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The Best Hiking Apps – Offline Outdoor Navigation Apps

The use of smartphones out in the wilderness is controversial, but there’s no question the technology has real utility. Even if you personally eschew the regular use of a smartphone on your backpacking or paddling or hunting adventures, it’s not a bad idea to have one stowed away in the pack: If nothing else, it’s another emergency tool in case you run into trouble.

Topographical Map Used for Navigation

But there’s much else to take advantage of, outdoors-wise, with today’s immensely powerful mobile devices. (And, incidentally, a 2013 report by the Outdoor Foundation suggested close to 40 percent of all Americans do take advantage of them while engaged in outdoor recreation.) Smartphone apps can deliver you instant trailside flower guides, birdsong identifiers, celestial charts—and, most notable of all of course, maps and other navigational references for both staying oriented and recording your own movements through the backcountry.

Here we’re going to round up some of the best hiking apps for offline navigation on the market: programs that serve up topographic charts, satellite images, trail guides, and other resources even when you’re outside the realm of cellular or data coverage. And if you’ve got the bug for wild places—and we imagine that describes an awful lot of our readership here at the Mountain House blog—you’re going to find yourself outside of that realm more than once.

A Quick (but Important) Caveat Off the Bat

Don’t rely on your smartphone alone for backcountry navigation (or emergency signaling, or anything else for that matter). These gadgets—and the apps below—aren’t replacements for hard-copy topographic maps and a compass. Digital technology (and batteries) can and will malfunction, so you’re going to want some good old-fashioned backup at the ready in the event the screen goes screwy or altogether blank. And learning to use both compass and GPS hiking app—they’re complementary resources, after all—will deepen your navigational prowess, not to mention your appreciation for the ground you’ve covered and the terrain around you.

So, without further ado, here are some of our absolute fave outdoor navigation apps!

1. ViewRanger Skyline (for ios, android)

ViewRanger Skyline uses your smartphone camera to conjure up an annotated real-time view of your surroundings. The app labels the peaks, passes, rivers, lakes, and other topographic features you’re looking at through the viewfinder: an easy and awesome way to center yourself on the landscape. Skyline also overlays your waypoints as well as navigational arrows right onto the image, revealing direction and distance to destinations and key landmarks.

As long as you download maps for your area ahead of time, you can navigate (and I.D. the terrain) with ViewRanger Skyline when you’re away from coverage.

two mobile phones showing viewranger skyline features

2. Backcountry Navigator (for Android)

backcountry navigator logo

Among the best hiking apps Android offers, Backcountry Navigator operates on both smartphones and tablets. With pre-downloaded maps, it works offline as an alternative to a traditional GPS: displaying topo charts, logging waypoints and routes, and much more.

mobile version of topo maps

3. Gaia GPS (for ios, android)

gaia gps map

For both iOS and Android, Gaia GPS makes another fantastic app with among the best offline navigation capabilities. Cross-reference between USGS/USFS maps, National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps, road maps, and satellite views; define pre-planned routes and chart your on-the-ground travels and waypoints; and link up geologged photos to document your journey.

4. Motion X GPS (for ios)

MOtion X GPS logo

Another premier GPS hiking app, Motion X GPS gives iOS users a full suite of navigational tools when they’re out trekking without the benefit (and burden) of data or cell coverage. You can pull up the app’s terrain and roadmaps as well as NOAA marine charts offline by downloading ahead of your trip.

Meanwhile, the app allows you to track your route, log statistics such as distance covered and elevation gained, and record waypoints and geologged pics.

5. Chimaini National Parks (for ios, android)

chimani logo

Some of the finest outdoor experiences to be had in the United States await, of course, in the country’s stellar network of national parks. With Chimaini (compatible with both iOS and Android systems), you get a GPS hiking app with onboard maps for each and every one of America’s 59 national parks—plus trail descriptions, points of interest, recommended destinations, overviews of services, and other handy-dandy information.

6. Outdoor Navigation (for Windows)

This ranks among the best offline navigation apps for Windows users, meanwhile. Download maps in advance and you can reference them out in the wilds—plus plan out routes, monitor your progress, tag points of interest with photos, and otherwise stay well oriented (and well documented) on the trail.

7. AllTrails (for ios, android)

With AllTrails, you have better than 50,000 trail maps at your fingertips (whether you’re using the iPhone or the Android): an excellent resource for dreaming up treks and then carrying them out with loads of navigational and informational support at your disposal. You can also customize maps to chronicle and share your own personal adventure.

So there you have it: some of the best hiking apps for Android, iOS, and Windows smartphone technology. Feel free to share your favorites with us, too!

8 Best & FREE Hiking Apps You Need to Download in 2022 + Honorable Mentions!

Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our users. We may earn a small commission fee when you click on affiliate links on our website, and all recommendations are independently reviewed.

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I’m a huge believer in disconnecting every once in a while to enjoy life!

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 at the same time, we cannot ignore the huge variety of tools that helps elevate your experience hiking or trailing outdoors.

Helpful 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.

Hiking tools all-in-one in the top hiking apps.

Besides, you no longer need to pack a backpack full of tools to help you with longer hikes. All you’ll need is your smartphone with a few hiking apps downloaded.

But with the vast amount of hiking and trail apps available on the market, how do you know which is the best 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, we’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).

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.

That’s why we’ve broken down six 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 are the 8 best & free hiking apps you won’t regret downloading, each with their specialties!

  1. Best overall free hiking app: AllTrails
  2. Best hiking GPS app: Gaia GPS
  3. Best hiking guide app: FarOut (aka Guthook by Atlas Guides)
  4. Best trekking app: PeakVisor
  5. Best hiking AR-navigation app: Spyglass
  6. ⛰ Best hiking trails app to discover new trails: Hiking Project
  7. ⛑ Best hiking safety app: Cairn
  8. Best “You probably already have it” hiking app: Google Maps

Along with many honorable mentions to consider downloading!

Which one should you choose? What is the best free hiking app? What’s the best hiking and GPS-integrated app? What’s the best hiking app for finding new trails, safety, or getting around different terrains? Read on to find out!

Top 8 hiking apps to download in 2022!

8. Google Maps (iOS and Android: Free)

An app that certainly needs no introduction, Google Maps is a general purpose navigation and map tool app that helps you locate restaurants, gas stations, your friends home,and also hiking trails.

Google maps app help 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.

Google maps app preview.

To download offline maps for easy access, follow these simple steps:

1. Click on your profile picture on the top right corner of the app

2. Click on the “Offline maps” feature.

3. Click “Select your own map”, and choose the region you’d like to download for offline access.

4. Wait for the download!

Once its 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!

Google maps is great for a general purpose app if you wouldn’t want to pay or download another app, but the app comes with many limitations that some other hiking apps have. This includes access to user-generated trails or less popular trails, limited rangefinder capabilities, no peak identification, and more.

Google Maps is available on both the iOS App Store and Android Google Play Store.

Why We Love Google Maps!

Google does a great job at combining everything you’ll need in one app, and Google Maps is no different. You can look up reviews of your favorite resturant and search for your next weekend hiking trail, all in the same app.

Plus, it’s great to have such a powerful tool almost everyone around the world has without having to pay a dime.

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.

You can use the app to share your real-time progress and location with family or friends for their peace of mind and yours too!

Cairn helps you plan routes by offering helpful estimates of how long you will take to complete a particular trail based on personalized data and points out areas with weak cell reception.

If you take longer than expected for your hike, the app also notifies your emergency contacts to let them know.

The premium version of the app lets you use its features offline and automatically sends live updates to your contacts.

Cairn is available on both the iOS App Store and Android Google Play Store.

Cairn hiking app preview features.

Cairn lets you share trip progress & find high coverage areas and navigate to safety! (Image Courtesy: Cairn)

Why We Love the Cairn Hiking App!

Hiking is super fun but can also be dangerous if you’re exploring unknown paths or unfamiliar areas. Cairn helps you get home safely and get back to where you need to be.

6. Hiking Project (IOS and Android, Free)

Hiking Project is the best free hiking app that uses community-sourced content to help you 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 that is constantly updated with new information and more reviews.

Plus, Hiking Project works offline, so you can use it literally anywhere your explorations may take you.

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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!

Hiking Project is available on both the iOS and Android stores.

The Hiking Project Mobile Interface

Use Hiking Project app to learn about featured hikes in your area and read reviews. (Image Courtesy: Hiking Project)

Why We 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.

The Hiking Project is the best hiking app to learn specific things 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 and definitely worth it.

With modern features like augmented-reality navigation, the app operates in 3D, shows you real-time object locations, and overlays directions over images and maps. Additionally, you’re 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.

Spyglass also has the power to turn your phone into a GPS receiver, altimeter, speedometer, star finder, coordinate converter, a pair of binoculars, and more.

SpyGlass is available on both the iOS and Android stores.

Screenshots of SpyGlass mobile interface

Why We Love the Spyglass Hiking App!

Spyglass’s gazillion features will turn you into a proficient navigator and explorer in no time!

What’s more, the advanced object-location data features can really elevate your 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 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 your phone’s location and camera to label the peaks you are looking at. The days of using your compass and map to triangulate different peaks are long gone!

PeakVisor is available for free and with a pro premium subscription. While the free version covers most of the functionalities, the pro version will allow you to do all of that, offline with no cell service.

PeakVisor is available in both iOS and Android stores.

PeakVisor App Preview AppStore

Why We Love the PeakVisor hiking App!

Hiking is as much about discovery and exploration as it is about health. PeakVisor does just that!

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!

It’s also incredibly resourceful to be able to identify the different hills and peaks outdoors as opposed to just calling it “that peak”!

Alternative to PeakVisor: PeakFinder

If you’re looking for an alternative to PeakVisor, give its alternative Peak Finder a try!

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!

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.

PeakFinder is available on both the iOS and Android stores.

Peakfinder mobile hiking app preview.

Use the app’s editor mode to capture locations and share them with friends. (Image Courtesy: PeakFinder)

3. FarOut Guides App (Formerly GutHook Guides by Atlas Guides, iOS and Android: Free)

FarOut Guides app, originally and more popularly known as Guthook Guide app, is a hiker favorites 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.

While FarOut Guides is free, you’ll need to buy each trail’s information and guides individually. 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!

FarOut Guides by Atlas guides Guthook app preview.

The FarOut app offers some demo trails if you’re hesitant about paying for the app. FarOut is available on iOS and Android.

Why We Love FarOut / GutHook!

Speaking of 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, you can find and explore new trails, see and save hiking/trekking statistics, and record your routes.

One of the most prominent features of Gaia is its comprehensive GPS feature, combining different types of maps like topographic and satellite maps for you to route and record your 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.

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.

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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 we love Gaia GPS!

While no smartphone app can replace a GPS device or paper map-based navigation, Gaia GPS is definitely the closest that replicates precise navigation.

What we love 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.

Gaia GPS is available on both iOS and Android.

1. AllTrails (iOS and Android: Free / $29.99 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 also lets you create custom trail maps, follow 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!

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.

While the app’s premium paid version has additional features like offline off-route/3D navigation, and real-time overlays, the free version offers more than enough for most casual explorers.

By the way. If you’re looking to get the AllTrails Pro Membership, use code “Pilotplans25” for 25% off AllTrails Pro 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!

AllTrails app preview on an iPhone

Why We Love the AllTrails Hiking App!

At Pilot, 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 is the AllTrails apple watch app, which allows users to Navigate using their Apple Watches to track and record their hikes and trails.

AllTrails is available on both iOS and Android.

Honorable Mentions: Pokémon GO (iOS and Android, Free)

Looking for a way to spice up your daily walks or hikes near the city? Look no further than the super popular augmented reality game to play 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!

Pokémon GO is available on both iOS and Android.

Honorable Mentions: Seek by iNaturalist / iNaturalist (iOS and Android, Free)

Have you ever looked at a flower, insect, or bird and thought to yourself, “What’s the name of that species?”

What if I told you that you can contribute to environmental and conservation research on your hikes?

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.

What’s even better is that you’ll be able to earn badges and achievements with the different species you discover!

Seek iNaturalist app preview.

What if I told you that you can contribute to environmental and conservation research on your hikes? 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!

Seek by iNaturalist is available on iOS and Android. iNaturalist app is also available on iOS and Android.

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, they’re definitely a download for the most updated official resource on trailheads and park amenities.

NPS National Park Service App Preview

Oh, and they’re free to download!

National Park Service App (NPS) is available on both android and iOS.

Go beyond with these hiking apps!

Whether you’re going hiking, trekking, mountain biking, camping, or 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.

We’ve also mentioned 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!

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!

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Source https://mountainhouse.com/blogs/backpacking-hiking/best-offline-navigation-apps-hiking

Source https://www.pilotplans.com/blog/best-hiking-apps

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