use it well, and that’s my own fault.


AllTrails is a website/app that people upload trails into. It’s great for me going into places I don’t know to find popular places where people run. And when you use the app, you can view the where you are on the trail and where you need to go, and all that fun stuff. It’s free to find trails, but if you pay for the pro version you can then download a variety of maps for the trails or area when you don’t have service. I went for this, in part because I impulsively put my finger on the home button of my phone and got it, but it actually seemed useful too.

What pops up when you search in AllTrails

I use it for finding trails, making sure I’m on the right trail, and then recording my distance like a GPS watch for when I’m just doing my own thing.

Anyhow, it’s useful app, and does what I need it to. Back to the travels. I stayed outside of Spokane on some BLM land, which was a really nice prairie land. And I would have run here, except the slightly irrational fear, that much of the land around here is open hunting land, and I know it’s probably a rare event but accidents happen. So I popped on AllTrails and found the most popular, “moderate” hike to do.

Off to the Iller Creek Conservation Area!

There was one car in the parking lot, and another car pulled up as I was there—a really cool guy from Utah who was mountain biking up there, who gave me some recommendations and then hesitantly told me how to approach the trail, holding back because it has ~1500 elevation change from going up and over the “hill” and then back, and he was skeptical of my running. 

I keep this in mind and take off up the trail, the 1in gravel fire road quickly gave way to soft single track, all uphill. The trails at the first point began to intersect and figure eight with each other, I tried to follow the most recent bike treads, since I”m a real tracker, and I figure Utah man would have gone the big loop I was planning. 

I looped my way around and eventually got down the trail to take me to the far side. Now this is where my “mental compass” utterly failed. I came down the canyon side feeling like I had come down counter clockwise, so when I hit the far parking lot, I thought continue left here. There was a trail that continued that direction, and it started going up as expected. Now this “trail” went up, winding up the hillside, then it slowly began to go more steeply up the hillside, then all the way straight up the hill side. On top of that, it wasn’t as much a trail as much as it was more of a gutted, dried out, water canal—that you couldn’t fit both feet next to each other in. That’s where it started to feel like maybe this wasn’t right, but I figured I’m ¾ of the way to the top, maybe I just took a wrong turn.

Now when the “top” of trail leads to a set of radio towers, that also should have signaled a warning that “Hey, maybe I’m not in the right place”. I get to the top, and glance as a guy disappears running down towards where I came from, which gave me a misguided glimmer of hope…then I finally pulled up AllTrails.

Map of my run, the blue highlights where I was supposed to go, the red is where I went… Maybe the 2700ft elevation change explains why I was so tired?

It turns out I was in that next ridge line over; I had two options: 1) run all the way back (at this point I was about 5 miles out) 2)  looking at the map it seemed there were some roads which worked there way down and then there should be a connector trail back to the trail I had come down on. That seems shorter and quicker, and with the zero ounces of water I had brought, seemed like the best option. 

I start on some nice service roads, then turn down into a private neighborhood, which I began to work my way up. Which then led their way to another service road, because the other hillside I was supposed to be on was below a different set of radio towers. There may have been some obstructions in the road that I had to go around, and after frequent AllTrails checking, and shamefully some walking because it was getting warm, and at some elevation. 

I got back successfully to the parking lot, now that that adventure was over, off to Idaho! 

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