The 5 Best Hiking Apps to Help You Get Outside
Looking for new trails or wanting to track your adventures? Camping & Hiking Expert Hannah K. shares the top 5 must-download apps for hikers!
Hiking and backpacking are some of the greatest ways to enjoy our home planet. But it can also be a dangerous activity if you’re not properly prepared. Today there are hundreds of pieces of gear, tools, and equipment that will help keep you safe in the outdoors, including your phone! Need a new GPS for the backcountry? Trying to find your campsite or some sick constellations? Want to find some new hiking trails in your area or at your next travel destination? Your phone has it! Here are some of the best hiking apps on the market and why you should check them out.
(All apps were chosen based on personal usage and customer ratings.)
AllTrails is perhaps the most popular or most well-known hiking app on the market. It comes with a free version and a subscription for under $30 a year.
Within the Basic (free) version you can search for trails around the world, filter trails based on your wants and preferences, add new trails, access maps online, create custom maps, track your activity, and share your experience via your account. The Pro (paid) version includes everything from the Basic version and the ability to download maps offline, an alert system if you go off-trail, ad-free usage, customizable and printable maps, access to real-time map overlays, and offers a lifeline feature that can notify people of your whereabouts. I recommend you upgrade to the Pro version if you are often in the backcountry and want extra safety features. You can even access your phone’s camera through the app to update information for other hikers.
AllTrails is my go to app. There have been comments that not all of the information (mileage and elevation gain) is always accurate. However, information is always being updated and corrected.
AllTrails is available on iOS and Android and has an overall rating of 4.9 with over 626,000 reviews.
2. Gaia GPS
Gaia GPS and AllTrails are constantly being compared and for good reason! Gaia was designed for hikers, hunters, and off-road explorers alike who want to stay safe on their next trip.
Similar to AllTrails, it can record and track your adventure and offers an extensive amount of technical details. Such details include average and max moving speed, a free topographic trail map to ensure more accuracy in your location, and current latitude and longitude. There is also a compass and an arrow showing you where you are headed. The Basic membership will run you $20 a year while Premium membership, offering even more useful tools, costs $40 a year. For many frequent backcountry explorers, Gaia Premium is the app of choice because of the perks such as National Geographic maps, SwissTopo, and both public and private land maps.
Gaia is available on iOS and Android and has an overall rating of 4.8 with over 22,000 reviews.
3. Hiking Project
Hiking Project, an app created by REI, is a database of over 35,000 trails that is constantly being updated. This free app includes maps, data, key points on trails, and on-trail navigation to ensure you are heading in the correct direction on any map you pick. This app can be used on mobile or desktops and is ad-free!
Many reviews say this is the best app for beginner hikers but not the best for backcountry explorers who are often in new terrain away from city life. Each trail contains length, elevation gain, and route difficulty. It is not a lot of information but it has the basics to get you started and to somewhat familiarize yourself with the trail. You can download a map from the app and use it when you are offline or don’t have service anymore.
Hiking Project is available on iOS and Android and has an overall rating of 4.5 with over 1,700 reviews.
4. The National Park Service App
The National Park Service App is the official guide for exploring trails in our country’s National Parks! This is a free app with information from the park rangers and other park staff experts in the field (literally). There is a different page for every National Park that includes updated information, weather, hours of the park, admission fees, line waits, a calendar of events, and, of course, all the trails in that park. They also mention which trails are wheelchair-friendly! The best perk is that all maps can be downloaded offline so the app will work even without cell service. Who needs cell coverage when you have the National Park Service App?!
The National Park Service App is available on iOS and Android and has an overall rating of 4.3 with over 400 reviews.
5. FarOut (formerly known as Guthook Guides)
Back in the day, you would print pages and pages of maps if you were looking to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Appalachian Trail, or Continental Divide Trail. Today, we have FarOut (Guthook Guides), revolutionizing the way we thru-hike today. Ryan Linn quietly released this app at the same time that Cheryl Strayed released her infamous memoir Wild. Guthook Guides has a map, compass, guidebook, and water sources reports in one single location on your phone. It functions offline and is constantly updating information about trail conditions. In 2018, a survey of 500 PCT hikers found that 85% of the hikers that year used Guthook Guides on their thru-hike. It currently has mapped over two dozen long trails worldwide and employs 5 full-time hiking enthusiasts.
Guthook Guides is free to download and has a multitude of in-app purchases that contain sections of hikes or access for the entire trail.
Guthook Guides/FarOut is available on iOS and Android and has an overall rating of 4.8 with over 15,000 reviews.
Now get out there and let your app of choice help you find your new favorite trail! Need some apps to go camping? Check out this list for great apps to find your next campground. And reach out to a Hiking and Camping Expert on Curated to make sure you're geared up for your next trip into the great outdoors!