WishTrip: New app makes hiking fun | Phoenix.org
WishTrip: New app makes hiking fun

WishTrip: New app makes hiking fun

Papago Park, photographed by Annika Tomlin

By Annika Tomlin | December 16, 2021

With mountain views in every direction, Arizona is a hiker’s dream. However, navigating the trails is not always easy when it’s a family affair. WishTrip is a hiking app that injects fun in the activity.

“The app was conceived by our founder and still CEO Yakov Slushtz, and what happened was he was hiking with his wife,” says Sarah Hein, WishTrip marketing director.

“They were looking for a landmark, and they were searching and searching. They said, ‘You know we have wonderful GPS for our cars. How come we don’t have the same thing for the great outdoors?’ That’s where the idea of WishTrip was born.”

In 2017, WishTrip began as a “navigation app,” according to Hein, but evolved into what is now an “adventure creation app.”

“One of our core functionalities is that our app provides very accurate and easy-to-follow point-by-point instructions,” Hein says.

“Whether you are following someone else’s trail that they created or whether you are following one of our games, or whether you are in a WishTrip destination following a trail that they created.”

The following year, WishTrip added games and activities to the growing app. Papago Park is the only hiking range featured on WishTrip.

“The reason we chose Phoenix, Arizona, to unveil the games, and why we created them in Papago Park for free, is because Phoenix has nice weather all year round,” Hein says. “Phoenix is a tech-savvy metropolitan area because we want a population who will be able to easily adapt to the app.

“Papago Park in particular has very rich history and very rich wildlife, so we were able to create very interesting games with really interesting content in a relatively small area.”

The Papago Park games and activities are split into four age groups.

“We have a game for 3- to 7-year-olds called Desert Explorers,” Hein explains. “This is a game that teaches kids about the Sonoran Desert, and it’s very interactive because kids this age learn by doing and by action.

“For example, one of the activities is to feel the leaves of this particular type of plant. Another is pretend you are a cactus and grow very slowly.”

Children ages 6 to 12 can play “Do You Have What It Takes to be a Leader?”

“It takes you around different parts of Papago Park,” Hein says. “It asks the participants to either do some kind of activity or complete some kind of challenge, and we connect that challenge to a famous person from Arizona.”

For example, Hein says, hikers learn about Arizona native Steven Spielberg when they reach Hole in the Rock.

“We also have one on the Double Butte Loop trail, which is intended for teenagers and any sort of active adult,” Hein says. “It is an active, interactive hike where we teach you about the landmarks that are on the trail and also about some of the old fixtures.”

For example, hikers can learn about the old amphitheater on the Double Butte Loop trails.

The games wrap up with a “very high-level trivia” activity for all active adults. One question asks, “What was one of the things that Papago Park was not used for?” The choices are: to house prisoners of war or Native American rituals and religious ceremonies.

Hein offers advice to families ready to embark on a hiking adventure.

“You should know that if you are going to go to Papago Park to play the games, we highly recommend that you download the app ahead of time so that it is ready to go,” Hein says. “Most of the games start at the pond, so you’ll want to park in the parking lot near the pond if you want to play games.”

The app and its games are free. “Papago Park is a public access park,” Hein says. “Everybody can come, and it’s a really enjoyable hour or two with the family. We really, really encourage parents to go and play with their kids.”