When we start planning long hikes, we always think of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan saying, “To live will be an awfully big adventure.” It’s impossible to list all the reasons why hiking is an addictive hobby. That fresh air is full of joy, pride and exhilaration.
Whether you’re new to hiking or a skilled adventurer, a good hike takes planning. Trust us on this—no one wants to lose toenails (or worse). The solution? Your smartphone, of course. Here are six apps will help you live your next big adventure and climb many more mountains.
You’ve gotta plan your hike before you get to the trail, right? Right. AllTrails is one of the best apps for connecting with new trails and other hikers. Not only can you search based on location for nearby trails, but other users can also leave photos of obstacles, scenic places and even tips on the trail. With this app you’ll know just how many energy bars and pairs of socks to pack. Also, reading a normal map won’t warn you of downed trees or other things that inhibit your trek. If you want to unlock even more features with this app, you can sign up for a Pro membership, with pricing plans ranging from $14.99 to $49.99 for an entire year.
It isn’t often that we download an app and let out an audible “whoa…” Similar in function to astronomy apps, PeakFinder Earth allows you to learn the names of any mountain in view. Just hold your camera up to the world and learn about the landscape. When planning a trip, or even when you’re on the trail already, it’s nice to know just how high of a mountain you’re climbing.
Logging calories in addition to normal GPS mapping? MapMyHike is a supercharged hiking and weight-loss app. You can do the usual hiking stuff, like mapping trails and viewing well-traveled treks; but can also log your food to track calories and nutritional content, sync to a wearable device and connect with friends to stay motivated. To unlock some serious fitness features like heart rate analysis and personal training plans, you can join the app’s MVP Membership plan for $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year.
4. Trail Tracker GPS (iOS, $1.99 via in-app purchase)
Easily the best $1.99 you’ll spend if you need sensitive GPS tracking, Trail Tracker GPS will help you create multiple overlapping hikes without confusion. The major difference—and advantage—to this hiking app other than the walk-you-to-your-door GPS is that you can color code your hikes. Once you’re finished mapping your favorite park’s best hikes, you can share your map with friends. We’re also geeking out this app’s ability to track things like latitude and longitude and your average speed on a hike. Pretty sweet for those who like to race his or her last time.
5. Park Maps (iOS, $0.99)
This is sort of a prequel to other hiking apps. This app provides—you guessed it!—maps of national parks. The same sort that you’ll see in brochures. Use this app to plan your hike, determine where to camp, and choose what sights you’d like to visit. The detail on the maps varies from park to park, so Don’t rely on this app to get you from point A to B—still, it’s a useful tool to start your planning. For Android users looking for a similar app, you can download the America’s National Parks app for free from the Play store.
6. Google Treks
Google Treks isn’t exactly an app, but it is eye candy for the adventurer’s soul. The best use of Google Treks for a dedicated hiker is to plan future vacations. In it, explorers post public photos of hard-to-reach destinations. It helps the rest of the world learn and explore from the comfort of our homes. For example, are you thinking about visiting the Amazon? Check out the Forest Trail, an 11-km trail that links communities from Rio Aruá to Rio Mariepauá. Google Treks is an extension of Google Maps. Run all the searches you want for it; you’ll just be directed to plain old Google Maps. To become a trekker, you have to apply, and Google seems to prefer organizations, universities and research groups to normal hikers.
Need inspiration? Check out these 33 stunningly beautiful hikes around the world!
Photo by Chris Concepcion