The 10 Best Apps for Hiking
We love the idea of disconnecting from technology and getting out in nature to enjoy, well, the natural things in life. However, sometimes it’s nice to have something to make your time in nature better, and safer, too.
We’ve all had those times where we’ve gone out on a hiking trail and sworn we were heading in the right direction only to find out hours later that we took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Thankfully, we’ve all made it out of that situation to tell the tale, but it’s not something you want to continue to risk.
Sticking to the trails is also critical in many areas to keep from harming the natural habitats of the flora and the fauna. And sometimes it’s also critical for yourself to steer clear of any danger.
So, if you’re directionally challenged (no judgment because I certainly am), want to stick on the right path, and want to stay safe while you’re out hiking, I’ve got some top-notch hiking and navigation apps that will get you where you want to go.
So put away your fold-up map and your stress about getting lost, and download one (or more) of these apps for your next outdoor adventure. And don’t forget to download the KOA Camping App – it’s perfect for finding a place to rest your head after a day on the trail.
THE HIKING APPS YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD NOW
Chances are good that you’ve at least heard of this app, possibly even used it yourself. It is the most popular hiking app out there, and for good reasons.
AllTrails is home to the largest collection of curated trail maps. The app allows you to search over 200,000 different trails – from big, popular hotspots to spots you’ve never heard of and that you may have all to yourself.
With this app, you can choose your trail based on the amount of time you have, the length of time you want to explore, the reviews of the trails, and the level of challenge you’re looking for. You can even filter your results for trails that are great for dogs and kids or opt for ones that are known for their views.
One of the fun things about this app is that you can create your own trails and share them with other users on the app. This is ideal if you’re an adventurer who really goes off the beaten bath and discovers something new and exciting to share.
When it comes to safety, AllTrails can be used as a GPS tracker for when you’re in the wild. And if you opt for the pro version (for $29.99/year), you can download and save trail information for if and when your phone goes out of service.
The basic version of this app is free with the option to upgrade to gain access to additional features.
2. GAIA GPS
Trusted by guides and hike pros all over the world, Gaia GPS is a hiking app you want to have on your phone.
This app does it all: helps you find your next trail to conquer, helps you plan out your own route, and even helps you find both dispersed and established camping spots around the trails you’ve got your eye on.
If you know you’ll be heading out of service, you can take advantage of Gaia GPS’s downloadable maps for offline use. Both on and offline the ma will tell you the mileage to your next intersection from your current location. And you can choose which style of map you want: modern topo maps, historic, or standard. All are easy to use and will get you where you need to go.
You can also record your hike so you keep track of where you’re going for future use, or fun just a fun reflection of the day.
This app was recently purchased by Outside Inc., and with that transition gained some new features. The free basic version of the app stays essentially the same with the ability to plan routes, record your hike, and use the maps.
However, with the new and improved Premium version you get:
- Access to the entire map catalog, which includes National Geographic Trails Illustrated, high-resolution satellite maps, slope angle shading, and USGS maps
- Ability to layer maps for camping and new trails
- Downloadable maps for offline use
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been out on a hike, looked up, and wondered “what mountain is that?” It seems to happen every time I go out in nature.
Thankfully, there’s an answer for that, and it can be delivered right to your phone. PeakVisor is an app that uses your location, your smartphone’s camera, and technology to let you know the name of the peak in question.
This app has information in the form of names and elevations of over 1,000,000 peaks all around the world – from Switzerland to San Diego.
In addition to that, PeakVisor helps you navigate hiking trails with its realistic 3D maps. This allows you to truly visualize where you’re going and plan accordingly.
Another unique feature of this app is its sun and moon trails. These trails show you the movement of the sun and the moon, which is great for knowing where to point your compass and is also ideal for photographers looking for when the lighting will be just right to snap the perfect photo.
You can take PeakVisor’s features offline when with the Pro version. This is ideal for when you’re heading off the grid but still want to know where to go, or in case you’re curious what those faraway mountains are and whether they’ll be your next adventure.
4. GOOGLE EARTH
This may not be an app that pops in your head as one to use when hiking, but we are here to change your opinion.
Google Earth may become one of your favorite adventure apps. You can use this to plan trips and get to the trailhead of your next escape. You can also calculate elevation gain and loss so you can see what an accomplished day of hiking you had. Google Earth allows you to get as detailed as slope angles and water sources.
And the best part? It’s free and doesn’t require a subscription of any sort to unlock all of the features.
If you’re a hiker who appreciates the aesthetic of nature but also loves a good app aesthetic, then you are in for a treat.
Spyglass uses augmented reality technology to help you navigate your way on trails as well as when driving, biking, boating, and flying. This app uses your surroundings and device data to track where you are, anytime, anywhere. And it does so beautifully.
The interface of the app is where you can access all sorts of features including:
- Map overlay
- Angular calculator
- Waypoint tracker
- Sniper’s rangefinder
- Coordinate converter
- Zoom camera
- And more
With this you can also navigate your way using the stars. Now that’s connecting to nature on an entirely new level.
6. STAR WALK 2
Speaking of stars . . . if you’re into astronomy, we’ve got an app that will bring new light to your hikes and your way of looking at the starry night.
Star Walk 2 is an app that allows you to identify the constellations right above you while you’re out in nature, in real time. It provides you with information to see what objects in the sky are visible from your current location, and the best time to see them. This can be everything from the Big Dipper to the ISS to a comet.
A cool feature of this app is the ability to lower the visual magnitude so you see only the brightest objects in the sky. You can also activate the app’s night mode so that your eyes can better adjust to the night sky and not be interrupted by a brightly glowing phone screen.
Another thing we love about Star Walk 2 is that you can use it to look at stars and constellations from anywhere on the planet at anytime in the past, present or future. Does that make you a time traveler? We think so.
7. FAROUT (FORMERLY GUTHOOK)
Got your sights set on doing any long-distance hikes? Don’t embark on one without FarOut. This app was developed by long-distance hikers and features over 35,000 miles of trails that are reliable and available offline.
The data for all the trails in FarOut’s database comes from trusted hikers and organizations and is constantly reviewed to make sure everything is up-to-date. You can even look at alternate routes and side trails if you’d rather go a different way. You also get access to the app’s waypoints which include detailed information from previous hikers who have embarked on the trails before as well as other trusted sources.
You can also use the app for detailed trail information like:
- Water sources
- And more
FarOut has a great safety feature that allows you to share a check-in with your current location and a personal message to let your friends and family know you’re okay. Though this may not be necessary for short hikes when you’re embarking on something like the Pacific Crest Trail, it will come in handy.
The app itself is free but each guide is purchased separately and the prices for those guides vary anywhere between $4.99 and $59.99 depending on the trail length and popularity of the trail.
Though many people use this app to book campsites, there is far more to it, and that’s what we are here to share with you today.
Recreation.gov is your go-to source for booking all things related to national parks and wilderness areas. Use it to plan and reserve a ranger-led tour and get permits for wilderness areas. Use it to enter lotteries and buy interagency passes.
9. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
It’s no secret that we love national parks, and we are willing to bet that you do, too.
That’s why the National Park Service app is a must on our list of top hiking apps. You can use this app to explore over 400 national parks across the country.
Head here for information on where to camp, what tours to book, what park amenities are available, and more.
When it comes to hiking, the National Park Service app provides you with details on the most popular hikes in each national park as well as the length of the hike in terms of distance and time.
Like most apps on this list, the maps on this one are available for offline use.
To ensure the highest level of safety while you’re hiking, you want to download the Cairn app. This is especially true if you are someone who does a lot of solo hiking.
Our favorite part about this app is that it takes your current location and estimates how long it will take you to reach the end of the trail. It also tracks your progress and does so even when in offline mode.
Even better is that the app provides you with information on where other hikers have found cell service along the way. Opt to be notified when you reach cell service so that you can make any calls or send any messages to let loved ones know you’re safe.
The free version of Cairn gives you access to basic features such as maps, trails, and cell coverage. By upgrading to the paid version you can use the entire app offline, including live progress updates to the emergency contacts you set up. This is very important in the case of a rescue situation.
As you can see, technology can make hiking more fun, more accessible, more adventurous, and most importantly, safer. Take a look at the above apps before heading out on your next hiking or camping trip and see which ones you feel you can’t live without.