Female hiker on phone

Hitting the Trail? Check Out These 12 Great Hiking Apps Before You Go

  by Lani Fried2 Comments


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Looking for a trail map that fits in your pocket, or detailed information about an area you’ll be hiking through? Want to know all about a stunning mountain peak, or gorgeous field of flowers?

What about if something goes wrong and you need to notify loved ones, survive in the wilderness, or simply find out where the nearest cell signal is?

There’s a hiking app out there for all of those situations, and plenty more. In fact, there are so many available that after testing a whole bunch of them, I could only include a few of the best ones in this article.

So, without further ado, these are twelve of the most useful, interesting, and exciting hiking apps for the adventurer in all of us.

Maps & Trail Information

Forest trail on GPS

AllTrails

AllTrails is probably the most popular hiking app, and the company is poised to grow thanks to recent investment. It provides provides maps, reviews, and details for over 55,000 hand-curated trails in 102 countries.

Some countries have extensive trail coverage, such as the United States, Mexico, and France, while others like the Philippines and Argentina have more limited details. Either way, AllTrails still has the most global information overall.

With the free version, you can search for trails, and view maps both online or offline. Category filters like dog-, kid-, or wheelchair-friendly are easily available, and you can record hiking statistics like total distance, elevation, and moving time.

With the upgraded AllTrails Pro, you can design and print your own topographic maps, among other features.

iOS and Android; free, or Pro for $29.99/month

FATMAP

A new player on the scene, FATMAP is already getting a lot of attention. Recently called “Google Earth on steroids” by Outside Magazine, it’s the favored app of some well-known mountaineers and skiers.

FATMAP has detailed 3D maps for skiing, hiking, and biking, developed from satellite imagery and overlayed with terrain, sport, and resort information. You can also switch between summer and winter imagery, receive avalanche bulletins, and get special skier-specific data like which lifts are open.

The app is currently available in English and French.

iOS and Android; free, or Premium for $40.99/year

Hiking Project

My favorite aspect of Hiking Project is its focus on community-driven content. Users are encouraged to share their adventures, submitting information about a trail, hike, or point of interest. It’s reviewed by an in-house team and, if all goes well, the details are added to the app.

Produced by REI Co-op, it’s an ad-free project that’s often compared to a guidebook. You’ll find rich descriptions of trails, accompanied by images of lakes, leaves, and perilous cliffs. You may want to check out other REI apps such as the Guide to National Parks as well.

iOS and Android, free 

MapMyHike

If you’re a hiker with fitness goals, check out MapMyHike. The app lets you log workouts, as well as set weekly fitness targets. If you upgrade to the Premium version, you’ll receive customized training plans for 5K, 10K, half-marathons, and marathons as well.

The app is produced by athletic clothing company Under Armour, and annoys encourages users to purchase its products. That said, the relationship does bring nifty options like syncing to the company’s smart shoes. You can also sync to Fitbit and Garmin Connect.

The app currently covers trails in 15 countries, but coverage may expand in the future.

iOS and Android, free, or Premium for $5.99/month

ViewRanger

While the free version of ViewRanger is similar to other hiking apps, the Premium version adds some compelling features.

Augmented reality tool Skyline lets users explore peaks and points of interest with their cameras, while 3D Flyovers pans and zooms around hiking routes. From a safety perspective, BuddyBeacon lets you privately share your GPS location in real time, and track the locations of friends who are using the app.

iOS and Android, free, or Premium for $4.99/month

Gaia GPS

The Gaia GPS app can serve many purposes, but is particularly popular with hikers in Canada, historic map enthusiasts, first responders, and fans of 4×4/off-road trails. The free version provides access to topographic and satellite maps.

The premium version adds offline downloads, historic topo maps, illustrated trail maps from National Geographic, US hunting maps (including information on property boundaries), and expanded European maps.

iOS and Android, free, or $39.99/year

Specialized Features

Smartphone in the Alps

Ramblr

For bloggers and social media mavens, Ramblr provides a unique opportunity: a blogging space and hiking app rolled into one.

Users are encouraged to create a virtual journal where they can blog to their heart’s delight about their outdoor adventures. Photographs, GPS points, and useful pieces of data are all included on a map.

These entries are shared with the wider Ramblr community, and you can take the HTML code from your journey entry to use on your personal blog or website.

iOS and Android, free

Spyglass

The idea behind Spyglass is simple (it’s a compass!), but the execution is advanced. You get access to a high-tech compass and GPS navigator, with pretty much any feature you could hope for.

What features, you ask? There’s “[…] a milspec compass, gyrocompass, maps, tactical GPS, waypoint tracker, speedometer, altimeter, gyro horizon, sniper’s rangefinder” and many more.

iOS and Android, free

Peakfinder

With Peakfinder, it’s all about the mountains. The app provides detailed information for 350,000 peaks around the world, “[…] from Mount Everest to the little hill around the corner.”

You can get 360° panoramic views from any viewpoint of your choice, overlay images from your own camera with mountain views, and use the telegraph feature to identify less-prominent mountains in a given area.

The data is drawn primarily from OpenStreetMap, a free data project, but Peakfinder provides a curated, feature-rich experience.

iOS and Android, $4.99

iNaturalist

Want to hike while feeling like a useful human? Check out iNaturalist.

When you’re on a hike and encounter something interesting (maybe a funky mushroom or an unknown tree), simply snap a photo with the app. Write up a description, include the location, and then share the information with the community.

From there, your observations will be shared with scientific data repositories such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, as well as the general iNaturalist community. In other words, you can hike and contribute to scientific research.

If you don’t know what you see on your hike, experts can even help you identify your find. iNaturalist is a joint collaboration between the National Geographic Society and California Academy of Sciences.

iOS and Android, free

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Safety & Survival

Hiking in the mountains in Alaska

Cairn

Simply put, Cairn is a hiking safety app. You can share your real-time location and status updates, but that’s just the beginning.

You can also get crowdsourced information for a given area (like where people have found cell phone coverage), access offline maps and trails, and be informed when you enter areas with phone coverage.

It’s currently only available for iOS, but the team hopes to develop an Android app in the future.

iOS, free, or Premium (60-day free trial, then $4.99/month or $26.99)

SAS Survival Guide

This app-based version of a best-selling survival guide covers tons of useful skills that may save you in a jam. Written by a former SAS soldier, you’ll learn how to build a fire, collect rainwater, navigate with the night sky, and much more.

There are photo galleries of useful plants, a Morse code signaller, and comprehensive first aid advice. The app also has a 100+ question quiz to help ensure you’ve got what it takes to survive in the wild.

iOS and Android, free

Which hiking apps do you find helpful? Share your experiences in the comments!

Images via PIXNIO (female hiker beside lake), Daniel Johansson (forest trail on GPS), MaxPixel (female hiker in the Alps), and Paxson Woelber (male hiker in the mountains)

 

About the Author
Lani Fried

Lani Fried

Twitter

Lani Fried is a teacher, software professional, and the founder of Gynopedia. She’s a big nerd about travel, technology, books, history, and food.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Great info! Thanks!

    I’d love to see info on Guthook, which seems to be the darling of the thru-hiking community? It provides detailed information about the trail as well as showing where you are on it with a GPS-like accuracy. (I think using satellites–you don’t need wifi) Each trail map is purchased separately.

  2. Avatar

    Mapy.cz (free) – app/online desktop versions – plan your routes, save them to your account online, figure out distances & elevations of your hiking route, find yourself with GPS, plots you on the trail, find your way back, can use offline by downloading regions from all over the world, oh and did I mention it’s free?

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