Street-level heatmap shows you where people run, hike, cycle and paddle

Credit: Strava

Strava, the activity tracking app first launched in 2009. For the past eight years, the company has been recording where Strava users run, cycle, swim, ski, and paddle. Now Strava is displaying all that data in a heatmap, and they’re sharing it with the world.

The result is staggering. Anyone can now zoom into Strava’s map and observe micro-local data on where people are most active. The heatmap pulls data from 31 outdoor activities and has built-in filters. The filters are useful for finding places for specific disciplines like paddling or hiking.

“A global community can seem very abstract until you see its activities visually represented in your immediate location and across the world,” Strava CEO James Quarles said in a press release. “It’s not just runners and cyclists, either—skiers, hikers, kiteboarders, and even mountaineers on Everest are all counted in the more than 1 billion uploads of the Strava community.”

Practical Use

I wanted to see just how accurate of a heatmap we’re dealing with, so I tested it on some known hot activity spots near me. A favorite 40+ mile bike/running trail lights up like a Christmas tree.

Zoom in closer, and it even appears to distinguish parts of the path that see the most traffic.

One Shirt = One Tree
Plant a Seed
Strava Heatmap Trail
Strava’s Heatmap shows heavy usage on the Long Leaf Trace Trail in Hattiesburg, MS

I don’t live in a major metropolitan area, so I figured the data would be limited, but that’s clearly not the case.

For my next test, I tried turning on the Strava watersports filter.  There are a few popular kayaking spots nearby, and the Strava map nailed them. Impressive!

The bright squiggly line on the left is a popular kayaking spot serviced by two outfitters

Engineering the Heatmap

The heatmap has been available since 2015, but as of November 1, 2017 the map now includes six times more data than before. In total one billion activities from Strava are involved on the map.

Strava says the entire recorded activity duration is 200 thousand years.

There’s not just more data, Strava says the code of the map was rewritten to allow for better resolution and rendering quality.


Some of you may be wondering? Is Strava crossing some boundaries when it comes to privacy? They addressed that on their engineering blog.

Most importantly, our platform has numerous privacy rules that must be respected:

  • Private activities are excluded outright
  • Activities are cropped to respect user-defined privacy zones
  • Athletes with the Metro/heatmap opt-out privacy setting have all data excluded


I have to give Strava credit.  They could just sit on this data, but instead, they’re it with the masses. Consequently, we all get a neat tool for finding that next great spot to get outside.

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