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Hiking is good for the body and the brain.

Finding the best hiking spots may seem like a lot of fuss, but there’s technology for that.

With today’s apps, choosing a trail is easier than ever. You can check out popular hikes in your area, browse photos of must-sees like scenic overlooks and hidden gems, and even get tips about parking and the best time of year to visit. This way, you can just focus on remembering to pack snacks.

Keep reading for must-download apps for hiking prep.

There are plenty of hiking apps to swipe through, so choosing the best took some research.

Most of the apps on our list have been tested and recommended by Healthline staff. (We can’t have you getting lost out there.)

Plus, all the apps have passed our strict vetting guidelines. You can learn more about our vetting process here.

Best overall

AllTrails

  • Price: free or $35.99 per year for paid membership
  • iPhone rating: 5 stars
  • Android rating: 4.8 stars

With over 300,000 trails worldwide on the Alltrails app, you’ll have no shortage of possibilities.

AllTrails is the go-to app for Nutrition and Fitness Market Editor Kelli McGrane MS, RD, who’s been using it for over 5 years.

“The app is intuitive to use and offers a wide selection of filters to help you find the perfect route,” she says.

It lets you read trail reviews, check out photos uploaded from the app’s community, and browse detailed trail maps outlining length, rating, and difficulty. It also features attraction filters like waterfalls, lakes, and route types (out and back, loop, and point-to-point).

Bringing the family or Fido along? No problem. You can filter for dog-, kid-, and even wheelchair-friendly trails. The app lets you save your favorite trails, bookmark those you want to explore, and record stats like your pace, distance, elevation, and maximum speed.

Senior Market Editor Chelsea Logan, who uses the paid version, says it’s one of her favorite apps. “I think it’s worth the $35 per year — it allows you to download maps for offline use, which is super helpful when you know you’re going to an area without cell service. I also love being able to filter and find trails that are dog-friendly or good for backpacking. There’s also a nice feature that alerts you when you accidentally stray from your planned route — so it makes it harder to get lost.”

McGrane adds that with Colorado trails becoming more crowded, the trail traffic filter (light, moderate, heavy) has been beneficial for finding routes that aren’t packed. She points out it’s probably best to pair the app with a smartwatch, like a Garmin, for more detailed performance stats.

Healthline Editor Willow Banks feels this app becomes less reliable at trailheads, where there’s often no cell coverage or internet access. “This means a user needs to explore the desired trail(s) before leaving civilization and download each trail map in order to ensure remote access,” she points out.

Arriving at a closed trailhead (due to an avalanche, tree fall, etc.) may mean it’s difficult to pivot to a different route.

Pros

  • features over 300,000 trails
  • Healthline staff favorite
  • highly rated
  • dog, child, wheelchair, and traffic filters
  • can download maps offline
  • free and paid versions available

Cons

  • best when paired with a smartwatch (for more performance information)
  • possibly less reliable closer to trailheads (best to download maps in advance)

Best for mountaineering

PeakFinder

  • Price: $4.99 (one-time cost)
  • iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
  • Android rating: 4.1 stars

With more than 950,000 peaks in its database, you’ll up your mountaineering knowledge in no time. A real-time rendering of your surrounding landscape helps you learn your local range, and a digital landscape can help you pick out less prominent, more distant peaks. You’ll see mountain and peak names along with 360° panorama displays. The app also shows solar and lunar orbits.

Here’s the best part: It works offline and around the globe.

Unlike some apps that require an annual cost, PeakFinder requires just a one-time purchase, and it does not contain ads.

Pros

  • complete offline functioning
  • 360° panorama display
  • can take high-resolution photos of your panoramic view

Cons

  • no free version of this app

Best for backcountry

CalTopo

CalTopo is a great choice for creating your own routes and trip planning ahead of time, especially for off-trail hikes in national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Some planning tools CalTopo features include:

  • topographic maps (large-scale details)
  • aerial imagery (photos taken from airplanes, drones, etc.)
  • slope angle shading (visual tool for checking out things like route difficulty)
  • real-time SNOTEL and weather data

This is our pick for backcountry hiking thanks to downloadable mapping layers and maps that you create, so those who prefer to get off the grid have some guidance.

Pros

  • good choice for off-trail hikes
  • can download mapping layers and maps you’ve created
  • real-time weather data
  • free

Cons

  • some users say the app is buggy

Most interactive

Hiking Project

The Hiking Project app is like a comprehensive map and a guidebook rolled into one. When you’re looking for something specific, you can quickly find full GPS route details, elevation profiles, interactive features, and photos.

For those just looking for inspiration, the app features hikes wherever you are, with details about hike highlights, challenging features, and other useful insights.

Banks prefers this app to AllTrails, saying you can download all the trails in any or all 50 states plus other countries, so the data sits on your phone.

“No need to identify the specific hike you plan to do before you get out into the boonies. Once the map data is on your phone, you only need a GPS signal to pull up the map and navigate,” she says.

She adds that the user interface is great for pulling up an area and searching for trails, which are color-coded by relative difficulty, and for zooming in and out to find what you’re looking for on a particular day.

With 257,226 miles in 78,829 trails and new ones constantly being added, there’s a good chance you’ll find the right trails for you.

Pros

  • works like a map and guidebook
  • can download all the trails
  • requires less prep compared to other apps
  • highly rated by iPhone users
  • user-friendly interface

Cons

  • less highly rated by Android users
  • fewer trails than Alltrails

Best for automatic video creation

Relive

  • Price: free, $6.99 per month, or $38.99 per year for paid membership
  • iPhone rating: 4.8 stars
  • Android rating: 4.4 stars

Healthline Senior Editor Candice Abellon recommends this app to users who are interested in an alternative to Strava, and she especially suggests it for the app’s playback function that shows terrain modeling.

“I first used Relive a few years ago when it was integrated with the Strava app,” Abellon explains. “In 2019, Strava discontinued Relive’s access and disconnected Strava data from Relive. There was controversy over this, and it ultimately seemed to be a matter of competition and that Strava would be releasing the same features Relive provided users.”

Relive’s video creation feature is Abellon’s favorite part — it recreates your recorded track with a birds-eye view of the area and terrain. Plus, the video includes photos you took along the way if you opt to add these.

You can choose to keep your profile private or public. Abellon says when you create a video of a recorded track, it all automatically becomes public, making it easier for you to share to social platforms, but you can toggle this back to be a private entry.

She notes, “I’ve used the app for free — the annual subscription fee of about $40, ($3.25 billed monthly) is on par with other apps of similar services.”

Pros

  • playback function shows terrain modeling
  • Healthline editor favorite
  • automatic video creation feature
  • easy to share on social media

Cons

  • less highly rated by Android users

Most user-friendly

Gaia GPS

  • Price: free (in-app purchases available)
  • iPhone rating: 4.8 stars
  • Android rating: 4.3 stars

Abellon also recommends Gaia GPS — and prefers it to AllTrails.

She likes this app for recording her own hikes, saying the “find hikes in my area” feature is the same as AllTrails. According to Abellon, this feature is a good option for those looking for things others have done or if you’re in an area you’re unfamiliar with.

The brand says the app helps backcountry hikers find their way without cell phone service. It also features an intelligent route planner, so less planning is required.

The app offers a slew of other helpful features like weather forecasts, marking campsites, points of interest, and dropping photo waypoints.

It also helps campers find reserve sites, and for backcountry skiers, it identifies avalanche terrain with slope angle shading and topographic information.

Pros

  • includes an intelligent route planner
  • good choice for new-to-you terrains
  • good choice for recording your hikes
  • highly rated by iPhone users

Cons

  • less highly rated by Android users

Best for offline maps

Avenza Maps

  • Price: free and paid versions ($29.99 per year or $144.99 per year)
  • iPhone rating: 4.8 stars
  • Android rating: 4.6 stars

This one has almost a million maps and doesn’t need internet or network connections, making it a safe choice.

Avenza Maps lets you import your own maps, or you can look through geospatial PDF maps from professional map publishers. These include topographic maps, but you can also choose your map by activity type, like hiking, skiing, and fishing.

Like other maps on our list, you can mark places of interest and add photos or information on areas marked on maps along your journey.

The one million maps we mentioned are both free and paid in the Avenza Maps Store. If you want to upgrade to paid versions of this app, you have a couple of choices — Plus for $29.99 per year or Pro for $144.99 per year.

The Plus tier is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts using their own maps. The free version lets users use up to three maps at a time, while the Plus version offers unlimited maps at a time. The leap to the Pro version is geared toward commercial, academic, government, and professional users, providing technical support and registration links.

Pros

  • safe, can use completely offline
  • highly rated
  • can browse almost one million maps

Cons

  • not all browseable maps are free

Best for safety

Cairn

  • Price: free trial, $4.99 per month, or $26.99 per year for annual subscription
  • iPhone rating: 4.7 stars
  • Android rating: 3.9 stars

This app takes safety a few steps further than our other hiking apps.

It works offline and sends automatic alerts to your safety circle if you’re overdue from returning from your hike. It shares information like where you’re going and when your intended return time is.

The brand says that the maps, trails, and cell coverage information are always free to access, but you need to pay for a membership for the safety features we’ve mentioned. Compared to other apps on our list, the cost is a little below average.

You start with a free 30-day trial and then choose between a monthly plan of $4.99 per month or a yearly plan of $26.99 per year. These plans unlock these safety features:

  • shares your real-time location with your safety contacts
  • sends automatic overdue alerts
  • makes downloadable maps available for offline use

Pros

  • automatic safety alerts to safety circle
  • real-time location tracking
  • shows where cell coverage is located on your trail

Cons

  • need to pay for safety features (only free for 30 days)

Best for InReach Users

Earthmate

  • Price: free with purchase of InReach satellite communicator
  • iPhone rating: 2.8 stars
  • Android rating: 2.0 stars

Garmin InReach is a satellite technology and an active satellite subscription. There’s a variety of Garmin InReach devices available, and this app is designed to pair with those. (It’s included when you buy an inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator.)

Happy users like that this app makes texting via InReach much easier by letting you use your phone to compose and send messages and view your routes. It’s designed to help plan, track, and share your trip worldwide.

Some other perks include:

  • no cell service is required for navigation (downloadable maps)
  • location sharing and mapping
  • waypoint dropping
  • trip logging
  • unlimited maps and cloud storage

However, some users say it simply doesn’t work for them or that it’s inconsistent at best.

Pros

  • easy for texting
  • good for planning and tracking your trips
  • includes unlimited maps and cloud storage

Cons

  • low user rating by both iPhone and Android users

Honorable mention

Google Maps

If you forgot to download a good hiking app at home and find yourself on a spontaneous trip, don’t fret. Odds are, you probably already have Google Maps on your phone. Open the app, and you’ll see where you’re located right now and how to get home. You can also check out popular hiking trails, though they may be more limited than other apps.

You won’t have the extensive features that other apps offer, but you can save areas from the app to your phone. This means you can use Google Maps offline in the future too. Plus, it’s truly free, and you can’t really beat that.

Pros

  • free
  • easy to use
  • can check out popular hiking spots
  • can be used offline (when you save areas to your phone)

Cons

  • lower rating among Android users
  • fewer hiking trail features compared to hiking apps

Best for on-the-go identification

Seek by iNaturalist

Part of hiking involves all the little critters you’ll meet along the way. This app, unlike the others, isn’t made to help you find a trail, send safety alerts, or get you downloadable maps. Instead, it helps you learn about the creatures that may cross your path.

Logan uses it frequently while hiking to identify plants and bugs, snakes, or birds — at a respectful distance.

“If you don’t have cell service, you can take a photo and upload it to the app later, but I will say that I’ve had less success with getting a positive identification with that option.” So, you may have better luck by opening the camera on the app and snapping it in real time.

This app is safe for kiddos to use and even encourages educational aspects — users earn badges for finding different types of birds, plants, fungi, and more.

Pros

  • free
  • fun to use
  • safe for kids
  • helps identify birds, plants, fungi, and more

Cons

  • uploading your photos to the app afterward may be less successful

Does Google Maps show hiking trails?

Yes, Google Maps shows hiking trails. However, it’s not as detailed or robust as apps designed specifically for hiking. Still, you can save areas from the app to your phone, so you can use Google Maps offline too.

What is the best app for hiking?

This depends on the features that are most important to you. AllTrails is a go-to pick for many, including some Healthline staff. It has useful features like dog, child, wheelchair, and traffic filters. Hiking Project is popular too, thanks to its user-friendly interface and a huge selection of downloadable maps.

Is AllTrails worth the money?

Healthline Senior Market Editor Chelsea Logan has found that it’s worth the paid version, saying it’s one of her favorite apps.

Is Gaia or AllTrails better?

Gaia is a good choice for a user-friendly experience, while AllTrails is our best overall pick, thanks to its helpful features and reputation.

Different hikers have different tech needs. Some may find Google Maps is efficient enough for their easy breezy trailblazing. Others may need a lot more information, like one million maps, filters, tracking, video creation, safety alerts, and more.

It’s important to know your app’s capabilities before you hit the open road — some may not be reliable as you get closer to trailheads. It’s best to download your map ahead of time in those cases. Test your app before your hike and you should be ready to go.