Gone are the days when hikers had to rely on a compass and an outdated map to guide them along the world’s best hiking trails. These days, detailed trail information is no further away than a great smartphone app!
Your biggest issue may be deciding which of the most popular hiking apps to plot out your next great hike. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the best hiking apps currently available, complete with a breakdown of what each has to offer.
Whether you’re searching for the best free hiking apps, the best gps app, or the best choice for finding new trails, we’ve got the goods. Many hiking apps now even have features designed for offline use so that you can feel free to venture beyond the confines of cell phone coverage. Plus, a lot of them are free!
No matter your skill level or interests, we’ll help you find the best hiking app. So grab your best trail boots, strap on your backpack, and get ready to hit the trail.
Editor’s Note: Trail safety is important, and if you’re out in the woods a lot, it’s a good idea to invest in a satellite communicator like the Garmin inReach Mini or Zoleo. These gadgets work wherever there’s a view of the sky and use GPS and satellite connections to help you check in with loved ones or summon Search and Rescue if needed.
Show Table of Contents
- TL;DR – The Best Hiking Apps
- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Hiking Apps
- 1. All Trails
- 2. The Gaia GPS Hiking App
- 3. PeakVisor
- 4. Hiking Project
- 5. Cairn
- 6. Google Maps
- 7. National Park Service App
- 8. FarOut (Formerly Guthook Guides)
- 9. Komoot Hiking App
- 10. Seek by iNaturalist
- How to Plan for Your Next Hiking Trip
- Gather Your Hiking Gear
- Travel on the Cheap
- Expect the Unexpected
- Are there any free hiking apps that offer great features?
- Can I use hiking apps offline or do I need internet access?
- Are there hiking apps specifically designed for certain regions or trails?
TL;DR – The Best Hiking Apps
- Best hiking app overall: AllTrails (iOS / Android)
- Best hiking GPS app: Gaia GPS (iOS / Android)
- Best app for 3D maps and peak identification: PeakVisor (iOS / Android)
- Best hiking app for finding new trails: Hiking Project (iOS / Android)
- Best hiking safety app: Cairn (iOS / Android)
- Best user-friendly hiking app: Google Maps (iOS / Android)
- Best for National Park trails: National Park Service (NPS) App (iOS / Android)
- Best hiking app for long-distance backpacking: FarOut (Formerly Guthook Guides) (iOS / Android)
- Best for mountain biking: Komoot (iOS / Android)
- Best for wildlife and plant identification: Seek by iNaturalist (iOS / Android)
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Hiking Apps
1. All Trails
If you need a hiking app that does a little bit of everything, then you can’t go wrong with the AllTrails hiking app. Not only is it one of the best hiking apps out there, but it’s also one of the most well-known, popular resources among hikers around the world.
Simply sign up for a free account on the AllTrails website or download the Alltrails app from the Apple app store or on Google Play. Then jump right in and search for the perfect hike from over 400k curated trails.
Part of what makes the AllTrails app so unique is that it allows you to search for trails based on every filter under the sun. Search by difficulty, length, or even activities such as mountain biking or horseback riding.
Whether you’re looking for stroller or wheelchair-friendly trails, dog-friendly treks, or scenic mountain biking trails, the AllTrails app will point you in the direction of the best choice for you. You can even read trail reviews by other users from AllTrails’ huge hiking community.
While the free version of the Alltrails hiking app has all the features you need to find, save, and navigate your favorite hikes, the app also offers a paid version called AllTrails+. If you spring for the upgrade, you’ll enjoy perks like wrong turn alerts, 3D maps, and downloading offline maps.
You can even integrate the phone app with your Apple Watch to pull up maps or track your activity. Whether you’re looking for the best free hiking app or all the features that AllTrails+ has to offer, this is one app that’s definitely worth downloading.
- Huge collection of over 400k trails to choose from
- Excellent range of filter options
- Detailed trail analysis, including trail time, elevation gain, and more
- Save your favorite trails to your phone
- Paid version offers features like 3D maps, offline maps, and wrong-turn alerts
- Integrates with Apple Watch
- Free version includes ads
- Online access is for paying customers only
- Subscription is charged annually rather than monthly (though it’s very reasonable)
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the United States
2. The Gaia GPS Hiking App
Remember that handy trick where you can navigate your way out of the woods based on the positioning of moss growth on certain tree trunks? Yeah, neither do we [Editorial Note – speak for yourself! Moss only grows on the part of the trunk that faces north] – which is why we highly recommend the Gaia GPS hiking app.
Gaia GPS is definitely one of the best GPS hiking apps on the market and can go a long way toward calming your fears of ending up stranded in unchartered territory. While the Gaia GPS app is incredibly popular among hikers of all levels, we particularly recommend it for those who love wandering off-trail or hiking through the backcountry.
Much like many other hiking apps, Gaia GPS offers both a free version and the option to upgrade. If you’re looking for a great free hiking app, then you can’t go wrong taking a free account for a test drive.
Gaia will use phone GPS tracking to help you find new trails or create your own anywhere in the world. You’ll also be able to record your route or activities for fitness purposes and enjoy access to basic topographic and satellite maps.
If you upgrade to the Premium version, you’ll gain access to offline maps, weather features, and the 300+ map catalog, which provides access to some of the best topographic maps out there. You can also choose to tack on a feature called Outside+, with access to professional-level tools like the Trailforks Pro GPS app, detailed trail guides from National Geographic experts, classic topographic maps from the USGS and USFS, and more.
Gaia GPS Pros:
- Gaia GPS uses your device’s GPS tracker to guide you along trail maps
- Record your routes and activities
- The paid version allows you to download offline trail maps for hiking, backcountry skiing, biking, and more
- Great for finding or creating new trails to explore
- Access weather & terrain features
- The Outside+ subscription option includes access to everything from expert-led online courses to the Trailforks Pro GPS app
Gaia GPS Cons:
- Using your phone GPS does a number of battery life so make sure you take a backup charger
- Must upgrade to enjoy offline perks
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in Duluth, Minnesota
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could navigate a trail with the help of a state-of-the-art 3D GPS map? PeakVisor is here to make it happen.
The next-level hiking app utilizes both a GPS tracker and augmented reality to help seriously up your hiking game. Enjoy incredibly detailed 3D topographic maps that can give you insights into your hike in real time.
Have you ever been hiking along and wondered what mountain you were staring at in the distance? Just pull up PeakVisor, point your phone at the peak in question, and PeakVisor will fill you in on its name, elevation, distance, and more.
You can also use the hiking app to plan routes and track your journey on a 3D map, right down to distance and elevation gain. Download offline maps and everything else you need to venture off the grid.
If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll find a free version available in the Apple Store, though PeakVisor PRO requires in-app purchases. Oddly, Google Play only offers a paid version, and it’s worth noting that some users claim that PeakVisor works much better on iPhones.
- Impressive augmented reality guides and 3D maps, compass, and altimeter
- Point your phone at one of over 1 million mountains, and PeakVisor will ID it
- GPS navigational tracking
- Online check-ins available to share with other users
- Paid version works offline, but the free one does not
- Some users report the iPhone version is much better than the Android app
See Related: A Guide to Hiking Oahu’s Stairway to Heaven
4. Hiking Project
Part of what makes Hiking Project one of the best hiking apps out there is that it was created by hikers, for hikers. Hiking Project is a crowd-sourced website and app where hikers are invited to share information, reviews, photos, or rating of their favorite trails.
While anyone can contribute, the Hiking Project team does their due diligence by reviewing all the submissions to make sure they contain accurate information. Hiking Project is not only great for exploring ideas for new trails in your area, but for gaining firsthand insights into each trail’s highlights and challenges.
Another great perk of the Hiking Project is that it’s the free version is the only version. It’s incredibly rare to find a 100% free hiking app that doesn’t even have the option to upgrade, let alone one with as many cool features as the Hiking Project app.
You’ll enjoy a thorough guide to the best hikes to explore in your area, though the app does tend to focus mostly on apps in the U.S. and Canada. Alongside each trail, you’ll find interactive maps, GPS route info, photos, and comments from other hikers who have trodden each path.
While it may not have as many features as Gaia GPS or technology as sleek as PeakVisor, Hiking Project is still a serious contender for the best free hiking app. Sometimes there’s nothing like being able to exchange advice directly with other hikers.
Hiking Project App Pros:
- One of the best hiking apps you can get for completely free
- Pre-vetted crowd-sourced information and photos from other hikers
- Interactive trail map features and GPS route info
- Great for finding new trails near you
- Contribute your own thoughts and photos on trails you’ve explored
Hiking Project Cons:
- Not as many fancy features as some other choices
- Trails are mostly based in the USA
Just in case you’re wondering, the word “cairn” literally refers to a pile of stones that can be used for several purposes. In the case of outdoor adventurers, cairns are often used as impromptu trail markers that help guide hikers along not-so-chartered hiking routes.
Today, Cairn also happens to be the name of one of the best hiking apps out there when it comes to staying safe on the trail. Known as the ultimate hiking safety app, Cairn allows your friends or family members to track your GPS location in real time.
It will even automatically send out alerts to the emergency contacts of your choice if you don’t show up where you’d planned to by the time you were due to arrive. The hiking app also makes estimating your ETA a lot easier with an algorithm that takes your speed, distance, and even upcoming elevation gain changes into account.
Wondering where to find the best cell phone coverage along your trail? Cairn has got you covered with crowdsourced information about where cell service is at its best (and worst).
Want to venture into an area with notoriously spotty service? Not to worry because Cairn provides plenty of downloadable maps that you can use anywhere in the world.
You can download the free version from Google Play or the Apple app store and immediately access features like maps, trails, and cell service information. But if you want to use Cairn’s best features, like GPS location tracking and automatic overdue alerts, you’ll need to sign up for the premium version.
That said, if you’re an avid hiker, then the price tag is incredibly reasonable – especially when stacked against wandering around in the wilderness eating questionable bugs and berries for a few days. If you look to set out solo or plan to hike with kids in tow, then this is one hiking app you can’t afford to be without.
Cairn Hiking App Pros:
- The best hiking app for safety
- Allows emergency contacts to track your progress in real-time
- Sends automatic overdue alerts to contacts if you don’t arrive at your destination at the scheduled time
- Downloadable maps, complete with the best cell coverage spots
- Excellent, reliable navigational tools
- You’ll need to upgrade to enjoy most of the best features, but the annual subscription is very reasonable
See Related: Savage River Loop Trail: Hiking Denali National Park
6. Google Maps
Okay, so Google Maps is obviously not going to have the same level of functionality as a dedicated hiking app, but hear us out. The first thing Google Maps has going for it is that you likely already have it on your phone and may already even use it regularly for navigating traffic.
The next is the ability to download offline maps that you can use even when your service bars are nil. Just select “offline maps” from the menu and create a “custom map” so that you can download a map of the entire area where you plan to explore.
Even if you find yourself in an area without cell service or an internet connection, Google Maps’ GPS tracker will continue to work. While some trail routes may be more mapped out than others, at least it can give you a good idea of exactly where you are and which direction you should head.
Another perk that Google Maps has to offer is its ability to search using coordinates – because, after all, sometimes new trails don’t exactly come with their own address. While Google Maps may not currently have the most robust set of features, it turns out that hikers haven’t completely escaped the company’s attention either.
For instance, Google Earth has a little-known multimedia layer dedicated to great hikes around the world. Then there’s Google Treks, a project that was designed to allow you to explore various sites around the world from the comfort of your own home with the street view detail of Google Maps.
Google Trek’s offerings are more robust in some regions than others, but the tool is worth checking out if you plan to hike in a state like California. Due to a partnership between Google Maps and California State Parks, you can now enjoy 360-degree views of over 110 California state parks from your favorite device.
Treks could be a handy tool to add to your arsenal if you want to find out what to expect from a hike beforehand or decide which is right for you. Last but not least, don’t forget to set out with Google Fit on your smartwatch to track those fitness goals.
Google Maps Pros:
- Great for downloading offline maps to use as navigational tools
- Search by coordinates
- Google Maps and Treks offer 360 images of select hikes
- Great for checking out photos and reviews beforehand
Google Maps Cons:
- Not specifically designed with hikers in mind
- More a handy emergency backup than a main go-to
See Related: Best Camping Spots in the World
7. National Park Service App
If you can’t get enough of exploring national parks, then drop everything and download the National Park Service App this instant. Developed by (you guessed it) the National Park Service, the NPS App is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about over 400 national parks across the United States.
Best of all, the app is offered free of charge and includes everything from interactive maps, accessibility info, and self-guided tours designed to introduce you to the best each national park has to offer. Created by the actual employees of national parks around the country, the goal of the app is to provide a sort of “ranger on demand.”
It will give you directions, suggestions, and everything else you need to plan the perfect trip to the national park of your choice. Whether you need to find the nearest restroom, restaurant, or shopping destination, you’ll be able to do it without having to track down the nearest park employee.
The app is even designed to allow users to download offline maps of entire national parks that will work even when their phone signal doesn’t. Not only is the NPS app the best free hiking app for national park lovers, but it even has a fun feature that lets you use park scenes to create virtual postcards to share with family or friends.
NPS App Pros:
- Definitely one of the best hiking apps for national parks
- Curated by NPS employees to offer in-depth information
- Interactive maps and self-guided tours
- Features over 400 U.S. parks
- Downloadable offline maps
NPS App Cons:
- Won’t do you much good outside of a national park
See Related: Best Denali Hiking Tours | Hike Denali National Park
8. FarOut (Formerly Guthook Guides)
Looking to tackle an epic long-distance hike like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail? If so, then FarOut Guides is definitely one of the best hiking apps for you. Guthook Guides recently combined their original hiking app with their Bikepacking Guides app and Cyclewayz app to create FarOut, an all-in-one app for adventurers.
Rather than signing up for a monthly subscription, the app allows you to purchase your choice of over 200 navigational guides to backpacking, biking, and rafting routes. Most of the routes are geared toward journeys in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, but those included are incredibly robust.
Featuring over 35,000 miles of trails to choose from, each map features detailed route information, including alternative maps for side trails. You’ll also find key waypoints and even info on nearby towns in case you need extra supplies.
Best of all, once you’ve purchased your map, you’ll be able to access all the features offline on the device of your choice. The offline maps will track your GPS location to guide you along each route, complete with waypoint checklists and elevation profiles.
FarOut also offers great safety features that allow you to check in with your current locations and even messages. It also offers social media-like commentary so that you can stay up to date on trail conditions through other hikers’ comments on each waypoint or leave tips of your own.
- One of the best hiking apps for backpacking and long-distance trails
- Also offers great features for bicycling, rafting, and more
- Detailed route information
- Offline GPS tracking is available
- Built-in safety features
- Social media style commentary
- GPS tracker can kill phone battery life quickly
- Only available for specific trails
- Having to purchase each map individually may be a drag for some
See Related: 2 Days Hiking the Heart of Wales Line Trail
9. Komoot Hiking App
If you’re a true world traveler at heart, then the Komoot app may be one of the best hiking apps for you. One of the app’s biggest strengths is that, unlike many hiking apps that focus mainly on the USA, Komoot features thousands of destinations from an impressive number of countries all over the world.
Want to check out the best hiking trails in South Africa or go mountain biking in New Zealand? Komoot’s got you covered with thousands of curated adventures that can be tailored to your particular style of adventure.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect long-distance cycling route, a romantic couple’s hike, or some of the world’s most beautiful gorges and ravines, you’ll find ready-built routes customized to suit your needs. You can even use filters like duration, difficulty, and whether the spot in question can be reached via public transportation.
Komoot’s intuitive interface will even give you personalized suggestions for new trails and adventures based on your favorite activities. It’s designed to help you include stops along your route, such as campsites, lake stops, train stations, and more.
Komoot even teamed up with scientists from Berlin’s Beuth University to develop some of the best topographic maps out there. You’ll get surface breakdowns of every inch of your route, along with elevation analysis to ensure no surprises.
Komoot’s large collection of mountain biking maps also makes it a favorite of cyclists, along with its handy voice navigation tool. Simply integrate it with your Apple Watch, phone, e-bike display, or one of a number of other devices to get a hand’s free head’s up of every upcoming turn.
Once you’ve designed your tour, you can download it as an offline map in case cell service falls short and even invite other adventurers along for the ride. Create logs of each adventure and share photos and comments of your favorite highlights with other adventures.
While a free version is available, we’ve also gotta give Komoot props on their clever upgrade options. If you want access to all the features Komoot has to offer, you can jump straight to a Komoot Premium subscription.
But if you’re looking for something specific, you’ll also enjoy a choice of several one-time payment options. Choose from access to a single region, a region bundle, or the world pack which unlocks navigation to every region in the world.
Komoot Hiking App Pros:
- An impressive number of destinations worldwide
- Curates personalized suggestions based on your interests
- Free, subscription, or one-time payment choices
- Downloadable offline maps are available
- Offers great features for finding biking trails, campsites, and more
- Voice navigation feature
- Some regions have sparser trail offerings than others
- No fitness tracking options
See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers
10. Seek by iNaturalist
Seek by iNaturalist is a little different than the other hiking apps on the list, but it’s cool enough that we found it well worth including. The app was developed through a partnership between the California Academy of Scientists and the National Geographic Society to turn hiking trails everywhere into next-level educational opportunities.
Start by simply downloading Seek by iNaturalist for free from the Apple app store or Google Play. The next time you’re on the trail, open it and point your camera at pretty much anything around you, whether it be a bird, bug, plant, or fungi.
Seek will use the power of image recognition to identify the creature or object in question and teach you all about it. Part of what makes the app so much fun is that it allows you to record your observations and earn little badges that count toward monthly challenges.
Think of it sort of like Pokemon Go for nature lovers. While it’s not one of those trail apps that’s going to help you map your route along a certain hiking trail, it’s an easy way to make any excursion a lot more interesting!
Seek is a great choice for keeping kids entertained along your next trek, as it helps gamify the entire experience. Just don’t be surprised if you end up getting hooked and shamelessly download it to your own phone to join in the fun.
Seek by iNaturalist Pros:
- Instantly identify plants, animals, or insects along your hike
- Available free of charge
- Observations count toward badges and monthly challenges
- Great for kids of all ages
Seek by iNaturalist Cons:
- Not intended for navigation or actually finding trails
See Related: Pedaling Paradise: The Best Bike Trails in the U.S.
How to Plan for Your Next Hiking Trip
Now that you’ve unearthed all these cool new hiking apps, the odds are you’re ready to hit the trail! But not so fast – the fact that you’ve just installed the best GPS app on the market doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to set out into the wilderness with nothing but an Apple Watch.
First, let’s make sure you’re equipped with everything you need to enjoy a safe journey. Here are some tips and tricks on everything from hiking gear and gadgets to how to find cheap flights to some of the world’s best hiking destinations.
Gather Your Hiking Gear
Let’s face it, no matter how death-defying your destination, there’s nothing more nerve-wracking than wondering whether you forgot to pack anything important. That’s why we created a handy backpacking checklist, complete with tips on all the best products you’ll need for your next excursion.
Want to get even more organized? Download our free printable travel planner to plan an awesome trip that checks all the right boxes.
Travel on the Cheap
One of the potential downsides of downloading all the best hiking apps is the high likelihood of discovering trails all over the world you long to visit. The good news is that there are now plenty of great ways to get around without breaking the bank.
Discount travel hacks are kind of our jam, which is why we’ve got a whole guide on how to find cheap flights using flight search engines, travel alert sites, and more. If you’d rather hit the road instead, then make sure you check out our tips for how to rent a cheap RV.
Expect the Unexpected
While every outdoor enthusiast knows the value of preparation, sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’ve completely covered your bases. That said, some considerations are more vital than others, such as making sure you have solid travel insurance coverage before you dangling off that cliff and don’t leave home without a first aid kit.
Other surprises, however, tend to be a little more….well, unexpected. Check out this list of the best travel accessories to ensure you’re stocked up on everything from solar-powered battery phone chargers to the best luggage for an outdoor adventure.
Are there any free hiking apps that offer great features?
Can I use hiking apps offline or do I need internet access?
If you’re looking for the best app in areas where cell service is spotty to non-existent, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that many hiking apps were designed with just such situations in mind. The only downside is that offline capability often separates an app’s paid version from its free version, so be prepared to invest in an upgrade.
Are there hiking apps specifically designed for certain regions or trails?
There are indeed apps focused on specific regions or states, such as WTA Trailblazer, which focuses on Washington state trails, and ModernHiker for California trails. It’s definitely worth checking out the Apple app store or Google Play to see if there are any state-specific maps or areas you’re interested in exploring.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.