We believe in the power of the outdoors—which usually means putting your phone down and getting out there. But sometimes, your smartphone is your window into a better time in the wild. We tapped our outdoor community to find the best apps available. These are the top eight hiking apps that will help you get out safer, smarter and speedier.
1. PeakFinder AR
We all want to be that local who knows the names of every single peak within a hundred-mile radius. This app makes you feel that way, without spending years studying maps. When you’re out on a hike, PeakFinder AR shows the names of all the mountains and peaks around you. An added bonus: It works offline. Heading to the Himalayas? No problem. This awesome app knows more than 350,000 peaks worldwide.
2. Gaia GPS Hiking Maps, Hike App
A good GPS goes a long way in the great outdoors. Luckily for you, Gaia GPS is trusted by the Mountaineers and BC Adventure Guides. We love the easy-to-read modern maps, plus the ability to explore historical or classic print maps. With the Gaia GPS Membership ($19.99 per year), you can download offline maps, record your adventures and get map overlays (like contour lines, slope angles and hill shading). It’s worth the dough. If you’re not into spending that kind of cash, you can still access the Gaia topo map, but you can’t download maps for offline use.
3. Star Walk
Sailors in the ancient world found their way via the stars. Although modern technology has replaced this, we still look to the stars in wonderment. With Star Walk you can identify the constellations above you when you’re on an evening hike or backpacking trip. You can discover celestial objects, see how they move across the sky and figure out where to look for any stars or planets you want to see. My own amazement at the beauty of the stars exponentially increased by learning more about the night sky with the help of this app!
4. Hiking Project
There’s nothing worse than having a day out ruined because you can’t find the trailhead (nothing, of course, other than getting lost while hiking). The REI app called Hiking Project, a database of more than 35,000 trails, gives you detailed data and maps, so you can have a great hike. With user-submitted trails, reviews and photos, the app uses the power of the masses for good. You’ll find trails you’ve never heard of, stay up to date on trail conditions and get driving directions so you can actually know where you’re going. Plus, on-trail navigation helps you find your way while you’re out on your hike. It’s even more fun when you log in, because you can tick off what you’ve done, add details about hikes and save trails you want to do in the future.
5. Relive: Your Outdoor 3D Videos
Turn your hiking adventure into a 3D video, effortlessly. Track your route, then use Relive to turn it into a shareable video. You’ll fly over your waypoints, see the highlights and even add photos from along the way. It shares your elevation, speed and other relevant information, so everyone can know how hard you worked. Plus, it links up with Strava, MapMyRun/Walk/Ride/Hike, Endomondo, Garmin Connect and Polar Flow to track your route.
6. Animated Knots by Grog
Are you hiking to climb, boat or fish? Do you want to be prepared for a mountain rescue? Or simply searching for a way to brush up on those important knots? Look no further. Named best knot-tying app by Outside magazine, Grog knows what’s up. Watch knots tie themselves in step-by-step photo animations. You’ll also get the detailed information on each knot’s uses, advantages (and disadvantages) and other crucial information.
Join a network of nature enthusiasts with iNaturalist. This app allows you to record what plants, insects, birds and animals you find and share them with others. You’ll be able to upload your photos to the app and share it with the world. If you don’t know what you’ve seen, leave the organism section blank and the community will help identify it!
8. Heads Up!
Does this count as an outdoor app? We think so. It’s a great way to have fun while resting at the summit of a hike or as you’re heading to the trailhead (passengers only … sorry, driver!). It’s a simple game: Hold the phone against your forehead and, from your friends’ clues, try to guess the word on the screen. Do it before the timer goes off, and you win!