Long gone are the days when the only option for hiking was marking out a route on a map manually, and following it with a compass, or only following marked trails in national parks. With most of us now carrying smartphones wherever we go, the world of hiking possibilities just opened up. There are apps that will help you not only navigate, but will provide information for survival, notifications about weather and topography, help you plan your workout, or even identify the names and some facts about the mountains you can see from you trail’s viewpoint. We’ve outlined some of our favorites, that provide all of these features and more, to help you find the best hiking apps for your trip.
1. All Trails
All Trails is hands down the most popular hiking app for outdoors enthusiasts all around the globe. Whether you’re looking for a new place to run in your city, or creating your hiking bucket list, this app will truly inspire. On their app, they have a whopping 100,000+ trails, so it’s more likely you’ll find the trail of your dreams on here than any other app. It also has over 10 million users. The facts speak for themselves: this app is trusted by hikers and campers all over. And we think that the reason for this is that All Trails allows you to create a truly personalized hike.
There are many different filters you can use to find the hike that’s just right for you and your needs. You can filter by length, rating and difficulty level. You can also choose to search for dog-friendly and kid-friendly trails. Or, depending on whether you want to go hiking, mountain biking, or running, you can find the trail that’s just right. While at home, you can browse trails and reviews, and save your favorites, to create the ultimate hiking trail wish-list for you to work through.
All Trails gets its’ intelligence from its huge online community of users. You can use map overlays to see community geotagged photos; view waypoints from an active community of 10 million AllTrails users, and be recommended and check out nearby trails to explore all the possibilities. Before you go on your trip, you can browse on the app, hand-curated trail maps as well as trail reviews, photos and activity recordings contributed by a community of hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners and more. And to help you get there, there are even driving directions, that take you right to the trailhead.
With All Trails Pro, know what to expect with premium map layers, with real-time overlays that will help you accurately plan your hike for that day, or predict any issues you come across. The overlays include: real-time air quality, heat maps, and satellite weather. With this app, you can create your own custom trails in just seconds, and then download them onto your device or computer. Another great feature of this app, especially for those who like to go camping in a group, or with their friends at weekends, is that once you’ve downloaded your custom trail route, you can easily share it with them.
When going on hikes in the great outdoors, especially in more remote areas, we wouldn’t recommend just relying on your phone. It’s always good to take a map and a compass, just in case your battery dies. With this app you can use your customized hiking routes map offline, so you won’t need internet in remote locations to access it. And, even when offline, you can still see your location on the map! This is a unique feature, which you’re bound to find super useful on all your hikes. But, for extra back up, you can also easily print off your customized map directly from your app: so you’ll never be left not knowing which turn to take.
If you want to upgrade to a Pro account, they have several options available. You can pay just $2.50 a month, upgrade to an annual plan for $29.99/year or buy a lifetime license for $99.99. And with all these benefits, we think you’ll find it worth the investment: download maps for offline navigation, off-route notifications, so you never miss a turn, real-time overlays, so you can predict any changes in your plans, print your custom maps directly from the app, and use the app ad-free.
If you love some of the benefits that come with All Trails Pro, but want a completely free product, then consider looking at the Hiking Project. One of six apps owned by REI, Hiking Project is a part of a family of outdoor apps that should be on every avid hiker’s radar. Consisting of 38,865 trails (147,471 miles), Hiking Project has many benefits to using it. Similarly to with All Trails, Hiking Pro consists of a community of online hikers, who use the app, and leave custom routes and reviews. All of the information on hikes is user submitted, from its large community of users, including trail overviews, up-to-date conditions, need-to-know information.
You might be thinking: if it’s made by the contributions of individual hikers, is it as accurate as some resources made by experts? However, the information provided by this app is very thorough and accurate. Each trail features details of the distance, ascent, descent, and elevations. The hikes are divided by difficulty, so you can find the hike that’s just right for you, your group, and your unique needs. Users can add photos and reviews as well, adding to the information on each trail. From the trail information page, you can get directions to the trailhead, share it with friends, and add it to your “to-do” list for hiking it later.
Users record their own GPS Tracks for the community, literally mapping trails for others. This means you can be sure that these are tried, tested and loved hikes. Another benefit of Hiking Project is that you can download your trail onto your smartphone, so you can use this app effectively offline. However, it doesn’t have the same feature of All Trails where you can still use your geolocation. But you can save your favorite hikes, make a wish list, and share it with friends. Although it may not have some of the same special features of All Trail Pro, you do get a lot more functionality from it if you don’t want to pay for your app.
Designed for backpackers, Gaia offers topographical and satellite maps for any kind of outdoor adventure. Whether you’re on a day hike, a mountain biking trip, a hunting excursion, you’re going primitive camping, or deep in the backcountry, the app is built to get you where you’re going safely and with as much information as possible.
You can easily search for and explore new backpacking trails from the thousands on their database worldwide. Furthermore, you can also dial in your packing list with precipitation forecasts, wildfire burn zones, and timber-cut overlays at your fingertips. With offline GPS navigation, you can easily navigate your hike even in the sticks.
Gaia is a great option for you if you are a serious map nerd. They use National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps to help you plan your next backpacking trip with specialty maps for the John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, Appalachian Trail, and more. There are some useful overlays on the map which will help you really plan and prepare for your trip. Quickly visualize each day’s mileage and elevation gain with the Contour Overlay.
Plan for resupplies and water carries with detailed topo maps, road crossings, high-resolution satellite imagery, and intuitive tools for designing backpacking routes. There’s also the wilderness area and public land overlays. Discover new parks and forests to explore, find dispersed camping, and permitted off-trail hiking with land management boundary maps.
There is a free version, but it’s well worth it to get the premium membership ($40 for a year, iOS and Android), which lets you download maps and offers NOAA weather forecasts and layers to designate private land, public land, and recent wildfires. It also can be used in more than 30 languages, from Hindi to Hebrew, so this is a great option if you’re a hiker or backpacker of the world.
4. Topo Maps+
This app is perfect for serious hikers, who want detailed maps, and tools to help them predict every part of their hike, or any possible hurdle. The topographic maps made by the United States Geological Survey are top-notch when it comes to finding your way through rugged terrain. It features: easily downloadable USGS, Glacier Topo, Satellite, and Thunderforest topographic offline maps so you can use the maps even while deep in the backcountry. Another great benefit of this app, which isn’t true of all the hiking apps we’re looking at, is that you can use your iPhone’s GPS to view your current situation on the hiking trail, even when you don’t have a cell signal. Therefore, this is a great option for those looking to go to really remote climbs.
This app also helps you to create really customized hikes. Just tap on one of the 500,000 trails to see distances and elevation profiles. If you don’t want to exactly follow the trail, it’s no problem. The trails interact with your own traced routes so you can easily explore custom routes. In the wild, trails are not isolated segments between two points, they are a network of interconnected paths with numerous possible routes. Topo Maps+ lets you explore any possible route through a trail network: making it perfect for the serious hiker who wants to go deep into the backcountry.
Another unique benefit of this app is that you can add waypoints at important locations, like where you parked, so you can navigate to those locations easily, even offline. Topo Maps+ digitizes maps for over 500,000 trails. Another unique point is the battery-saving feature, so you don’t have to choose between safest following the trail and running out of battery.
Many of the apps we have looked at have some features to highlight the best hikes and trails for running or biking. However, if you’re looking to go hiking as a workout, there are tonnes of features in MapMyHike that will help you to feel the burn. MapMyHike is a supercharged hiking and exercise app. You can even sync the app with under armor smart shoes, to help you track everything from pace, stride length, and cadence.
You can even get personalized coaching tips along the way. It will tell you the total number of miles you have hiked in that day, and how many steps you have taken. It’s the perfect training partner to help you analyze your data, and help you prepare for your next challenge like a 5K or marathon, with adaptive training plans.
The digital tool allows you to discover new trails, save popular treks, and track your workout through information about pace, distance, duration, and insights on calories burned. By syncing the app to a wearable device like a FitBit, you can connect with friends and participate in challenges to stay motivated. If you’re looking for even more serious fitness features, like heart rate analysis and personal training plans, join the app’s MVP Membership plan for $6 a month or $30 a year.
Survival and emergency apps
Safety, when you’re hiking, is paramount, but it’s sometimes easily forgotten about on a long, stunning trail. However, especially for those of us interested in emote and backcountry hikes, it’s necessary that we have the right safety precautions in place. This in practical terms can mean a spare map, compass, emergency light signal, or paracord bracelet when camping. But it’s also worth looking into a safety app, like Cairn, to protect you on your hike and help you find your way home safely.
Cairn is probably the most trusted safety app for hiking. It’s a great option, for example, if you’re sending your teenagers off on their first hike on their own. Cairn automatically alerts your safety circle if you’re overdue and communicates important details, like where you’re headed and when you intend to return. So your family and friends will always know where you are on the trail, or if any issues have arisen.
The app crowdsources cell coverage areas, so you know where you can expect service before you set foot on the trail. See where others have found cell coverage on the trail with this unique feature, and know where you’ll be able to check in with your contacts or make an emergency call. Cairn is the only place you’ll find this specific sort of crowdsourced information for the outdoors. With this app, you can download a collection of free maps and trails with statistics for thousands of routes in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Based on a million-copy best selling book, this app is your starting point for educating yourself on survival measures. SAS stands for Special Air Service, a regiment of the British Army and widely regarded as one of the toughest fighting forces on the planet. This app was written by a former SAS soldier and instructor, combining more than 400 pages of text with videos, photos, Morse code, and compass devices, comprehensive first aid, and a quiz to test your knowledge. This fantastic free app provides you with a bare-bones guide to wilderness survival. Jam-packed with basic survival tools, you’ll be equipped for any expedition to the outdoors with this entry-level guide in your arsenal.
Nature appreciation apps
8. Peak Finder
We know that hiking isn’t just about exercise, or wilderness training. Hiking, most of all, is an opportunity to be surrounded by stunning vistas, get lost in thick forests, and stare out at landscapes that make us feel humbled by the magnitude of nature. As its name suggests, PeakFinder allows curious hikers to identify the name of any mountain in view by simply using the app to snap a photo of the peak ahead.
The topography-focused app contains the names of more than 650,000 mountains worldwide and uses compass and motion sensors to provide a panoramic rendering of the surrounding landscape for outdoor adventurers to document and share.
There are tonnes of functions of this app that will open your eyes to the topographical wonders around you, some of them include: press the GPS button bottom right to see the panoramic mountain view from your current location; by pressing the camera button you can overlay the image of your camera with the panorama drawing; touching a mountain name brings up additional information about this peak; you can use the telescope function to identify mountains in the distance, too.
PeakFinder knows more than 650,000 peaks, from Mount Everest to the little hill around the corner so wherever you’re hiking, use this app to understand the wonders of the landscape around you. This app also works offline, also provides daily sunrise and sunset times—information every experienced hiker knows is worth the app’s price.
More options for nature lovers
If you want to be able to identify the flora and fauna on your day hike, then the best app for you is Leafsnap. Leafsnap is a joint project between Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. It uses visual recognition technology to help you identify what species of tree a leaf is from just take a photo and the app will tell you what you’re looking at. It can also help you identify bark, fruit, and flowers.
For avid bird watchers, we’d recommend downloading Audubon Birds Pro. Even if bird watching isn’t your thing, it’s always great to learn some more about the natural habitat you’re leaping into. It includes the current AOU Checklist of North American Birds, and there are 808 species covered with photos and detailed descriptions. You can listen to the sounds that different birds make to help you identify songs and calls.
And, once you’re hike has wound down, or you’ve set up camp for the night, Download Sky Map or Star Walk to identify the constellations above you. This is a perfect activity if you’re going on a romantic hiking date. You can find the positions of the stars and planets by holding your smartphone up to the sky: the constellations are marked, and you can even time travel to see the difference in years gone by.
The best hiking apps help you not only navigate remote trail locations, but provide a whole world of other features and benefits. The best thing about these apps, we think, is that they will help you not only remain safe, and plan your hiking trails, but understand more about the natural habitat you’re immersing yourself in. They can open your eyes to a whole new world of outdoor adventures, whether it be by creating a bucket list of all the hikes in the world you want to complete, or even learning more about, and adventuring further into, the nature that’s closer to home.
Bonus tip: As we mentioned, by far the most popular app for hiking is All Trails. See if it’s right for you, and worth the investment of going pro, with this informative video!