Whether you’re an intrepid explorer or a newbie to the great outdoors, our goal is to help you find the navigational app that best suits you.
We’ll look at seven apps and have included their online rating. We won’t rank them but have compiled enough information so you can compare apples to apples. As you’ll see, each has its strong suit, so we’re positive you’ll find one that works for your outdoor adventures.
So let’s get exploring!
REI Co-op National Parks Guide
When searching for this app, you’ll discover that it comes up as National Park Trail Guide. This isn’t a shocker, as REI teamed up with the National Park System to develop the app. We tried to find more information about this transition, but we came up empty.
Packed inside are trail and hike descriptions for parks like Yellowstone, Zion, Mount Rainier, and the Smoky Mountains, to name a few. If you like picture-rich content, then you will enjoy the REI app.
As with all the apps we’ll be exploring, you don’t need a cell signal. The app uses your phone’s built-in GPS to pinpoint your location on its offline maps.
You can search for hikes or use the “best of” option in each park. Another great feature is hike difficulty data. With this information, you can plan the ideal hike for your fitness level and how much food, drink, and gear to pack.
Chimani—National Parks Guide
The Chimani app is another free guide filled with over 1,500+ National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments, and state parks.
Chimani lets you record your trips and unlock “verified” badges associated with a park for points.
With Chimani, you can plan trips, input preferences, find nearby parks and trails, and save all recommendations for future use.
Like the other apps, Chimani uses your phone’s GPS location, so you don’t need Wi-Fi or cell signal when using the maps.
If you want more bang from the app, consider paying for Chimani Perks. Here are some of the extras you’ll receive:
- 64 park guides to more parks in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
- Up-to-date sunrise/sunset, tide tables, and park-related shuttle schedules.
- Download offline maps.
- Access $2,500 in savings on national park-related businesses like inns, whitewater rafting, etc.
National Park Service
Designed by Park Rangers, this free app includes 420+ parks, including the Smoky Mountains, Everglades, Statue of Liberty, Yosemite, to name a few. The maps are interactive and offer park tours that highlight popular destinations and those off the beaten path.
Like its counterparts, this app works without a cell signal. In addition, you’ll get information about amenities like restrooms, restaurants, and more.
You can share virtual postcards from the park and receive up-to-date news, alerts, and events from the National Park Service.
Seasoned outdoor enthusiasts know that AllTrails is a superb source for discovering trails to hike, bike, and run. With over 10 million members from across 100 countries, AllTrails is information-rich and is free.
AllTrails is like a GPS tracker and social platform rolled into one app. While the app allows you to plan and track your outings, it also has user reviews and valuable insights for scoping out routes.
For a fee, the Pro version has a lifesaving feature called “Lifeline.” Hikers can share their route and start/end time with an emergency contact. If you’re late to your finish time, Lifeline notifies your contact who can implement rescue measures.
This navigational app is ideal for those hiking or skiing in the mountains. The primary difference Peak Visor offers over other GPS apps is that it provides state-of-the-art 3D maps.
As with the other apps, you can plan hikes, use GPS Tracker to share adventures, and work offline. The app has the uncanny ability to identify millions of mountains from around the world and provide user-rich data like:
- Topographic prominence
- National Parks/Reserves associated with the ridge
- Photos and Wikipedia articles
If you ski or snowboard, consider adding this app to your phone. With its 3D images, you’ll have a better comprehension of the mountain slopes, especially when pursuing backcountry adventures.
Just Ahead puts a creative spin on navigational apps. Think of it as having an audio tour guide on your phone. Unlike the other apps on our list, Just Ahead is more for car and bus tours, not hiking.
Just Ahead uses your phone’s internal GPS, and “just ahead” of arriving at a key location, plays the audio content. Listeners rave about the creative stories that weave history, geology, and folklore into their travel experience.
The audio content is written and recorded by award-winning writers and voice talent. Just Ahead works offline and can even give drivers turn-by-turn directions like other apps.
The app is free, but there’s a cost to downloading guides.
Oh, Ranger! is a free app enabling your smartphone to locate the nearest park. The impressive public lands database in America includes National Parks, National Forests, state and local parks, and all Federally-Managed Recreation Destinations.
The app is best suited for outdoor enthusiasts searching for parks and countless outdoor activities and not hikers. For instance, if you’re looking for historic tours, hunting areas, or caving, Oh, Ranger! will point you in the right direction.
The app can also assist in finding lodging, essential phone numbers, maps, and directions.
We hope our guide through these seven navigational apps has helped you decide which will work for you. And since many are free or offer a trial period, give them a test run before investing too much time, effort, and money.