Written by: Sarah Dailey
Technology is playing a big part in helping all of us get out and enjoy the great outdoors. There are dozens of mobile hiking apps for both iOS and Android to find nearby trails.
Are you planning a trip to a national park? Download a hiking app to learn more about trails to the best parts of the park.
Hiking apps are changing the game. I hike often, and I love how easy it is for me to discover new trails.
Looking for a dog-friendly hike or 4-6 mile hike with a waterfall? Pull up the AllTrails app, plug in some preferences, and boom - so many options to choose from!
Whether you're headed completely off-grid or looking for a trail within 10 minutes of your house, check out my favorite go-to apps for hiking.
1. AllTrails Hiking App
AllTrails is my go-to app for day hikes. They have over 100,000 trails across the U.S. and worldwide. It is one of the most popular hiking apps, with over 10 million registered users, and for a good reason.
The AllTrails app is simple and easy to use. It includes filters for preferences like difficulty, trail length, elevation, dog-friendly, loop vs. out and back, etc.
Price: Basic free version or paid Pro version $29.99/year
Use Offline: Yes, with Pro version
Best For: Finding nearby trails for walking, hiking, and biking
The search feature is much better than other apps I've used. Say your friend told you about this "Queens something" trail in Bryce Canyon National Park but couldn't remember the exact name. Just type in the keywords you do know, and AllTrails gives you a list of everything similar.
While the basic version of AllTrails is excellent, the Pro version gives you the option to download trail descriptions, maps, and elevation profiles for offline use. It's perfect for trips into the mountains where you won't have cell service.
Turn on additional map layers to see nearby trails, weather, and photos other hikers have taken and uploaded from specific points on the trail.
Comments and trail reviews - Ok, this one you're going to need to take with a grain of salt because comments and user reviews can be both a positive and a negative. I love that AllTrails makes it easy for users to comment on trails they've hiked.
Sometimes these comments are super helpful for learning about current conditions, rocky terrain if a path is temporarily closed, etc.
Just remember that circumstances can change quickly, and even if someone says they thought a trail was easy, your comfort level may be different.
About 95% of the time, AllTrails' information on routes and elevation seems to be accurate, but trust your gut and use your brain.
I've seen (and heard from others) that routes aren't always exact, and information can be outdated.
Spend some time browsing the comments on the trail you've chosen to see if anyone mentions any discrepancies. Consider checking the hike against another source or website.
2. The Hiking Project
The Hiking Project is a crowd-sourced hiking guide with content submitted by users, then verified by The Hiking Project team.
They review every submission so you can count on the data being accurate and that trails are legal, public trails.
The Hiking Project app is completely free and features thousands of trails, with more added every day.
Use Offline: Yes, for areas you’ve previously downloaded
Best For: Finding nearby trails for walking, hiking
The Hiking Project divides data into U.S. states so you can download an entire state worth of data at once.
I love the convenience of having every trail I could possibly choose at my fingertips. No more forgetting to download trails before I head into the backcountry.
The Hiking Project’s map overview displays trails using different colored lines to show type of trail and difficulty rating.
Green for easy trails, blue for intermediate and black for difficult routes. Along with the many filters, this makes it easy to pick a route for your next hike.
The Hiking Project app includes filters for difficulty, distance, elevation and rating. You can also select trail type: narrow singletrack, wide doubletrack or paved - great for trail runners and walkers!
The Hiking Project uses Google Maps data for maps. Because Google Maps data is so large, the detailed background map will not be downloaded when you download trail data.
When you’re offline, you’ll be able to view your location on the map and the line of the trail so you can stay on course.
But, the background map will only display if you’ve previously viewed it while you had service and you keep the app open.
3. Gaia GPS Hiking App
Gaia GPS helps users navigate hiking and backpacking trails as well as offroading, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, and more. It is one of the best apps for offline navigation and wayfinding.
Gaia GPS is excellent for planning seamlessly across desktop, tablet, and app. You can use basic Gaia GPS features for free, but to take full advantage, you'll need to purchase the $19.99 annual subscription.
Price: Basic version: Free, but most features require the paid annual subscription of $19.99/year
Use Offline: Yes
Best For: Navigation, recording tracks, saving waypoints on hikes
Backpackers and backcountry hikers use the Gaia GPS app most often. Along with finding trails, you'll see established campsites and information about legal dispersed camping in the area.
Gaia GPS allows you to record your trek and drop pins on your map as you go.
The integrated compass gives you course direction, current GPS coordinates, elevation, and speed. Plus, it has unique power-saving mode options to make sure you don't burn through your battery.
In my opinion, Gaia isn't as user friendly for beginners as AllTrails or The Hiking Project.
Since it's geared more for navigation and wayfinding, the features to search for nearby trails or find easy routes to hike in your neighborhood are lacking.
However, if you're mostly concerned with making sure you don't get lost in the backcountry, Gaia's map and tracking are far superior.
4. REI Co-Op National Parks Hiking App
The REI National Parks app is my favorite one-stop-shop for trail info in our national parks. It uses the same map design as The Hiking Project app (also created by REI).
View detailed maps of national parks with trails highlighted with green, blue, and black to indicate difficulty. Plus, the app features these great little "gem" icons to show you where you'll find the most exciting or beautiful scenic parts of the park.
If you have little ones, this app shows you easy hikes for family-friendly outings. Browse some of the most visited hikes in the park quickly in the Featured Hikes section.
Use Offline: No
Best For: Exploring U.S. National Parks
My favorite feature of this app is the level of detail. It's an incredible resource for learning about each national park.
See an overview of the park, tips for visiting, campground and lodging options, plus helpful links for brochures and more on the National Park Service website.
The descriptions of each hike are very detailed, so you know what to expect. Plus, they're written by REI's trusted team and taken from National Park Service data, so they're accurate and well-written. Trail listings include elevation profiles, driving directions, and ratings.
This app seems to have many more user-uploaded photos than most of the other apps. It's fantastic to flip through and view other hikers' experiences when deciding which trail to hike.
The REI National Parks app currently features most U.S. National Parks. But there are a few they're still working on.
According to the app, parks like Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Channel Islands, and Lassen Volcanic are in progress.
While they might not be "finished," they are listed at the bottom of the app. They already contain a ton of information, with more coming soon.
5. Guthook Guides Hiking App
Guthook is a must-have app for anyone backpacking through one of America's long trails.
Well-known in the thru-hiking world, Guthook Guides are available for the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, John Muir Trail, and many more long-distance trails.
The Guthook app is an incredible resource for not only thru-hikers but also, for any section hiker or backpacker along these trails. Whether you're going to be on the trail for 5 months or just 5 days, the information in the Guthook app can literally save your life.
Guthook Guides include detailed maps with GPS location, detailed routes and waypoints, elevation data, water sources, campsites, shelters, road crossings, trailheads, and more.
You'll even see information on towns for resupply, including restaurants, laundry facilities, and comments left by recent hikers.
Price: Free previews of some long-distance trails. Full trail data priced per trail - approx $4.99 - $59.99 depending on the trail.
Use Offline: Yes
Best For: Long distance backpackers on state and national scenic trails like the PCT, AT, CDT, etc.
Trusted members of the Guthook team created the trail routes and key waypoint data.
They keep everything meticulously up to date because they understand how crucial accurate info is when you're hiking through the backcountry for days at a time.
Guthook designed guides to promote a sense of community for backpackers. As a hiker, you often rely on the updates and comments from hikers ahead of you to know about water sources and current conditions.
My favorite feature of this app is the sense of community it helps create on these trails as each hiker shares information with the hikers around them.
Guthook helps you plan each day of hiking, find your next campsite or water source, and share your location with family and friends using the new check-ins feature.
Guthook guides may be more expensive compared to general trail finding guides. Many trails cost between $9.99-$49.99. However, the app breaks up many of the trails into segments. If you're not planning on thru-hiking the entire length of the trail, you can purchase just the portion you need. They also offer free demo sections on many long trails. You can download the demo for free and get a good feel for the app before you need to purchase anything.
Now that you know the best hiking apps, check out the following guides to start planning your next trip:
About the Author
Sarah Dailey is a freelance writer and web designer living in Phoenix, Arizona. She loves hiking in the southwest desert heat almost as much as she enjoys traveling. She's on a mission to visit every National Park, having hiked in 23 parks and counting. When Sarah's not backpacking or trail running, you'll generally find her sipping craft beer at a local brewery and researching her next trip.
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