I'm a huge believer in disconnecting every once in a while to enjoy life! That's where hiking has helped me a lot...
Hiking is a great way to exercise, release stress, and enjoy the outdoors all while disconnecting from the digital world. Spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body, and there’s no better way to get out in nature than hiking new trails.
But, just because we're getting out into nature, it doesn't mean we don't want to improve our experience with technology There's a huge variety of tools that help me whenever I'm hiking or trailing outdoors.
Valuable tools within trail maps, navigation apps, and tracking apps, contain features such as camera-based rangefinder, GPS location navigator, and detailed hiking map helps you hike and participate in outdoor activities like a pro.
These hiking apps are excellent tools that you can use on your smartphones to make your hike as smooth and enjoyable as it can be.
Besides, you no longer need to pack a backpack full of tools to help you with longer hikes. All I need now is my smartphone with a few hiking apps downloaded.
That doesn't mean I recommend leaving the house without some hiking essentials though!
And with the vast amount of hiking and trail apps available on the market, how do you know which is the best one to download?
From finding new trails to learning about must-see sights at a location, the best hiking apps can definitely help make your experiences more memorable.
In this post, I'll cover the best hiking apps for you to use for the ultimate adventure! And don’t worry, most of the items here are free hiking apps (or at least they have a free version).
Let’s dive in!
What Are the Best Apps for Hiking?
So what is the best app for hikers?
From sharing custom trails with friends to navigation features to help you find your way on a mountain, the answer depends on your needs.
I've broken down 10 different, but totally versatile, types of hiking apps and explained the pros and cons of each app.
These apps are great tools to complement a travel planner app for when you need help finding the perfect hike as a tourist or for organizing local trips in your own neck of the woods!
Of course, if you’re new to the hiking world and looking for some advice, be sure to study the top hiking tips so you can feel at ease and prepared when planning your next adventure!
Here's what I think are the best free and most popular hiking apps you won’t regret downloading, each with their specialties!
- 🎯 Best overall free hiking app: AllTrails
- 🌎 Best GPS app for hiking: Gaia GPS
- 🗺 Best hiking guide app:FarOut (aka Guthook by Atlas Guides)
- 🥾 Best trekking app:PeakVisor
- 🕹 Best hiking AR-navigation app: Spyglass
- ⛰ Best hiking trails app to discover new trails:Hiking Project
- ⛑ Best hiking safety app: Cairn
- 💫 Best "You probably already have it" hiking app: Google Maps
- 🌟 Best App for Stargazing while on a Hike: Star Walk2
- 🩺 Best Fitness Tracker for your Hike: Apple Fitness App
I included some honorable mentions to consider downloading to find the perfect hiking app! Most if not all of these apps are both compatible with iOS and Android, so whether you're on your iPhone or Android device, you can easily download them!
Any of these options will be better than nothing at all, but which one should you choose? Follow me as we explore.
Top 10 Hiking Apps to Download in 2023!
10. Apple's Fitness App (iOS and WatchOS: Integrated)
If you have an iPhone, you most probably already have this downloaded. The only reason why this isn't ranked higher is because it's only on Apple devices and would require you to have an Apple Watch to maximize its use.
Apple's Fitness App is a platform that summarizes comprehensively details of your fitness levels, including activities you did, workouts you performed, trends and stats, as well as the Apple Fitness+ premium workout content.
This is probably the best app for Apple Watch owners, since it natively integrates and collects data in realtime, including steps you took (less accruate if you don't own an apple watch but have an iPhone), calories you've burned, and more stats in detail.
You're also able, through Fitness+, to create custom events for Hiking to keep track of your time, calories burnt, distances and elevation, as well as the GPS map (assuming you have an Apple Watch.)
If you already own an Apple Watch and an iPhone, this app is definitely something you'd want to take advantage of!
First, it's free. You're able to collect and see a lot of information and gauge improvement just by the way the app presents data.
You're also able to share this app natively with other Apple users, such as people within your family, so you can keep track of fitness improvements through Hiking activities remotely and share your milestones with loved ones.
Besides from the obvious like not being available for non Apple or Apple Watch users, the app is not very native for Hikes, which you'd assume a fitness workout app could.
The in-app purchases toget to the custom events will prompt you to purchase Fitness+, which gives you access to customized training routines that hikers usually don't need but may like. This app, for me, is built for general purpose and definitely not geared towards Hikes.
Even when used in conjunction with Health and Apple Maps, it still doesn't make too much sense to me switching between apps that are less superior that some of the all-in-one apps we mention later.
9. Star Walk2 (iOS and Android: Free)
Star Walk2 is an interesting app that have been mentioned many times by bloggers, hikers, and travelers alike.
A lot of hikers, especially those who are beginners or those who hike only on occasion, do so for the views. This is especially true for those living in the city as it is practically impossible to see constellations or even stars at night due to light pollution.
If you're looking for a hiking app for stargazing, try out Star Walk2!
Star Walk2 is an app to help you find stars, planets, and constellations when you're out and about hiking, camping, or just taking a stroll at night.
With the app, all you'll need to do is point it up towards the sky to see what stars are visible in your line of sight.
I love using this app to find stars with my real-time location. I'm not alone either.
The app is currently rated 4.6/5 with over 75k+ reviews on the iOS store, being touted as a great way to learn and see stars, constellations, and learn about astronomy in general.
The app is also free with in-app purchases primarily for the no-ads experience for $5.99 USD.
I'd say the biggest limitation is that this app doesn't do much except for constellation and star-gazing, which is only one aspect of appeal to hikers in general.
I normally would put this below in the honorable mentions section, but since many people attribute this app as an hiking app, I thought I place it amongst the top hiking apps as it is really an amazing app to have.
The thing that would make this app better is to either integrate and partner with elaborate hiking apps so they're all in the same platform, or to have them introduce some hiking features into the app, like tracking elevation and distance from best stargazing spots.
8. Google Maps (iOS and Android: Free)
I debated if I even needed to include the app that certainly needs no introduction. Google Maps is a general purpose navigation and map tool app that helps you locate restaurants, gas stations, and your friends homes. For hikers, it can also help you discover hiking trails.
Follow these simple steps to turn Google Maps into your hiking companion:
- Click on your profile picture on the top right corner of the app
- Click on the "Offline maps" feature.
- Click "Select your own map", and choose the region you'd like to download for offline access.
- Wait for the download!
Once it's done, you'll be able to access it on the app as usual. Keep in mind that the larger your region selected is, the bigger the file size it'll be on your phone's storage! I suggest only downloading regions for the time that you need them if you are worried about storage capacity.
Google maps app helps travelers and hikers plan their outdoor excursions ahead with their advanced precise location navigation feature, along with their ability to download maps or regions for offline access.
Not only is it free, but you also know it's reliable and up-to-date since it's backed by a company like Google.
Google maps is great for a general purpose app if you absolutely don’t want to pay or download another app.
However, the app comes with many limitations compared to other hiking apps. This includes no access to user-generated trails or less popular trails, limited rangefinder capabilities, no peak identification, and more.
🔥 Why I Love Google Maps!
Google does a great job at having so many easy to use apps, and Google Maps is no different. The ability to plan things before and after your hiking adventure, such as restaurant suggestions and driving directions make it very valuable for a complete weekend of hiking.
Having a suite of powerful tools without having to pay a dime makes this non-hiking exclusive app worth the download.
7. Cairn (iOS and Android: Free / $26.99 Annually)
Cairn is a hiking and walking route app that can help you stay safe during your adventures.
I use the app to share my real-time progress and location with family or friends for their peace of mind and mine, too!
Cairn helps me plan routes by offering helpful estimates of how long I'll take to complete a particular trail based on personalized data and points out areas with weak cell reception.
If it takes longer than expected for your hike, the app also notifies your emergency contacts to make them aware.
The premium version of the app lets you use its features offline and automatically sends live updates to your contacts.
Sure, there's lots of features and safety benefits Cairn offers, but it isn't without its drawbacks.
Although the free version of the app offers a good set of basic features, you'll need to spring for the premium version to access offline use and live updates. This might be a turn-off for budget-conscious hikers.
Another issue with Cairn is that it relies heavily on cell reception for real-time updates. So, in areas with weak or no signal, its utility can be compromised, which can be a problem since many hiking trails are in such areas.
Lastly, the app's time estimates for completing a trail are generally accurate but can vary based on an individual's fitness level and hiking speed. The app’s inability to factor in breaks or time spent at viewpoints can lead to overestimations of hiking time.
🔥 Why I Love the Cairn Hiking App!
I'm a huge fan of hiking because of how super fun it is, but I have to acknowledge it can also be dangerous. If I am exploring unknown paths or unfamiliar areas, Cairn helps me get home safely and get back to where I need to be.
6. Hiking Project (IOS and Android, Free)
Hiking Project is the best free hiking app that uses community-sourced content to helps me pick and choose the perfect trail.
Users submit information like route descriptions, images, and reviews that are then vetted by an in-house team before they are added to the app.
The hiking app basically functions as a living guidebook! I always find it constantly updated with new information and more reviews.
Plus, Hiking Project works offline, so I can use it literally anywhere my explorations may take me.
However, no app is perfect, and the Hiking Project does have a few downsides.
For instance, while user-generated content can be a boon, it also means the quality and accuracy of information can vary. You might encounter trails that are less detailed than others, especially in less popular hiking areas.
And, despite its GPS tracking feature, the app doesn't provide real-time sharing of your location or progress to contacts for safety purposes like some other hiking apps do.
One final thing I think is worth mentioning is that the app lacks a built-in weather forecasting feature, which would have been a great addition for better planning and safety.
You can learn more about the Hiking Project app with our Hiking Project review that grades the quality of the app and goes into detail about the unique features so you can get the best out of it!
🔥 Why I Love the Hiking Project Hiking App!
All info on Hiking Project is contributed by real hikers who have actually "tested" the trails they write about. Hence, the app includes useful tips that aren't on just any website.
In fact, I really enjoyed joining the community myself and contributing.
The Hiking Project is the best hiking app to learn specific things that can make or break or hike. Like how much water to bring or the best place to park your car to start off a particular hike right.
Another amazing bonus is that the app is free, and it doesn't have any built-in annoying pop-up advertisements, which makes for a great user experience.
5.Spyglass (iOS and Android: $3.99)
Spyglass is a secretly awesome hiking rangefinder app for outdoor navigation. While it’s not a free hiking app, it’s a one-time fee of $5.99 is more than palatable to me and definitely worth it.
It's got some fantastic modern features like augmented-reality navigation, the app operates in 3D, showing me real-time object locations, and overlays directions over images and maps. I was able to use its rangefinder feature to measure the distance of milestones on the trial.
It’s definitely one of the best hiking apps that utilize AR navigation to help with elevation tracking.
With Spyglass I have the power to turn my phone into a GPS receiver, altimeter, speedometer, star finder, coordinate converter, a pair of binoculars, and more. So cool.
For one, the user interface, despite being visually striking, can be a bit overwhelming for beginners due to the multitude of readings and overlays. The learning curve for making the most out of the app is rather steep.
Another thing is that while the offline capabilities are fantastic, it's important to remember that downloading high-quality maps for offline use can consume a considerable amount of storage space on your device.
This might pose an issue for users with limited storage space on their phones.
🔥 Why I Love the Spyglass Hiking App!
Spyglass’s gazillion features. I believe it will turn you into a proficient navigator and explorer in no time!
What’s more, the advanced object-location data features really elevate wildlife-spotting or star-gazing experiences.
4. PeakVisor (iOS and Android: Free / $29.99 Annually)
Attention budding mountaineers and mountain trekkers—this app is for you! I personally think this is a underrated app that's both cool and useful!
PeakVisor is available for free and with a pro premium subscription. While the free version covers most of the functionalities, in my opinion the advantage of the pro version is the ability to have these features available offline with no cell service.
PeakVisor is a 3D maps and peaks Identification app that contains information about more than 1 million peaks all over the world and helps you identify the ones you find during your trips.
It's definitely one of the best, if not the best, hiking + trekking visualization and identification apps out there!
From Mount Everest to that small hill you can see in the distance, PeakVisor uses my phone's location and camera to label the peaks I am looking at. The days of using my compass and map to triangulate different peaks is long gone!
While PeakVisor is a marvel for outdoor enthusiasts, it does come with its share of limitations.
One is the accuracy of its augmented reality feature can sometimes be influenced by weather and lighting conditions. This leads to less than perfect identification of peaks in cloudy weather or low light.
Another thing is that the app, though simple to use, has a lot of features that can take some time to fully explore and understand. The learning curve may be steep for casual hikers or those who prefer a more straightforward app.
And, while PeakVisor offers offline maps, the quality of these maps can sometimes be less detailed than those found in other dedicated hiking or mapping apps. This might be a drawback for users who depend heavily on map details for their hikes or mountain adventures.
One other thing that could be a drawback is that just like Spyglass, PeakVisor's best features come at a price. The cost may deter some users, especially casual hikers who may not require the full range of features it provides.
🔥 Why I Love the PeakVisor Hiking App!
I see hiking being as much about discovery and exploration as it is about mental health. Having all the information to remember these moments is exactly what PeakVisor does for you!
With the integrated features like labeling and recording past peaks, you'll be able to revisit all of the mountain peaks you've conquered over the years and rightfully flex to all of your friends and family!
I cannot get enough of being able to actually identify the different hills and peaks outdoors as opposed to just calling it "that peak"!
Alternative to PeakVisor: PeakFinder
I also found a handy alternative to PeakVisor, the similarly named Peak Finder.
With almost all of the functionalities similar to PeakVisor, Peak Finder comes at a cheaper one-time fee of $4.99 USD. In addition, PeakFinder also has some amazing functionalities like dark mode and birds eye view, which allows you to view peaks vertically!
The database is a bit smaller, but I didn't run into any issues.
With PeakFinder, you'll also be able to label mountains and places of interest you'd like and see solar and lunar orbits with rise and set times.
3. FarOut Guides App (Formerly GutHook Guides by Atlas Guides, iOS and Android: Free)
FarOut Guides app, or as I originally knew it as Guthook Guide app, is a hiker's favorite when it comes to long-distance hiking, backpacking, and survival camping.
FarOut Guides was built by former thru-hikers who found a need for a offline access map and guide that can help them traverse various terrains to accomplish a long distance trail.
Famous trails include, but not limited to, the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalacian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or the ultimate America's Triple Crown trails.
Key features include an offline map and GPS location access, elevation profile views, detailed waypoint, and town guides such as campsites, water sources, trailheads, parking, and more.
You're also able to create your own custom route and waypoints for your trip, and read other hikers' real-time comments!
The FarOut app offers some demo trails if you're hesitant about paying for the app.
While FarOut Guides is free, one drawback that I didn't like about the app is that I needed to buy each trail's information and guides individually.
Now there are other drawbacks.
For instance, although it has an extensive database of outdoor attractions, the information provided can sometimes be less detailed compared to other dedicated hiking or outdoor apps. For those who prefer in-depth trail information or user reviews, this might be a bit disappointing.
Another thing is that FarOut Guides is a relatively new player in the world of outdoor apps, which means it may lack some features more established apps have.
This includes real-time GPS tracking or a safety check-in system, features that are increasingly standard in other outdoor apps.
🔥 Why I Love FarOut / GutHook!
As I mentioned earlier, I love an app that focuses on winning the hearts of the community it's serving!
Guthook is an app that delivers what it can provide. Detailed guides, including all of the information you'll possibly need in one app, with offline access, with customization options available.
What's not to love? It's definitely a worthy app to buy trails from and use during thru-hikes!
2. Gaia GPS (iOS and Android: Free / $19.99 or $47.88/year with Outside+)
Gaia, or Gaia GPS, is another super popular hiking app within the hiking community. With Gaia, I was able to find and explore new trails, see and save hiking/trekking statGaia, or Gaia GPS, is another super popular hiking app within the hiking community.
With Gaia GPS, I was able to find and explore new trails, see and save hiking/trekking statistics, and record my routes.
Even with the free version, I was able to use and find waypoints and look at topographical maps to track routes. With the paid version, I was able to use it offline with a variety of other specialty maps.
One of the most prominent advantages of Gaia is its comprehensive GPS feature, combining different types of maps like topographic and satellite maps for me to route and record my trails.
I personally think this is a powerful tool for any outdoor adventures you might want to partake in!
With the paid version of Gaia GPS, you'll get access to offline maps and Gaia's entire map catalog. Recently, Gaia GPS partnered with Outside+ for their new annual premium version.
Gaia GPS's annual version includes additional maps for skiing, mountain biking, and backpacking, which is great for frequent hikers, backpackers, and backcountry trekkers.
For one, the free version of the app offers limited features, compelling users to subscribe to the premium version for full functionality.
Other drawbacks about the Gaia app include a complex app interface for first time users and its GPS tracking being affected by weak or non-existent internet connectivity.
Make sure to read the full review of Gaia GPS if you'd like to learn more about the hiking app or purchase their memberships!
🔥 Why I Love Gaia GPS!
While for some, no smartphone app can replace a GPS device or paper map-based navigation, Gaia GPS is definitely the closest I've seen that replicates precise navigation.
What Ilove about Gaia GPS is the versatility and quality of its free version! From weather forecasting to routing and planning out trail routes, you can do more than just hike with Gaia GPS.
Alternative: If you're looking for GPS apps for other outdoor sports like mountain biking or backpacking, give Komoot a try! It's an alternative map routing platform that helps you plan action-specific routes in advance.
1. AllTrails (iOS and Android: Free / $35.99 annually)
AllTrails is one of the all-around best hiking apps for novices and experts alike. All it takes is a few taps on your phone to find curated hiking, biking, and running trails for various lengths and difficulty levels.
The app let me create custom trail maps, follow my friends’ activities and read trail reviews from its user community. AllTrails hiking app is great because of the community-created database of useful information on different trails, as well as new off-the-beaten-path trails! Yes, please!
For more advanced hikers, AllTrails also provide information such as elevation gain and trailhead location, and time. AllTrails app also tracks and records the hikes you've done, including the exact route you took, the elevation gain you've achieved, and how long it took for you to complete the trail.
As effective as AllTrails can be, it isn't perfect. The free version of the app is quite limited, and the full suite of features is only available with an AllTrails Pro subscription.
The app can sometimes experience issues with GPS accuracy, especially in remote or heavily wooded areas, which can make navigation challenging.
Also, while user-generated trail reviews can be beneficial, they can also be a mixed bag in terms of reliability and quality.
By the way... I was able to sign up for the AllTrails Pro Membership, by using code "Pilotplans25" for 25% off AllTrails Pro. Both this deal is still for a limited time only! Make sure to redeem your discount on the website, as it won't work on your app.
For more in-depth information, check out our AllTrails app review to see if AllTrails will be a good fit for your next hiking excursion. If you're more of an intermediate or advanced hiker and want to know whether AllTrails Pro is worth it, we've got you covered as well!
🔥 Why I Love the AllTrails Hiking App!
The community here at Pilot is connected through our goal is to help people live happier lives through shared experiences. AllTrails helps facilitate this really well.
The app makes it easy for you to share custom maps, routes, and experiences with family and friends. Real people contribute the reviews and pictures of many locations, making the app's information more honest and reliable.
A huge benefit for Apple Watch users like myself is the AllTrails apple watch app, which allows me to navigate using my Apple Watches to track and record my hikes and trails.
Honorable Mentions: Pokémon GO (iOS and Android, Free)
I believe hiking is fun all on it's own, but when I was looking for a way to spice up my daily walks or treks near the city, I took a "go" with this app. I played the super popular augmented reality game while hiking: Pokémon GO.
Created by Niantic, Pokemon GO allows you to catch different pokemon, battle other players, and explore different Pokéstops while on your walks or hikes.
If you're not familiar with what Pokémons are, don't worry! The app and community are super welcoming and fast to learn, allowing you to be hooked to the game immediately! And if you catch a shiny, let me know!
Honorable Mentions: Seek by iNaturalist / iNaturalist (iOS and Android, Free)
I always find myself looking at a flower, insect, or bird and asking myself, "What's the name of that species?"
By combining curiosity with discovery, Seek by iNaturalist allows you to identify faunas and floras on your hike based on images you take and your geographic locations by providing you a list of possible species based on the picture and location provided. Now I can contribute to environmental and conservation research on my hikes!
What's even better is that you'll be able to earn badges and achievements with the different species you discover!
Download the iNaturalist app and participate in citizen sciences by reporting the species you see on your hikes! Your efforts will help drive conservation and environmental science research and help protect endangered or threatened species!
Honorable Mentions: National Park Service (NPS) App (iOS and Android, Free)
What better place to receive information about parks than the National Park Services themselves?
The National Park Service App, developed by U.S. National Park Services government agency, contains all of the vital information you'll need to know on all 423 national park units, which include 63 national parks around the United States.
This up-to-date information provided by official government sources will help you navigate the tour trails, places to stay and camp, park & campsite amenities, personalized tour guides, interactive maps, and more!
While the National Park Service app might not have nearly enough features to compete with apps like AllTrails or Gaia GPS, I find it an essential download for the most updated official resource on trailheads and park amenities in the United States.
Oh, and they're free to download!
Go Beyond With These Hiking Apps!
I focused my attention on hiking locally or trekking new areas, but if you are mountain biking, camping, and more, the best hiking apps will accommodate for such. After all, a lot of the tools you use in the top hiking apps are linked to using GPS for navigation and tracking or using maps to route and plan ahead.
I also hope you check out the fun or impactful hiking or walking apps like Pokemon GO and iNaturalist!
Regardless of what best hiking app you go with, you'll definitely be in good hands with these top picks!
Plan Your Trips With Pilot!
All of the apps listed here are complimentary apps to Pilot! Hiking is enjoyed as a weekend pastime and as a travel activity. After all, hiking is often required to see some of the world's most beautiful natural sceneries!
If you're looking to go hiking during your trip, make sure to plan your adventures ahead with Pilot!