5 Best Hiking Apps for Finding Local Trails
By Kris Crews
Fall is here, and people are finding ways to spend time outside before it gets too cold. Stores, restaurants, movies, and more have opened their doors, welcoming people to resume activities enjoyed pre-COVID. As businesses have opened back up, so have outdoor recreation opportunities, such as hiking trails and national parks. In this article, we’ll present some of the best hiking apps you can use to get back out there and enjoy the nature that’s calling.
Nature and Mental Health
COVID lockdowns caused everyone to readjust their plans and timing and even hindered us from exercising freely in-and outdoors. However, for many, being outside has helped with more than just physical wellness and health, but with mental health too.
Ecotherapy, or nature therapy, does amazing things for your mood and mental state. Studies have shown that being in nature and participating in outdoor activities help lessen anxiety, stress, and depression. So, how can you get the whole experience of the outdoors and take advantage of the mental benefits of nature? First, let’s look at these apps, which can help you find hiking trails near you.
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Best Hiking Apps
AllTrails is a mobile fitness app available for people to use during activities related to hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and snow sports. AllTrails provides a database of different trail maps across the world for people to review. It’s as easy as typing in your location or zip code to find trails near you. Routes have photos and reviews on them to show the trail area, length, estimated time it takes to complete, ratings, and difficulty level. The app also tracks the hikes you’ve finished and your stats to record your personal bests
The app is free to use, and there is an option to upgrade to Pro for $29.99/year.
Hiking Project is a crowd-sourced hiking guide built by hikers to support you in finding over 74,000 miles of trails to hike solo or with friends. This app is a platform for anyone to share their experiences and knowledge of trails with others. Through the app, you’re able to add your favorite trails and photos, post comments, and recommend your favorite hiking trails. Each route that users submit is placed under review to ensure all information is accurate and safe.
Hiking Project is free to use.
Guthook Guides is a mobile hiking trail app for exploring trails worldwide while staying connected with your family and friends. What’s unique about Guthook Guides is that each guide works entirely offline, even when you’re in airplane mode. The app adds peace of mind for users — whether you’re on a day hike, section hike, or thru-hike — that you’ll be able to find your way without getting lost. Their newly added social feature allows you to invite friends and family to follow your adventure and to drop check-ins during your hike to update your followers, so they know you’re safe.
The app itself is free, but users must purchase guides for each trail. In addition, there is an option to buy complete trail guides for thru-hikes, small trails guides, and national parks. Guides range from $4.99 to $59.99, depending on the length of the trail.
National Park Service App
The National Park Service App (NPS) is the brand new official app for all 420+ national parks. This app was created by those who know national parks the best — the NPS staff — to help people find interactive maps, tours of park places, and on-the-ground accessibility information. The NPS app is different from other apps. It takes data from park rangers and includes other great features such as amenities, accessibility, offline use, sharing about your visit, news, alerts, and events.
This app is excellent for planning family trips. It can help families and caretakers plan outdoor activities for kids and choose a family-friendly park.
Cairn is a map app used for navigating the wilderness and helping you stay safe while on runs, hikes, and outdoor adventures. Cairn offers the following features and capabilities:
- Get found if you’re overdue. Cairn has you enter your safety contact information, so if you’re ever lost, your contact will get a notification when you’re past due to complete the activity. Contacts can also see your GPS location during your trips and receive vital information to help them make informed decisions to pursue you in a rescue initiative.
- Stay- connected in the outdoors. The app provides a feature that shows you where others have found cell coverage. This feature is helpful in case you need to contact someone.
- Find trail stats. Cairn shares live updates with you about your distance and elevation gain, and has ETA stats for hiking routes, summits, and thousands of trails.
Cairn is easy to use and is not limited to hiking trails but also includes backpacking, trail running, horseback riding, skiing, cycling, rock climbing, camping, fishing, hunting, and more.
A free 30-day trial is available for this app before having to pay the total $26.99/year price.
Getting Back in the Outdoors
As we prepare to return to some of our old activities, it’s important to remember that being outside can be a gift to yourself and can affect how you take care of your body and mental wellness. Life can get busy, and it can be hard to hike, camp, fish, or take on a lengthy trail daily, but setting aside time to get your exercise is essential.
Try taking at least 15–30 minutes during the weekday or weekend to prioritize time for yourself. If you have a friend or family member you’d like to go with, invite them; then you can hold each other accountable and both enjoy the mental benefits of nature and charge your minds and bodies. Getting even a little bit of time outside can help improve your mood and energy drastically. You only have this body and life once, and you deserve to take care of it and be happy in it!
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