Last Updated on 31 December 2023 by Rebecca
The thrill of the great outdoors is best experienced with a trusty guide by your side. In 2024, that guide is more likely to be one of the best hiking apps available than traditional paper maps.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker searching for hiking trails inspiration or a beginner who wants to know the best apps for hiking, the right app can turn your outdoor adventure from good to great.
With the wealth of best hiking apps available this year, there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re ready to strap on your hiking boots and intrigued to learn more about the best GPS hiking apps, let’s dive in to find out what’s available for you.
Best Hiking Apps: Trailblazers’ Top Picks
I’ve always loved the feel of holding a paper map on my hikes and plotting where I’m going. When I’m sitting at a table at a B&B where I’m staying or a pub halfway through my walk, there’s no better feeling, for me, than seeing where I’m going and where I’ve been. Plus, it’s a great experience to improve my map reading skills.
Saying that, though, a hiking app gives you so much more information with everything readily available at the touch of a button. Below, we’ve picked the best hiking apps for 2024, which we think are great for several reasons: these apps aren’t just packed with features, they’re user-friendly and designed to cater to different hiking preferences.
- Geocaching – The Treasure Hunter’s Delight
- Komoot – The Detailed Route Planner’s Choice
AllTrails – The Adventurer’s Favourite
Over 400k curated trails and 60 million explorers
GPS to track your hikes, make custom trails, and get tips for trailhead access
Pro membership for offline map access, 3D maps, off-route notifications
AllTrails is a super popular hiking app, that resonates with adventurers worldwide. The app allows you to tailor your hike search based on difficulty, length, route type, and ratings, providing details such as distance, elevation profile, and user reviews. The Pro membership feature offers additional perks like offline map access, 3D maps, and off-route notifications for a safer hiking experience.
However, just like any other app, AllTrails has its shortcomings. Some of these include:
The free version may feel limited to some hikers
There might be issues with GPS accuracy in more remote areas
Despite these minor drawbacks, AllTrails remains one of the best hiking apps for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a comprehensive set of features that cater to hikers of all levels on various hiking trails.
OS Maps – The UK Hiker’s Companion
Detailed maps covering the entire UK
Augmented reality navigation (iOS only)
OS Maps is a go-to choice for hillwalking in the UK. It offers detailed maps, augmented reality navigation, and a user-friendly interface that caters perfectly to UK hikers.
The app provides detailed information on footbridges, pubs, natural springs, and other interesting spots. This wealth of information enhances the hiking experience, making it one of the best GPS apps for hikers in the UK.
While the app has a free version, a paid Pro subscription unlocks additional features, designed to suit different user preferences and needs. Despite its limitation to the UK, the OS Maps app remains a valuable tool for UK hikers and is considered one of the best hiking apps available, offering a comprehensive hiking guide right at your fingertips.
Gaia GPS – The Off-Grid Navigator
Weather and terrain features
Premium access to award-winning films, shows, and live TV on Outside Watch
For adventurers who love to venture off the grid, the Gaia GPS hiking app is the best GPS app for hiking. It offers powerful mapping and navigation features, including full offline functionality, map coverage, detailed trail guides, and premium features upon upgrade. With this GPS app, you’ll never get lost in the wilderness again.
The free hiking app provides full topo maps, weather forecasting, route planning, and GPS tracking for hikes. You can also access additional maps for skiing, mountain biking trails, and backpacking, and import and sync data from other sources. The Member and Premium paid subscriptions unlock a wealth of additional features for serious hiking.
However, new users might find the Gaia GPS interface a bit complicated. The GPS tracking might not work as well in areas with poor or no internet connection, which could affect navigation. Despite these potential drawbacks, Gaia GPS remains a reliable companion for off-grid adventurers.
Maps.Me – The Global Roamer’s Guide
Offline maps and directions for worldwide destinations
Various attractions, businesses, lodging options, and health facilities
For those who have a penchant for globe-trotting, Maps.Me is a reliable offline maps app that provides detailed maps and directions for destinations worldwide in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Maps.Me is similar to the popular Google Maps smartphone app itself, making it simple to use. Whether you’re trekking in the Andes, exploring the streets of Tokyo, or hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, Maps.Me has got you covered.
The app offers a wealth of information on attractions, businesses, lodging options, and health facilities, enhancing your travel experience. It is an invaluable tool for global roamers who like to explore off-the-grid areas without the need for phone service or internet access.
While Maps.Me provides a wealth of information and offline access capabilities, it may lack the specialised features of dedicated hiking apps. However, for the global roamer who values simplicity and comprehensive coverage, Maps.Me is a perfect choice.
Spyglass – The Navigator’s Dream
Augmented reality navigation
Offline maps and GPS toolkit
Star tracking for celestial navigation
The Spyglass hiking app is a powerful GPS toolkit for outdoor and off-road navigation. It’s built for those who not only love to venture out into the wilderness, but also for those who want to navigate with style.
The app offers advanced navigation features with augmented reality, making it a favourite among tech-savvy hikers. It also provides offline maps, perfect for those remote areas where internet service is a luxury. What sets Spyglass apart from other hiking apps is its unique star-tracking feature, which allows users to navigate using celestial bodies.
While Spyglass offers a wealth of features for the modern explorer, its free version offers limited features compared to the paid options, which might be a drawback for some users. However, for those who value advanced navigation tools and unique features, Spyglass is an excellent choice.
Cairn – The Safety Conscious Hiker’s Companion
Real-time location tracking and sharing
Phone coverage maps
Offline maps and navigational tools
The Cairn hiking app may be the ultimate hiking safety app that puts safety first, making it an excellent choice for those who often hike in remote areas. With Cairn, you can share your real-time location with your chosen contacts, allowing them to keep track of your progress and know when you’ve safely returned from your adventure.
The app also offers phone coverage maps, which show you where on your route you can expect to have phone service. This can be a crucial feature for those venturing into remote areas where phone coverage can be spotty.
Cairn also provides offline maps and navigational tools, so even when you’re out of phone service range, you can still find your way. However, some users have noted that Cairn may not offer peak identification or accurate time estimates for less popular trails.
Despite these minor drawbacks, Cairn remains a top choice for safety-conscious hikers. The peace of mind it offers through its safety features is invaluable, and its navigational tools are robust enough to guide you through most hiking adventures.
Hiiker – The Long Distance Trekker’s Dream
Community-driven platform with reviews
Offline maps and stage breakdowns
Information on accommodations and trail information
For those who dream of long-distance treks, the Hiiker app offers a unique platform that focuses on mapped routes, reviews, accommodations, offline maps, and stage breakdowns.
The Hiiker app boasts a community-driven platform where users can share their experiences, tips, and photos, making long-distance trekking a shared adventure. The app also provides detailed information on accommodations and trail information, enhancing the overall hiking experience.
While the Hiiker app offers a wealth of features for long-distance trekkers, it may lack the specialised features of dedicated hiking apps. However, for the long-distance trekker who values community and shared experiences, Hiiker is an excellent choice.
Geocaching – The Treasure Hunter’s Delight
Worldwide treasure hunt game using GPS coordinates
Hidden containers called geocaches
Online platforms for sharing adventures
For those who love a bit of adventure and excitement in their outdoor activities, geocaching offers a unique concept of a worldwide treasure hunt game using GPS coordinates. Participants use GPS to locate containers called geocaches, which are hidden by other players and can be found in various locations around the world. The app enhances the typical outdoor activity by adding an element of fun and excitement, making it a favourite among people of all ages.
While geocaching offers a unique and exciting concept, it may lack the features of dedicated hiking apps. However, for those who value fun and adventure in their outdoor activities, geocaching is a delightful choice and is bound to get people interested in the outdoors again.
Komoot – The Detailed Route Planner’s Choice
Detailed topographic maps
Turn-by-turn voice navigation
Offline maps and downloaded tours
Komoot is a comprehensive outdoor route planner that offers detailed topographic maps, turn-by-turn voice navigation, and offline maps. It is a favourite among outdoor enthusiasts who value detailed route planning and a wealth of information on their hiking trails.
One of the standout features of Komoot is that it provides information on the surface, difficulty, distance, and elevation of your chosen route. This level of detail allows you to plan your hike with precision, ensuring you’re prepared for whatever the trail has to offer.
While Komoot offers a wealth of features, some of these are only available with a premium subscription. However, you only pay this once and depending on the time of year, you can even get this cheaper than its original price. If you don’t go for this option, the free version still provides a comprehensive set of tools for planning and navigating your outdoor adventures. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, or running, Komoot is a reliable and detailed route planner.
Charting Your Course – How to Pick One of the Best Hiking Apps
With an array of options available, selecting the best hiking apps can pose a challenge. However, by understanding your needs and preferences, you can pick the ultimate and best hiking safety app, that enhances your hiking experience whatever the weather forecast.
When deciding on your app, take into account aspects such as:
detailed trail data;
dotted hiking trails;
the ability to download maps;
topographic and satellite maps; and
Some free hiking apps even offer cool extras like turn-by-turn voice navigation and the ability to plan other activities around your hike. Some even offer the option for you to download offline maps, which is always handy especially if you have limited phone coverage where you’re going.
Additionally, consider the terrain and trails you intend to traverse. For off-trail adventures, the most popular hiking apps include detailed maps and accurate GPS technology, important components when picking the best hiking apps. For long-distance treks, look for an app with offline capabilities, detailed trail guides, and community features for shared experiences while also being the ideal weather app to match.
Bear in mind, that the most suitable hiking app is the one that aligns with your unique hiking requirements and tastes. So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there’s a best free hiking app out there waiting to elevate your outdoor adventure. , including the best free hiking apps for you to explore.
Community and Connectivity – The Value of Shared Experiences
Community features in most hiking apps contribute substantially to enriching the hiking experience. These features enable users to:
Give suggestions; and
Cultivate a sense of camaraderie and bonding with fellow hikers.
Apps like AllTrails and Hiiker, for hiking safety, have robust community features. On AllTrails, you can share your experiences, tips, and photos with other nature lovers. Hiiker users, on the other hand, share their trip experiences and tips through reviews, photos, and info on awesome places to stay. When we’re searching for a new trail to explore, we often use AllTrails and Hiiker and consider these two the best hiking apps available.
The shared experiences not only enrich your hiking experience, but also provide practical information and insights that can make your outdoor adventure even better. So, if you value community and shared experiences, look for an app with this community feature.
A hiking app can be a valuable companion for your outdoor adventure, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner.
I was always a traditional map reader until a few years ago when I decided to give a GPS app a go at taking me on a hike. That was through parts of Devon in the UK, and while I was initially skeptical of its ability, I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t lose phone coverage, I had plenty of battery life left on my phone, and I managed to get from A to B without checking my traditional map (too much).
Finding the best hiking app takes a bit of trial and error, but when you find the right one, you can navigate trails with ease, plan your route, track your progress, and even share your experiences with a community of fellow hikers.
Whether you’re into long-distance treks, off-grid adventures, social hikes, or worldwide explorations, there’s a hiking app out there designed to enhance your experience. So why wait? Start exploring the world of hiking apps today and boost your next outdoor adventure with one of the best hiking apps mentioned.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll still bring your trusty paper map because why not?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best hiking app free?
I recommend using the AllTrails app for hiking, it’s free and reliable. Happy hiking!
What is the best hiking planner?
I suggest using AllTrails, which is one of the best hiking apps available. It’s a popular and free hiking app with over 100,000 trails and 3.5 million downloads. It allows you to create and share your trails with GPS tracking and photos.
Is Strava good for hiking?
Yes, Strava is good for hiking as it has new interfaces to support hiking activities like trail running and mountain biking. These activities are growing rapidly on Strava.