Outdoor Horizon is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

The 8 Best Hiking Apps

As a kid, the whole point of our parents wanting us to go play outside was to get us away from technologies like the TV and computer. Today, however, there are so many ways to use technology to our advantage and experience the natural world to the fullest, including via hiking apps.

The 8 best hiking apps are:

  1. Gaia GPS
  2. Cairn
  3. FATMAP
  4. AllTrails
  5. Hiking Project
  6. National Park Service App
  7. Seek by iNaturalist
  8. PeakVisor

If you’re an avid hiker, or just getting into outdoor activities by researching trails, the 8 apps on this list can help you find a trail, keep your bearings while on the trail, and encourage you to keep coming back to the outdoors for more experiences!

The 8 Best Hiking Apps

1. Gaia GPS

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free and paid options

Never lose the trail again with the Gaia GPS app. This app uses your phone’s GPS to keep you hiking on your chosen route and will alert you if you’ve stepped too far off the trail. It’s also compatible with Apple Watch.

Before your journey, you can explore satellite and topographic maps of any given area and plan the trip you’re going to take, from a short day-hike to a long backpacking route. Once you’ve settled on your trail, downloading the map to your phone will allow you to use the app for navigation while out on the trail without the need for cell phone service or Wi-Fi.

Use the app to track your progress while you’re on the trail, as well as to keep you enroute to where you plan to camp, rest, or participate in your favorite form of recreation. You can also save your recorded trips through the app to reference later.

2. Cairn

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free and paid options

If you’ve ever been concerned for your safety while on the trail, you need this app. Cairn is a safe hiker’s best friend that will help you not only navigate and track your progress on the trail, but also share your location with family or friends to ensure you return safely from your adventures.

Many hikers rave that Cairn is ideal for long solo hikes. It allows you to notify your loved ones that you’re okay without having to pull out your phone and find cell service. If for some reason, however, you find yourself in need of contacting someone on the trail, the app will give you locations of where others have found cell coverage along the same path.

Similar to some other navigation apps, you can also download maps to use while offline, track your progress, and keep records of your stats for future use. Unlike any of these other apps, however, Cairn will notify your emergency contacts if your arrival is past-due as well as give them rescue advice to make the best decision for bringing you home safe.

3. FATMAP

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free and paid options

If you’re into mountain sports like hiking, biking, and skiing, then you should download FATMAP, which boasts “the world’s most advanced 3D outdoor map.”

The global interactive map includes information on public trails, as well as resort routes, for all outdoor sports. You can toggle between summer and winter maps and utilize the terrain analysis features to gain more knowledge on things like elevation and slope.

Like other apps of its kind, you can plan and track your progress on any route you choose, check the weather conditions, as well as download maps for offline use with the premium subscription. The most unique feature of FATMAPS has to be the ability to follow other users and see their adventures, similar to social media platforms.

4. AllTrails

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free and paid options

This list would not be complete without the AllTrails app. With over 200,000 trails crowd-sourced and curated by millions of outdoor-enthusiast users, AllTrails offers one of the easiest and most popular ways to find new trails near you.

In the AllTrails app, you can search any area of the US and filter trails by difficulty, length, elevation change, trail traffic, activity type, and so much more. There’s even a filter to find which trails are the best for dogs, kids, or wheelchair and stroller accessibility.

Each trail has a rating awarded by other hikers who have used it. In the reviews section, you can read each hiker’s accounts of their experiences on the trail, as well as view pictures of their trip. These reviews can be particularly helpful in finding up to date trail conditions, get tips on the right gear to bring, and even find out the best place to park for the trailhead!

5. Hiking Project

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free

Hiking Project is a free, crowd-sourced app for finding the best hikes near you, no matter where you are in the world. There are over 74,000 miles of trails to explore with this app, and new trails are constantly being added by users like you!

The app allows you to view your exact location on the trail and download trails and maps for use offline completely for free. You can hit points of interest along the trail and check in through the app which is later synced with HikingProject.com on their “Gems” page for others to view. When you’re done hiking, leave a detailed review and pictures for the next hikers that come across this path.

The downside of this app is that the available trails are mainly located in the US and Canada, but are steadily growing in other places of the world thanks to the app gaining popularity in hiking and outdoors communities.

6. National Park Service

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free

For those that have it on their list to visit every national park in the US, and make the absolute most of it, the National Park Service app is the one for you. The NPS app gives you the ultimate guide to each of the 423 US national parks by taking information directly from Park Rangers.

This info includes the most recommended trails to take, the best places to camp or stay, and access to self-guided tours of the most popular points of interest in the park. The app also has an interactive map to help you make the most of your visit by planning routes ahead of time.

Additionally, the app will give you all the need-to-know information like fees, alerts, accessibility options, and amenities available within the park. Access to all of this information is available with no internet access or cell service by downloading an entire park’s map and content before your visit, all for free!

7. Seek By iNaturalist

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free

If you’ve ever been curious about identifying wildlife, then Seek by iNaturalist is a must-download before you venture off down your next trail. Using image recognition technology, Seek allows you to identify the plants, animals, insects and fungi all around you with the simple snap of a picture.

This app is especially fun to use when hiking with kids, but adults can have just as much fun channeling their inner wildlife photographer. Once you submit a photo, the app provides information on that species, as well as other species in the same taxon nearby.

In addition to submitting your own photos, you can find known species in your area and read about them right on the app’s interface. There’s even a page ofChallenges to choose from, such as the Healthy Ecosystem Challenge from National Geographic, which gives you a mission for your next hike or outdoor activity.

8. PeakVisor

Available on: iOS/Android | Price: Free and paid options

PeakVisor is another innovative app that uses image recognition technology and combines it with your phone’s GPS data to tell you what mountains are in your view!

Simply open the app and point your phone at any peak, whether it’s a mountain or a hill, and PeakVisor will tell you the name of the peak you’re looking at, the elevation of the summit, the distance between you and that point, and more information than you can believe about that peak!

You can use the app’s “Teleport” feature to view and learn about peaks worldwide, or even upload pictures from previous hikes to identify the mountains in the distance as long as they include GPS data. Whether you’re an experienced mountaineer, or simply traveling the country in the car, PeakVisor is highly recommended if you love learning about the peaks around you.

Final Thoughts

Living in the modern world, it can be difficult to connect with nature given all the distractions in our daily lives. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to disconnect from the digital world in order to enjoy the great outdoors. With these 8 best hiking apps, you’ll find yourself more connected with the world around you than ever before!