Boots, Backpack and a Ubiquitous App

Close your eyes and imagine a stereotypical hiker. Do the words “rugged” and “built Ford tough” come to mind? Are they wearing khaki shorts? Is a tube attached to a CamelBak hanging from their mouth?

Whatever you imagined, that hiker is probably using the app AllTrails. In fact, just about everyone is. Even people who don’t know what a CamelBak is or who have no idea what the term “out-and-back” means. In the world of AllTrails, a hiker of any skill level is still a hiker.

Many of them find the app in the same way.

“Just through Googling, how to get into hiking, AllTrails would just come up a lot,” said Jessica Wood, who co-owns French Custard, an ice cream shop in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s a free app, so we were like, ‘We’ll download it and see what happens.’ We never deleted it.”

In the world of AllTrails, a hiker of any skill level is still a hiker.Credit…Danny Duarte for The New York Times

This is, of course, by design. What began in 2010 as an idea backed by a seed accelerator — Silicon Valley speak for an incubator program — quickly became a juggernaut that gobbled up many of its competitors. Three years later, AllTrails had raised nearly $4.5 million in funding. In 2018, previous funding rounds were eclipsed when the company raised $75 million.

Like so many pandemic-proof businesses, though, the app, which has details on hundreds of thousands of hiking trails all around the world, saw its star truly rise in the wake of Covid.

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