10 Best Hiking Apps in 2021 You Need to Download

Sep 30, 2021

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One of the most stressful things about hiking is doing the planning. You have to check the weather, distance, elevation, parking information and so much more. 


We are truly living in an awesome time where we don’t need to pull out paper maps or hope for the best. 


As a weekly hiker, I personally use tons of apps to help make my hiking trips run smoothly and efficiently! 


10 Best Hiking Apps in 2021


I’ll be sharing the best hiking apps in 2021 depending on their features, review, feedback, and other essential factors. 


These are the top 10 hiking apps to use in 2021:


  1. PhotoPills

PhotoPills is one of the best hiking apps for those of us looking to calculate the position of the sun and exposure to get amazing photography shots. 

I use this app to help me plan my hikes. Since I take my own pictures on these adventures, it’s essential for me to capture the perfect picture at the right moment!


It’s not just for photographers, though. If you’re also looking to take those insta-worthy pictures or are just curious to know when certain stars will be in aligned, it’s honestly a great app for anyone looking to catch a perfect and dreamy sight!



Pros of PhotoPills:


  • Calculates long exposure, timelapse, spot stars, blue hour, and more. 
  • 3D augmented reality. 
  • Location Scouting Tool 


Cons of PhotoPills:


  • One-time purchase of $9.99


Although this one isn’t free, the price you pay is well worth the outstanding scenery you can capture and keep forever. 


  1. AllTrails

AllTrails is another hiking app that comes with a good interface and a lot of features including topographic maps, satellite, roads, etc.

However, it has a less advanced topographic map than some of the other applications out there. Another thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the hiking information is not accurate, such as the elevation and distance.  


AllTrails also helps you track your activities and shows the performance data for each month.

Currently, it’s one of the popular apps among hikers, like me, as it covers almost 100,000 trails. The free version lets you create your trails using GPS tracking, text, photos, etc. Later you can save and share the information with others. 


Pros of AllTrails:


  • Free
  • You can design, save, and create custom maps. 
  • It has a user-friendly interface. 
  • Preloaded trails are available. 


Cons of AllTrails:


  • It requires you to subscribe annually to access the offline maps. 
  • Hiking information isn’t always accurate.


Sometimes, it may seem complicated to get the GPS tracks, but I still think it’s a useful hiking application in 2021. 


  1. Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS impressed me specifically with its live data tracking feature while hiking. No other application can show you as much information as Gaia GPS shows you.

You can track the speed graph, highest point, elevation graphs, and other important features using this application. It also has an easy-to-use interface that’s great for beginners. 


Gaia GPS supports road maps, satellite maps, and topographic maps as well. One of the downsides is that it requires an internet connection to access these features

Still, there’s a GPS tracking feature that you can use offline. It sketches a breadcrumb trail on your map while you’re hiking. 


Pros of Gaia GPS:


  • Free
  • User-friendly interface. 
  • Great topographic maps.
  • Provides a lot of live data about your hike. 


Cons of Gaia GPS:


  • It requires a subscription to access the offline maps. 


If you’re using an iOS device, then Gaia GPS could be a great alternative to Green Tracks. It offers a lot of useful features that the Green Tracks itself doesn’t offer you. 


  1. PeakVisor

This application supports both android and iOS. It’s arguably one of the best applications for hiking as it can instantly recognize the accurate names of the mountain peaks that come into view.

It uses a combination of location tracking, a phone camera, and an accurate 3D mountain panorama to recognize the mountain. 


You can get detailed information regarding the mountain’s peak including the topographic prominence, altitude, national parks, reserves, and mountain range.

The application offers you detailed 3D maps, summits, viewpoints, passes, parking, and everything that you’ll need while walking on the trails. 


Pros of PeakVisor:


  • It includes 3D maps. 
  • It offers location tracking and other important features. 
  • There’s a free version of the application available. 


Cons of PeakVisor: 


  • It doesn’t offer a live data tracking feature like other hiking applications. 


If you’re looking for hiking apps that help you with peak identification, then PeakVisor would be the best solution for you. 


  1. Lightroom

I chose to include Lightroom because it’s my favorite app for editing all of my pictures on these hikes. It seriously helps me emphasize the beauty of these places! 

What I like about Lightroom is that it has tons of features that allow me to completely customize any part of my pictures. I’m able to highlight and emphasize the tiniest details and completely transform an otherwise dull picture.


One of the downsides of the app is that it can be confusing for those who are not tech or mobile savvy. It might take some time to learn how to use a lot of the features, but it gets easier over time when you understand all of the functions.


Pros of Lightroom:


  • Let’s you edit fine details.
  • Comes with presets for easier editing. 
  • Cloud storage. 


Cons of Lightroom:


  • Can be complex to use for novice users. 
  • Free app on mobile, but must pay to get all features. 


Still, Lightroom offers a ton of free range when it comes to editing any part of your photos. I think it’s completely worth purchasing a plan if you want those crisp and professional-looking pictures.


  1. Cairn

Cairn is considered the best hiking safety application. If you’re hiking solo then, safety becomes an essential factor.

Cairn shows you the entire coverage of the hiking trails by breaking it down by carrier. It also crowdsources the cell coverage spots (shown as blue dots), which is useful when you’re hiking in a remote mountain spot. 


As it’s considered the best safety application, there are a few reasons behind this popularity.

I found that you can configure this application to send instant updates to your loved ones or make emergency calls to your named contacts at the end or beginning of the trip.

You can also navigate the trails easily by accessing the topo maps offline. 


Pros of Cairn:


  • It’s one of the best hiking safety apps if you’re hiking solo. 
  • You can use the offline topo maps for better navigation. 
  • You can make emergency calls or send notifications to your contacts. 


Cons of Cairn:


  • It doesn’t offer a performance tracking feature, unlike other hiking apps. 


Yet, safety is pivotal, especially when hiking solo. Therefore, Cairn is the best useful application for its innumerable safety features. 


  1. PictureThis

PictureThis is an educational app that helps you identify all sorts of plants. It can be super useful if you’re looking to see what plants are potentially poisonous or toxic out there. This app is quickly becoming one of my favorites!

All you have to do is snap pictures of the plants you’re curious about and it instantly provides information on it. How awesome is that?


If you love being in the outdoors and want to gain general knowledge about plants, I think you’ll like this one. Plus, I find it fascinating to learn about all sorts of plants and their potential benefit or danger to me or my pet. 

Another great plus is that it lets you identify certain insects and even birds. 


Pros of PictureThis:


  • It’s extremely easy to use.. 
  • Can identify 1,000,000+ plants . 


Cons of PictureThis:


  • Not always accurate at identifying specific plant named of certain plant species.
  • Must pay to get full access to get all of the features. 


I think if you want a simple navigation app for covering the basic hiking trails, then this A-GPS tracker would be the perfect solution. 


  1. Google Maps

I’m certain that a lot of you have been using Google maps for a long time. It’s a useful application not only for hikers but for any person who doesn’t know the roads.

It provides the instant direction to reach your destination quickly. However, the majority of you haven’t used this application to its best as the features are still unknown to you. 


The best feature of Google maps for hikers is that it allows you to download the maps offline. This ensures that you’ll have seamless navigation to the trailheads even when you lose your network service.

This is extremely helpful for hiking in remote areas as most of the time the network coverage becomes a huge issue for hikers. 


Pros of Google Maps:


  • You can stay on track while hiking in a remote region. 
  • You can download a personalized region through this application. 
  • It’s also easy to use. You can simply download the map offline by navigating through a few options. 
  • It’s free. 


Cons of Google Maps:


  • It doesn’t track your performance as accurately as other applications do. 


Overall, this could be a simplistic solution for beginners. If you want a more detailed solution to your hiking performance, then there are other hiking applications available.


  1. SkyView Lite

Skyview Lite is a free application that helps you to identify the planets, constellations, and stars in the night sky.

While hiking, it’s extremely crucial to understand these three important things to navigate through the trails or else you’ll end up landing on the wrong trail. Hence, this application is best suitable when you’re hiking at night. 


Ideally, the application uses the built-in compass of your smartphone to locate astronomical objects. It overlays the graphics of the night sky objects depending upon where your smartphone is pointing at.

Besides, it can help you read more about the other objects that may interest you like the international space station. 


Pros of SkyView Lite:


  • It allows you to set notifications for stargazing events such as planet sightings, meteor showers, etc. 
  • I found this application extremely useful for stargazing before and after sunrise and sunset hikes. 
  • You can access most of the features through the free or lite version. Still, there’s a paid version available, in case you want to access more features. 


Cons of SkyView Lite:


  • It doesn’t offer an accurate performance tracking feature. 


I think if you’re hiking at night, then SkyView Lite could be one of the best applications to navigate through the trails. 


  1. National Park Trail Guide

This is the best app for those of us who need some guidance on planning the perfect trip to national parks.

What I love about this app is that it gives you ALL of the information you need on the most popular places on your bucket list. It provides inside tips on campsites, permits, food, and so much more.


My favorite part is that it lets you see all the data and GPS map offline for free. You don’t need cell service!

The application can actively track your location and make sure that you remain on the trail always. You’ll be able to stay on track!


Pros of National Park Trail Guides :


  • It offers you a detailed guide through the trails of the most popular national parks. 
  • Blue dot on map/trail shows exactly where you are so you don’t get lost.
  • Can be used offline, without cell service.
  • Completely free!


Cons of National Park Trail Guides:


  • Park cameras on the app might not work. 


Overall, this app does an absolutely amazing job of giving you all the details you need on these bucket list trips. 


Is There a Difference When Using the Same App on iPhone or Android?


Some of the hiking apps that I have reviewed in this list don’t support Android devices and others don’t support iPhone. But many of the apps do support both devices.

If you’re doubtful about which device you’ll be using in the coming times, then choose an application that supports both devices. 


Other than that, there’s no difference when using the same app on iPhone or Android.

Why You Need Hiking Apps


A hiking app helps you to easily navigate through the trails and find the best route possible to reach your destination within the shortest time frame. 

It also shows you the details about the peaks including the duration, ascent, distance, descent, and everything. 


Some of the hiking apps I’ve used have preloaded trails to help me find the best hikes near the location I’m interested in hiking at.

I’ve been using hiking apps for navigational help on all of my hikes because it makes planning so much easier!


Here are some reasons to download hiking apps:


  • Navigation: When you’re in the wild, there are chances that you may lose track of the trails without having accurate navigation. There are offline maps available, still who has the patience to mark the trailheads, right? Nevertheless, a hiking app can easily find you the trailheads, and many more features that are required when you’re hiking.


  • Knowledge: In today’s time, a smartphone isn’t just a physical device, it’s a mobile encyclopedia, available for you to learn about anything and everything while you’re on the go. These hiking apps not just help me with navigation, but also teach me about wildlife, planets, constellations, and whatnot. 


  • Performance Tracking: The majority of the hiking apps that I’ll be discussing feature performance tracking options that help you to track the hike later and share your performance to cheer your friends and families to get a sneak-peak of the wilderness. I love competition, so this feature is a great motivation for everyone around me. 


  • Convenience: An app is a great tool to save your favorite hiking trails and plan things later. You can skip the Sunday morning google search of “best hiking trails near me”. Instead, everything can be added to your list of saved hikes. In addition, you can discover tons of hikes available near your location and across the globe as well. 


Since you most likely carry a smartphone, why not make the best use of it when you’re in the wilderness?

Hello, There!

We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!

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