5 Hiking Apps You Need For Your Next Hike

5 Hiking Apps You Need For Your Next Hike

When venturing into the wilderness to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the last thing you want is distracting phone calls, e-mails, texts and things of the like. After all the mountains, forests, deserts, or wherever you escape to are one of the few ways we are able to relax anymore in a society so focused on instantaneous responses and satisfaction. However, the right selection of hiking apps can vastly improve your experience in the great outdoors.

That’s why we put together this list of helpful FREE hiking apps to help you adventure more effectively and become more in tune with nature the next time you decide to escape society and head off to your Find Your Zen in the wilderness.


1. AllTrails


One of our favorite hiking apps by far, with AllTrails you will always be able to find a new hike in your area. These guys have done an incredible job of crowdsourcing a wealth of information on trails all over the United States. You can search for hikes with this app with advanced filtering by distance, elevation gain, general difficulty, trail rating, and activities allowed on each trail. Other users of the app also post pictures and reviews of each trail on a regular basis (usually as recently as a couple of weeks) so you can determine trail conditions and figure out what kind of sights you’ll see along the way.


Not only is AllTrails by far the best for finding and planning hikes, once you are actually on the trail the app acts as a hiking GPS tracker taking the guesswork out of following the trail. AllTrails overlays your exact location using your phone’s GPS over a topographic map of the area, with a red outline to show you what path to follow along your hike. Below the topographic map is a chart of horizontal distance vs. elevation gain so you can see how steady of an incline your trail is and when the hard steeps will come up. (Note: As long as you load the topographic map screen while you still have a data connection, you will not need cell service to follow along the map and see your location during your hike).


2. MapMyHike


MapMyHike is a free app by Under Armour that can track your hikes for you so you can see how far you went, how fast you did it, and how many calories you burned. This is also a fantastic app for tracking trail running and mountain biking routes. MapMyHike is a great way to keep yourself honest and constantly improving upon your hiking performance. There is a social side to the app as well, offering a way to compete with friends and push each other to progress.


MapMyHike is also a very handy tool if part of your hiking motivation is weight loss, helping you balance your daily calorie intake with how many calories you burn during your hikes. With a smart watch you can also track your heart rate using MapMyHike so you can always stay in the optimal cardio zone.


3. National Parks by Chimani


If you find yourself adventuring in the National Parks often, this is one of the best hiking apps for you. It has topographic maps of every National Park in the U.S. with all trails mapped out (backcountry and day hiking). It also has a wealth of information on national monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, preserves, and more. Downloadable guides for each individual National Park are also available to help you plan your visit. Planning to hit multiple National Parks in one trip? The app shows nearby parks on each National Park summary page so you can plan the best road trip possible. (Note: Some of this information is available in print form at the National Parks. But by having this in your hiking apps arsenal you are helping fighting deforestation.)


4. First Aid by American Red Cross


Although hiking can be a great way to stay healthy and active, there are obviously inherent dangers that come with it. First Aid by American Red Cross is there to help when unfortunate events such as injuries or venomous bites and stings occur. With the First Aid app, you can look up how to handle specific situations with a quick and easy to use interface. Having all this knowledge at your fingertips can be a huge difference maker in being able to provide the proper care for the injury before you are able to get professional medical attention. Beyond just showing you how to handle emergency situations, there is a section of the app that shows you how to prepare for the unexpected. Having the proper emergency kit with you is key to being able to effectively handle an unfortunate and unexpected situation in the wilderness.


5. Merlin Bird ID

Have you ever encountered a bird along your hike before and had no clue what it was? Merlin Bird ID is the perfect bird identification tool and is there to help. One of the most sophisticated hiking apps for wildlife identification, all you have to do is snap a picture of the bird in question with you phone and upload it to the app. You'll enter some information like what date you encountered the bird, location, etc. and Merlin identifies your bird. You can also identify the bird based on your description if you can't get a good enough picture.


This app, built by the The Cornell Lab, is featured in this article because of its high quality information database. Using more than 500 million observations from the eBird science project, 8,000+ photos from professional photographers, and 3,000+ bird call recordings from the Macaulay Library you will be able to certainly identify your bird 99.99% of the time with this wonderful app. There are many other apps like this for other wildlife, plants, and trees. We encourage you to do some Googling to find what other ones work for you in your area!


Any questions about these hiking apps or other articles on ZenDen? Feel free to reach out to us on the contact page and we will be happy to help!