Thanks to the rise of innovative hiking apps that allow you to discover new trails and monitor your location, hiking has never been more accessible, and enjoyable. Phones can now not only help you find new trails, but also provide invaluable information, safety features, and even stargazing opportunities at night. But, with so many hiking apps out on the market it can get hard to pick one. In this guide we are talking about the best hiking apps in 2023 that we have thoroughly tested and reviewed.
What are the Best Hiking Apps for Hiking?
In our testing we focused on finding and testing the best hiking apps that delivered in navigation accuracy, user friendliness, trail discovery, and features. We researched 11 various hiking apps out on the market but ultimately narrowed it down to 7 which we physically tested in the last year out on the trails. We found these 6 hiking apps to excel and work for a wide range of hikers. Whether you’re a fan of casual strolls or challenging treks, there’s an app tailored to your needs.
Best Overall Hiking App
- Price: Free version, Plus version $35.99 a year
- Free Features: Hike descriptions, community ratings, reviews, and GPS navigation
- Plus Features: Same as free features, plus downloadable maps, offline maps, off route notifications, 3D maps, Print Maps for backup, Weather details, Air Quality, Light Pollution, Pollen, and bug pressure.
Try the AllTrails App
Our Take on AllTrails: We have been testing AllTrails for years and it’s not just us it practically is one of the most used and popular navigation apps out on the market. The first things that stood out with AllTrails is the enormous database of trails. AllTrails probably has one of the biggest data bases for discovering trails in the world with access to over 200,000 trails in the world, using crowdsourcing for reviews and trail updates.
Crowdsourcing can be nice because it can be useful when looking at the comments and reviews from people who have recently done the trail. We have found this to be helpful when looking for trail conditions or even hazards. Though a slight con that we did often run into, is that you do have to weed through some not so useful reviews sometimes.
Another thing we found nice about AllTrails was how easy and user friendly it was. You can easily organize and search those trails based on length, rating, and difficulty. Furthermore, you can even organize trails by pet friendly, kid friendly, and by ratings.
During our testing we found the navigation to be accurate we always recommend downloading the map prior to use. But, in general AllTrails covers the basics allowing one to record pace, distance, elevation, and speed. You can create trails on AllTrails and print them off but only through a computer.
Overall, AllTrails is one of the best all-around hiking apps out on the market and is especially useful for beginners getting started out on the trails.
Best for GPS Navigation
- Price: Free version, Premium version $39.99 a year
- Free Features: Basic maps, record activities, create routes, GPS Navigation
- Premium Features: Same as free features, plus offline use, access to 300+ maps, weather, air quality, terrain features, and cellular coverage zones.
Try the Gaia GPS App
Our Take on Gaia GPS: Gaia GPS is another amazing app hikers can use of all levels that we have been testing the last couple of years. In our experience we really like how the GPS navigation works on Gaia. It is fairly user friendly with standard features that show speed, elevation, and can be refocused to North. We did find that the free version of Gaia is a little basic with the premium offering the best features with an abundance of map layout options.
While using Gaia GPS I recommend opting for the Premium. With this version you will get the weather forecasting, access to more maps, and terrain features. The Premium version is where Gaia GPS really shines.
Compared to other apps on this list we found that Gaia edges all of them out with navigational features and performance. When GPS location was trickier to find Gaia was one of the most consistent on locating. But, of all the pros the cons we found was that Gaia was a little limited with free features and other apps like AllTrails or Wikiloc are more overall helpful with trail discovery, trail stats, and information.
Just like AllTrails, Gaia GPS is also compatible with Apple Watch and other smartwatches which is helpful for using maps on your wrist. Overall, based on our testing Gaia GPS is one of the best hiking apps out on the market and goes head to toe against AllTrails edging it out when it comes to navigation and overall map layouts.
Best Free and User-Friendly App
- Price: Free version
- Free Features: Basic maps, record activities, offline GPS, Trail Discovery
- Premium: n/a
Try the Hiking Project App
Our Take on Hiking Project: During our testing of the Hiking Project app we found it to be one of the best free hiking apps out on the market. The Hiking Project offered offline maps as a free feature which is something we were up front very surprised to see in a free app.
We really enjoyed the features of the app which offers detailed hiking trails information, points of interest, and user reviews. All of these basic features really do make it a great choice for hikers looking for a cost-effective option.
While Hiking Project may not have as large a trail database as AllTrails and definitely nowhere close to the number of features, it does offer some of the most in-depth descriptions of trails and points of interest we have seen in any of the apps we have tried.
The app offers the convenience of being able to download trails from any or all national parks in all 50 states and even other countries through downloadable maps. This means you only need a GPS signal to access the map and navigate, as the map data is stored on your device. Overall, we found the Hiking Project app to be one of the best for simplicity and one of the best free hiking apps for hiking
Best for Trail Creation
- Price: Free/$3.99 value, $8.99, $29.99, Premium version: $59.99 per year
- Free Features: Basic maps, record activities, turn by turn navigation, offline function
- Premium: All free features, Multi Day Planner, On Tour Weather, Live Tracking
Our Take on Kamoot: We tried Kamoot for several months out on the trails and found the app to be another great all-around app for hiking. Kamoot is definitely more of a mountain and cycling app but does offer quite a bit of trail options as a hiking app.
We found the turn-by-turn voice navigation to be a nice hands-free feature for trail navigation. We could definitely see it being helpful while cycling although we only used the app for trail runs and hikes.
The navigation and route planning is where we found Kamoot to really excel compared to other apps on this list. Compared to AllTrails it is a bit easier to create and share custom guides for trails and routes created.
Overall, through our testing with Kamoot we found its fairly east to use interface, basic navigation features, and unique trail and trip planning, to be helpful. A few downsides we found was limited trail discovery it can be hard to find new trails through the app and there is not a lot of details especially when it comes to hiking trails. The app is a reliable for navigation with turn-by-turn voice feature and has offline features.
Best for Trail Discovery
- Price: Free, Premium version: $9.99 per year
- Free Features: Basic maps, Trail Discovery, Basic navigation, offline function
- Premium: All free features, navigate other user’s trails, Use on Smart watch, GPS, or Apple watch, weather forecasts, live tracking
Our Take on Wikiloc: We found Wikiloc to be a really affordable option and probably one of the best hiking apps for trail discovery on the market or at least very comparable to AllTrails. In our experience AllTrails had more trails in North America compared to Wikiloc which seemed to have more trails near the European areas.
During our testing we really liked Wikiloc’s navigation which was fairly user friendly. We thought the map layouts did appear slightly outdated in appearance or just not as clear and organized as the other hiking apps on this list. But that’s just a minor trade back for a free app or even the premium which is pretty reasonable at only $9.99 for the year.
Overall, we found Wikiloc to be one of the best hiking apps especially when it comes to finding new trails. In fact, for a while we were only really using Wikiloc for finding trails and Gaia for GPS navigation which worked well, although now we still use Alltrails for trail discovery mostly due to the majority of our hikes being in the states.
Best for Backpacking and Thru Hikes
- Price: Single Guide: Free – $74.99 depends on Map, Unlimited Versions: Monthly: $15, Seasonal: $72, Annual: $96
- Free Features: Basic maps, offline function, Detailed Trail Waypoints, Accurate Trail data, Community communication, trail creation
- Premium Features: All free features, plus access to all 200+ guides
Our Take on FarOut: FarOut, formerly known as Guthook Guides, is one of the best hiking apps when it comes to backpacking and thru hiking. Our favorite thing about FarOut during our testing was the amount of detail provided for the waypoints on the trails. We especially found the water source plot points helpful for locating water sources out on the trail.
During our testing we found the navigation to be up to par with many of the other gps hiking apps on this list. FarOut also offers many of the basic features offering details for trail information, offline maps, and communication features.
Some cons we found was that FarOut is very limited in trail discovery only specialized to long distance trails, which could also be a pro depending on how you look at it. But it leaves FarOut really only being more of a focused app and not one we would really use for shorter trails. Also, most of the maps on FarOut are not free so the free version is very limiting.
Overall, FarOut is by far the best and most comprehensive app for popular long-distance trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. It does have a create a trail feature so you could use it as your go to map app for hiking shorter trails if you wanted to. Though if you are wanting a more comprehensive hiking app with more features and don’t plan to do thru hikes AllTrails, Gaia, and the Hiking Project are better options.
Hiking Apps for Apple & Smart Watch Users
The increasing popularity of smartwatches among outdoor enthusiasts is due to the convenience they offer in accessing hiking apps and tracking performance stats directly from the wrist. In this section, we’ll discuss popular hiking apps that are compatible with Apple Watch and other smartwatches. In my opinion and through testing, the best hiking apps for smartwatch and Apple use are AllTrails and Gaia GPS.
As mentioned earlier, the AllTrails app is compatible with Apple Watch and other smartwatches, allowing you to:
- Access real-time tracking and performance stats during your hikes
- Monitor your progress, distance, elevation gain, and more
- Easily view information without having to reach for your phone
Syncing your AllTrails account with your smartwatch is a simple process, enabling you to enjoy an enhanced hiking experience with all of your performance data and trail information available at a glance.
Gaia GPS is another hiking app that is compatible with Apple Watch and other smartwatches. Offering advanced navigation features and offline maps, Gaia GPS makes it easy to navigate the trails and monitor your progress directly from your wrist.
- Access real-time tracking, mark waypoints, and turn by turn navigation during hikes
- Ability to integrate health kit
- Easily view information from your wrist with three views: navigate, settings, and media
Gaia has made it even easier to sync the app to your Apple or smartwatch. Previously you used to have to sync from your phone but, now they have developed a watch app which has made it work much more smoothly.
Tips for Using Hiking Apps Effectively
Smartphone Battery Life and Power Management
Hiking apps are providing useful features to help enhance the safety and experience out on the trail. However, with that being said there are a few tips to fully capitalize on their benefits. In this section, we’ll provide guidance on managing smartphone battery life, combining multiple apps for a comprehensive hiking experience, and understanding the limitations of hiking apps.
Preserving your smartphone’s battery life is a major concern when using hiking apps. To maximize battery life during your hikes consider:
- Closing background apps or tabs
- turning off unnecessary features from other apps you have
- Adjust your screens brightness levels
- Use airplane mode (I highly recommend)
- Activate battery saving mode
In addition to optimizing your phone’s settings, it’s also a good idea to carry a backup power source, such as a portable charger or extra batteries. This ensures that you’ll have enough power to use your hiking apps and maintain communication in case of emergencies.
Combining Multiple Apps
Employing multiple hiking apps enriches your hiking experience by leveraging the unique features and capabilities of each app. For example, you can use AllTrails for trail discovery and Gaia GPS for advanced navigation, while Seek by iNaturalist helps you identify plants and animals along the way.
When using multiple apps, it’s essential to manage your smartphone’s data and battery life effectively. I recommend carrying an extra power source just in case since you might be using your phone a bit more often. Also, follow the tips we mentioned above for saving battery life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a better app than AllTrails?
Per my experience Gaia GPS is very close to AllTrails it has a more accurate GPS when it comes to navigation for hiking trails, has a more topographical maps, and layouts than AllTrails. In my experience of using AllTrails I would say it is the best overall app for all around features for finding trails, making trails, and has reliable GPS navigation. The two are very similar but I would recommend AllTrails for people who want the best overall hiking app.
What is a good free hiking app?
There are a lot of fantastic free hiking apps out on the market. AllTrails, Gaia, Kamoot, and Hiking project all have really good free hiking apps. I would say Hiking Project just because of its free offline feature is probably the best free app.
Which is better AllTrails vs Gaia?
This is more up to personal preference. Per my experience with the two apps Gaia GPS offers a more comprehensive and advanced set of navigational features than AllTrails. But, AllTrails has better all-around features for discovering new trails and making trails with a GPS navigation that is reliable.
Hiking apps have really revolutionized the way we explore the great outdoors, offering valuable information, safety features, and easier navigation during the day or even for night hiking. Remember to use these outdoor apps effectively, manage your smartphone battery life, and stay safe on the trails. Be sure to leave a comment below about what your favorite hiking apps are and why?