AllTrails, FarOut, and More: The 5 Best Hiking AppsPublished on 06/11/2023 · 7 min readLooking for new trails or wanting to track your adventures? Camping & Hiking Expert Hannah K. shares the top 5 must-download apps for hikers!
Photo by Antonio Grosz
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 smartphone! While popular navigation apps like Google Maps do offer downloadable hiking trails, there are many other apps with features you didn't even know you needed! Heading out to the backcountry? Trying to find your campsite or some sick night sky constellations? Want to find some lesser-known 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, and can be found in the Google Play or App store.)
The AllTrails app is arguably one of the best hiking apps on the market. It comes with an awesome free version and a subscription to AllTrails Pro for under $30 a year, which allows you to download maps all over the United States, Europe, and beyond! Many bikers also use AllTrails to find nearby mountain biking trails, too!
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 detailed 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 offline maps, 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.
I personally count AllTrails as one of the best hiking apps out there. 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, Apple Watch, 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 as the best hiking apps and for good reason! Gaia was designed for hikers, hunters, and off-road explorers alike who want to stay safe on their next trip. You can even find the best skiing maps on Gaia.
Similar to AllTrails, it is also considered one of the best hiking apps that offer a premium version but also some stellar free features. It can record and track your adventure statistics and offers an extensive amount of technical details. Such details include average and max moving speed, a satellite and 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 the Premium membership, which offers even more useful tools, costs $40 a year. For many frequent backcountry explorers, the Gaia Premium version 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 features 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 one of the best hiking apps 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, historical sites, weather, hours of the park, admission fees, line waits, a calendar of events, and, of course, all the trailhead locations in that park. They also mention which national scenic 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, FarOut (Guthook Guides), is one of the best hiking apps for modern-day long-distance treks. Ryan Linn quietly released this app at the same time that Cheryl Strayed released her infamous memoir Wild. Guthook Guides has topo maps, compasses, guidebooks, and water source 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 thru-hikers that year used Guthook Guides on their journey. 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.
Honorable Mentions for Best Hiking Apps
- First Aid - Providing step-by-step directions on how to address common injuries, this app should be on your device before you head out on any outdoor adventure! Created in part by the International Federation of Red Cross, you will find helpful tips on allergies, asthma, poisoning, and more.
- Apple Watch Fitness App - You're wearing it anyway, why not take advantage of its many features, like monitoring your heart rate, counting calories burned, elevation, distance, and more?
- Seek by iNaturalist - Offering fascinating insight into the world of flora and fauna, this app couldn't be easier to use! Just take a photo of the plants or animals you find on the trail for immediate identification and facts on the species. Warning: your five-hour hike may be extended by a few hours while you learn about the wild and wonderful world around you!
- Cairn - Let's face it, we still check our phones from the trail sometimes, whether it's checking for a text or an irresistible urge to post that pristine lake pic. Cairn offers the ability to see location points of cell coverage that previous hikers have found on the trail.
- If you're relying on your smartphone to help you navigate or stay connected in case of an emergency, be sure that you're paying attention to its battery life! Using GPS will drain your phone's battery quickly so always have a backup plan like a solar charger or power bank with you!
- Also, plan a smaller trip to start out so you can get to know your app(s) of choice. Don't wait until you're in the backcountry without service to explore all of the options and determine if it's got all of the features you need!
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 of 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!