Hiking apps can not only help you get closer to nature, but they can also increase your knowledge and safety when hiking in the mountains, especially GPS hiking apps.
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As an avid hiker, I’ll be the first to admit that one of the things I love most about hiking in the German Alps is getting away from technology. That’s why I don’t recommend being glued to your phone, tracking every step.
Instead, put your phone away Bring it out occasionally when there’s a peak you want to identify, know whether a certain berry is safe to eat, or need to check your GPS hiking app to see which way to go at a crossroads.
By using sparingly, hiking apps can enhance rather than detract from your hike.
Below you’ll see what I think are the best apps for hiking and hopefully these can answer questions about hiking apps you may have.
I’ve only included a few from different categories. You don’t need to know all the GPS hiking apps out there, just the best ones :).
By using sparingly, hiking apps can enhance rather than detract from your hike.
Below you’ll see what I think are the best hiking apps. I’ve only included a few from different categories. You don’t need to know all the GPS hiking apps out there, just the best ones :).
The Best GPS Hiking Apps
Gaia GPS Hiking App
Gaia GPS is my favorite GPS hiking app because of its detailed descriptions of trails and of the area’s topography. The satellite maps have a steep learning curve that allows you to easily assess the steepness of the next part of your route.
It also tells you about road crossings, historical sites, detailed waypoints and so much more. I just love Gaia GPS as a navigation app. The satellite imagery is just such a great nifty feature to have.
While you can use it to find hiking trail guides, I usually import GPS tracks into the app, then use them to follow my intended hiking route. Gaia GPS does a really good job at this, making it my app of choice.
Gaia GPS App is best for: GPS. If you only use one GPS hiking App, use this one. If you’re just looking to import GPS tracks and track your position, the free version works great. This is a popular hiking app among fellow hikers because of its interactive features too!
Price: Free, or $19.99 a year for the Basic membership which provides you with more maps, the ability to download maps for offline use and print them or $39.99 for the Premium membership which offers more features.
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Not sure where to hike? The AllTrails Hiking App has over 100,000 trail maps for hiking that you can choose from. It also includes hiking maps so you can choose a linear or loop trail. Detailed hike descriptions are available with all its maps, including elevation gains.
When hiking, it provides you with route information and tracks your hiking progress via GPS. Beginners and advanced hikers just love this app for navigation and all its extra features!
AllTrails App is best for: finding new trails and then recording them with GPSCost
Price: This hiking app is free. The premium version is $30 and lets you print and edit maps. It offers a 14-day free trial period so you can check out its premium key features.
The free version includes basic features, including maps, trails, and points of interest (POIs). However, the paid version adds additional features, such as turn-by-turn directions, offline map support, and proprietary algorithm.
There are many reasons to using this hiking app instead of Google Maps. First, you can download the app directly onto your phone or tablet, making it easy to access when you need it.
Second, the app supports offline mapping, meaning you won’t be charged for data usage when there isn’t any available.
Finally, the app provides voice navigation, allowing you to speak commands. This is also popular within the hiking community.
Avenza Map is best for: real-time location sharing feature. You can share location with friends if ever you get lost.
Price: Free or $29.99/year. USD per device.
Best App for Identifying Mountain Peaks
Have you ever been hiking just to realize that the only mountain peak you can name is the one that you’re on? The PeakFinder App solves that.
Just hold your camera up and you’ll find all the peak names in a 360° panoramic view, along with their elevation profiles.
With a database of 650,000 peaks worldwide. You’re sure to find the name of the peak that you’re looking for.
I use the PeakFinder App on almost every hike to learn the names of nearby peaks and to identify new hiking routes on mountains that look interesting.
You can also use it to take pictures with the names and elevations of peaks. A favorite feature is that I can send it to my friends too. This is an app for hikers I would really recommend.
PeakFinder App is best for: learning the names of nearby peaks so that you can look them up later and add them to your hiking bucket list.
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Hiking Safety Apps
While not specifically a hiking app, I highlight recommend installing a flashlight app on our phone for added safety. You may be planning to go for a day hike or mountain biking, but if you get lost or injured it may turn into an evening adventure.
Panic can start to set in when it gets dark and you can’t see where you’re going. So for your peace of mind, enter a flashlight app to save the day. You can find many of these for both iPhones and Android devices. I don’t have a favorite.
Note: Also bring a physical flashlight with you as well in case your phone battery dies.
These kinds of apps are neat little must-haves for weather reports. It provides the kind of basic information most hikers and campers want, as well as some interesting and unusual features too.
For example, whether apps will tell you the distance to the closest lightning strike in the last 30 minutes could be exceptionally helpful for outdoor enthusiasts.
Price: Free but some premium plans costs $0.99/month and remove all of the ads from the app.
Navigation apps help users find their way around unfamiliar places. They’re especially useful when for city hikes or countries where street signs aren’t available.
Spyglass Navigation for example is a hiking app designed for both IOS & Android users who prefer to navigate through maps instead of GPS coordinates.
This GPS tracker uses map overlays to show hikers where they need to go and the distance remaining until they reach their destination. It’s like a digital compass.
This makes it ideal for those who hike alone or with friends and family. Spyglass Navigation allows hikers to share their route with others via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps.
Price: Free but also has a Spyglass Pro feature. Montly recurring subscription is for $0.99/month that lets you access pro features of the app.
First Aid App
This app isn’t specifically for hiking but I think it’s useful to have on our phone.
This First Aid App by the American Red Cross provides you with instructions on how to treat the most common first aid emergencies.
If your hiking partner is bleeding or has a broken bone, you’ll be able to come to the rescue. Be sure to also carry a First Aid Kit with you.
First Aid App is best for:
learning how to treat injuries both on and off the trail.
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Ultimate SAS Survival App
Ultimate SAS Survival App
The Ultimate SAS Survival App is considered to be the most definitive survival guide around! It was created by former SAS soldier and instructor, John “Lofty” Wiseman.
It comes with the text of his best-selling book, videos, photos, and checklists. There’s even an Extreme Climate Survival section on its SAS Survival Guide.
Although not exclusively a hiking app, and one that you hope you never need to use, it could save your life if you find yourself in an extreme situation. To me, this is like the ultimate hiking safety app while I was researching about this.
The Ultimate SAS Survival App is best for: backpackers who are hiking in the backcountry or any sort of long-distance hiking. If you’re doing easy day hikes you don’t need this app.
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Best Bird Identification App
Audubon Bird Guide App
One of the ways to really immerse yourself in nature while hiking is to be able to identify birds. They are providing you with a free symphony while hiking after all. As an outdoor enthusiast, the sound of nature really is an experience on its own.
The Audubon Bird Guide App helps you to identify over 800 bird species in North America, including their habitat and behavior.
While not a specific hiking app, the Audubon Bird Guide App can really enhance your hike and you may even find yourself becoming immersed in bird identification.
You’ll never be able say that you didn’t see any wildlife while hiking again.
The Audubon Bird Guide App is best for: identifying birds in Canada and the U.S. If you’re hiking elsewhere, find a similar app for your location.
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Best Tree Identification App
You may or may not see wildlife while hiking, but you’re almost certain to see plants, trees, and maybe even wildflowers and mushrooms.
PlantSnap uses visual recognition software and can recognize 90% of all plant and tree species on the planet with over 600,000 species in their database.
All you need to do is take a photograph of the leaf.
It’s a cool way to learn more about flora while hiking – and which berries and mushrooms are safe to eat!
PlantSnap is best for:
identifying flora and helping you see your hike with fresh eyes.
Cost: Free and premium versions available.
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8 Tips When Using Hiking Apps:
When hiking, there are many things to consider besides just where to go. There are apps available that help hikers plan hikes, find trails, and share information. These apps are great tools when planning a hike, but they’re not necessarily useful when actually out hiking. Here are some tips to keep in mind when using these apps:
- Make sure the app is updated regularly for trail reviews, trail routes, popular trails and if it has a weather forecast feature. Many apps update only once every month or two months. This means that any updates may be outdated.
- Be wary of apps that require subscriptions. Some apps offer free access to basic features, but after a certain number of uses, users must pay for additional features. I find reading user reviews very helpful.
- Don’t rely too heavily on GPS. While this feature is handy, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, the app won’t work at all, or it may give inaccurate directions, unlike an actual compass.
- Check in advance if the hiking apps have offline capabilities. Note, that the Gaia GPS app doesn’t require wifi for the GPS to work, but you’ll want to upload your GPS tracks while you still have wifi.
- Look for apps that support multiple languages. Not everyone speaks English, so having an app that supports other languages is a cool feature to have. It also makes it easier to communicate with fellow hikers.
- Keep backups. Backups are important, no matter what type of device you use. If you lose your phone, tablet, or computer, you still have backup files.
- Bring an external charger. If you’re using a GPS hiking app. They can quickly wear down your battery. You don’t want your phone to die halfway through a hike.
- Put your phone in Airplane mode and dim the brightness to help save your battery on all hiking trips.
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When planning your next hiking project somewhere remote or to a new national park, be prepared for any unexpected situations. Hikers need hiking apps that help them stay safe and informed.
There are many different types of hiking apps available today. Some apps are designed specifically for hikers, while others offer general safety information.
Some apps include maps, weather forecasts, trail conditions, and emergency services. Others offer only basic safety tips, such as staying hydrated and avoiding dehydration.
Regardless of whether you plan to hike alone or with friends, there are several things you should consider when selecting a hiking app for future hikes.
I don’t believe in having a ton of hiking apps on my phone, but having a few that work really well.
Let me know your favorite hiking apps in the comments below. Happy hiking!
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This post on hiking apps was originally published in August 2020 and updated in April 2021.