Selecting the appropriate hiking navigation app involves assessing offline maps, GPS accuracy, user-friendliness, route planning, real-time updates, device compatibility, and subscription plans.
Our short guide helps you make a smart choice between the top options and gives you the confidence to go out and explore outdoor trails.
Let’s get started.
Free Trial: 14 days
✅ Most comprehensive option
Outdooractive replaced the original ViewRanger in 2022. Most of the features were transferred over, and initial bugs were resolved. Some aspects remain a bit tricky to find, like grid references. Subscribers get access to OS mapping and the ability to use it offline.
Route planning works well with snap-to-path mode, and the app records walks. The Skyline augmented reality, 3D route preview, are the most notable features. Although there’s room for further improvement, Outdooractive provides a comprehensive package that caters to the majority of users’ needs, making it our top choice overall.
Free Trial: 7 days
✅ Good for beginners
✅ Makes it easy to find hikes
❌ Not reliable in remote areas
AllTrails is a suitable choice for beginners, but its limitations become apparent as you gain more experience. While it works well for popular trails, it falls short in remote areas. The AllTrails Pro version offers enhanced navigation options.
The free AllTrails app helps you find hiking trails, providing precise GPS details and user reviews. However, it’s not comprehensive, particularly without GPS.
AllTrails Pro offers extra trail information and offline maps, which improve the app’s navigation features. In general, we found that even the free version of AllTrails provided more benefits compared to its competitors.
Free Trial: 7 days
✅ Web app for route planning
❌ No support for waypoints
OS Maps covers essentials like OS mapping, clear interface, offline support, route creation, and grid references. Recent improvements have made this hiking app stable and dependable, ensuring smooth zooming between map scales.
Route planning is effective, although snap-to-path only functions in national parks, complicating planning elsewhere. Saved routes are organized in a basic list without folder support, but searching works efficiently. Waypoints are not supported. The ‘Find Routes’ feature lets you download public routes by other users, but displaying multiple routes on the map isn’t possible.
Offline map storage is customizable, either by area or for planned routes. A code from a paper map can be redeemed for digital download. A web app is available for route planning and printing perfect-scale paper maps – a significant advantage.
While OS Maps lacks some advanced features, it excels in the essentials, integrates with paper maps, and offers reasonable pricing.
Free Trial: No
✅ Social platform
✅ Easy to use
❌ No free trial
❌ Not for off-path routes
If you want a social platform and route planner in one, Komoot is worth checking out. Unlike most apps, the map screen isn’t the main focus here; the default page is ‘Discover,’ showing your friends’ activities and route highlights. Clicking on a route shows photos, distance, time, ascent, a map, and terrain info.
The ‘Plan’ page lets you plot a route by selecting start, end, and waypoints. The app smartly creates a route based on your chosen sport and fitness level. It works well for simpler paths, but not for complex mountain routes. However, there’s a variety of pre-made routes to choose from.
The Komoot map is based on OpenStreetMap data, with contours, paths, and hill shading. While not as detailed as OS mapping, it shows ‘Hiking Highlights’ you can include in routes. Offline use (Premium only) is easy – you download entire counties or regions. You can import/export GPX files but need an internet connection. During tours, you can add geotagged highlights with photos and descriptions.
If you’re not seeking complete route control or off-path mountain routes, Komoot is great for casual use and sharing your adventures with others.
Free Trial: 30 days
✅ Longest free trial
✅ Very accurate
❌ Not the best for UK
If you need extensive functionality, Gaia GPS is the app to consider. The Gaia Topo map is clear and based on OpenStreetMap data, offering contours, paths, and hill shading. While it lacks OS mapping, it provides many international topo maps like USGS Topo (USA) and various European sources. You can download them for offline use (Premium only) and even overlay multiple maps with transparency.
The route planner is strong, with worldwide snap-to-path. The web planner is also excellent. Routes can be color-coded, hidden/shown on the map, and organized into folders, ideal for managing complex route libraries. Waypoints and offline GPX import/export are well-supported.
The interface is highly customizable, allowing you to deactivate unnecessary features and change colors. There’s also an area calculator and photo geotagger. You can download community routes too.
If you mainly hike in the United Kingdom, Gaia GPS might not suit you. However, for advanced users exploring trails elsewhere, it’s the top choice.
Choosing the right hiking navigation app is essential for a successful outdoor adventure. Different hikers have their preferences – some use apps as backups, while others rely on them completely.
Digital mapping tools have their perks, including quick route planning, automatic calculations, and the ability to store maps on your device. However, not all apps are the same.
Look for features like:
Keep in mind that your phone’s compass might not be as reliable as a traditional one. To ensure everything works and to avoid potential battery issues during longer hikes, it’s a good idea to test the app during the free trial on a shorter test hike. This will help you better understand how the app performs in the real outdoors.
Also, consider GPS watches that can work with these apps, either separately or in sync with your smartphone, for a seamless hiking experience.
When choosing the best hiking app, look for apps with detailed offline maps, accurate GPS tracking, route planning tools, and weather forecasts to safely navigate wilderness areas without cell service. The best apps allow downloading maps ahead of time for reliability, track your real-time location even without service, and provide grid references and coordinates if needed. Thoroughly test any new hiking app on shorter trips before relying on it for long backcountry hikes to ensure it has the necessary features and mapping capabilities for your needs.
When it comes to accurate trail maps for hiking, Gaia GPS stands out as a top choice. Gaia GPS provides detailed topographic maps down to street level, integrates precise geolocation using multiple satellite systems, offers reliable tracking even without cell service, and factors in elevation for safer navigation in the backcountry. With robust map layers and planning tools, Gaia GPS enables hikers to thoroughly prepare routes, track progress, and stay found even in remote wilderness areas. For on-trail navigation, the ability to download maps for offline use and Gaia’s reputation for map accuracy make it a go-to hiking app.
Yes, several hiking apps allow you to download maps ahead of time for reliable offline use in areas without cell service. Top options include Gaia GPS, AllTrails, Avenza Maps, ViewRanger, MAPS.ME, and Komoot. Each has a library of detailed trail and topographic maps that can be saved for offline access. While on the trail, these apps will track your real-time location via GPS without needing connectivity. Having offline maps is crucial for navigating remote wilderness safely. Be sure to test any new app with offline features before relying on it in the backcountry.