Planning an epic outdoor adventure can be an exciting and fun experience. Especially when you have the right set of tools. We have found ourselves often turning to a few super useful mapping apps to help us plan our own travels, be it trips to major cities or out on a wild outdoor adventure.
Below are 11 of the best adventure mapping apps on the market. We have split them up into specific categories based on what they do best, from the top app for finding epic hiking trails to the best app for making your way around a new city via public transportation.
Explore the top adventure apps below.
\\ For Hiking and Backpacking
Probably the most popular hiking app out there, AllTrails is a great tool to have if you are either looking to quickly find trails in your area or planning your own epic adventure. We often use AllTrails when we are looking to plan shorter weekend trips (day hikes, trail runs), especially if we are in a newer place and haven’t gotten used to the area yet.
There are two versions of AllTrails: the free basic plan and AllTrails+, which costs $2.99 a month (or $36 a year). The paid version allows you to download offline maps, find trails by distance from you and check out 3D maps (plus some other cool features).
| Lots of mapped trails
| Super handy filters to help you find the perfect trail for you (you can sort by distance, activity and difficulty)
| Each trail clearly shows you the elevation gain, route type
| Largest network of users (which usually means up-to-date comments)
| You need to purchase AllTrails+ in order to use it when you don’t have service (which is common while hiking)
| Isn’t the best for recording your hikes and/or activities
➳ Explore it here.
We first heard about komoot during our adventures in Colombia. And since then, we have turned to the easy-to-use app many times — especially when we are looking to plan long-distance routes (including for backpacking and bikepacking).
This app really shines when it comes to finding inspiring routes around the world. While it isn’t as widely used in the USA (especially compared to some other apps like AllTrails), it is still a great app to have if you are looking to travel abroad — especially to Europe.
| Great route-planning capabilities, especially for backpacking and trekking.
| Has turn-by-turn navigation and even information on the exact surfaces you will be exploring (which is especially good for biking).
| Tons of inspiring routes for lots of different activities around the world.
| Not as many routes in the USA compared to other apps.
| Some services are only available with a premium subscription ($4.99 a month).
➳ Explore all of komoot here.
We have been using Gaia GPS as our main adventure-tracking app for a couple of years now. This adventure app is actually a partnership with Outside Magazine, and if you choose to subscribe to their Gaia GPS+ and Outside plan you will get access to expert-led online courses on Outside Learn and other benefits through their Outside Network.
We specifically like this mapping app because it has so much available data — including adventure-focused points of interest (like Nordic centers, ski resorts and marinas), as well as clear markings for dirt roads, paved roads, trails and the like. This is especially helpful if you are planning a quick run or bike ride and don’t want to be on pavement.
| Easy-to-use map and route maker, especially for hiking, biking and running.
| The paid versions (especially the one with Outside) give you a ton of helpful tools, including outdoor classes.
| Very easy to transfer the GPX files to other apps and sites.
| There is a lot of information on the maps, so it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
| The free version doesn’t include offline use
➳ Explore all of Gaia GPS here.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: if you want to use this app offline, you have two premium subscription options. The first is just Gaia GPS Premium which is $3.33 USD a month (this includes offline maps and weather and terrain information), and the second is the Gaia GPS Premium + Outside which costs $3.74 a month and includes offline maps, weather and terrain information, outdoor classes and access to the app Trailforks Pro (see more on this app below).
Have you ever been out hiking or backpacking and wondered what epic mountain was way off in the distance? I know we have. Luckily, if you had the handy PeakVisor app you wouldn’t be left wandering (and maybe arguing) and instead, you would be able to know exactly what mountain it was and also its elevation.
At its core, PeakVisor is an AR map that shows you a 3D view of your surroundings, with easy-to-read highlighted mountain peaks (watch this video to see what we mean). When out hiking you simply need to scan your surroundings and boom, the name and elevation will pop up. Plus, in some cases you can even see the best trails for reaching the summit.
| Great tool to learn more about your surroundings
| Can be downloaded so you can use it offline
| Pretty much every mountain range (big and small) is on the app, with more places being added daily
| Really only useful for identifying nearby mountain peaks and not for actual route planning
➳ Learn more about this app here.
\\ For Mountain Biking
More of a trail database than a route planning app, Trailforks is focused on providing users the most up-to-date information on mountain bike trail conditions as well as information on the trail's popularity, topographic layers to give you an idea of elevation, points of interest, and useful photos.
On the app you can find mountain biking routes in 100 countries, with more being added regularly.
| Decent free version of the app is available (there is also the paid version for $3.74 /month).
| It’s a basic map that is easy to use, so if you just want the activity maps and nothing else this is a good option.
| Not a ton of bells and whistles with this one
| The routes/maps are not as intuitive as some other mapping apps
➳ Learn more about Trailforks here.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: while Trailforks is mostly used for mountain biking, it does also have routes and information on hiking, horseback riding, dirt biking, and skiing (downhill, backcountry and Nordic).
MOUNTAIN BIKE PROJECT
Maybe the premier mountain biking app out there, Mountain Bike Project has the most comprehensive list of trails available (especially in the USA) thanks to it being a totally crowd-sourced site. You can easily search for mountain bike routes by distance, difficulty level (green, blue, black), type of trail and elevation profile.
We have used Mountain Bike Projects pretty consistently (especially when we are in the Utah and Colorado area) and we find it really easy to navigate. Plus, they have so many “recommended” trails that it is hard to actually know what route to do (there are just soooo many options).
| Lots of mountain biking routes available, especially if you are looking to ride in the USA.
| Plenty of information on each trail — including total distance, percentage of singletrack, elevation profile, and max grade.
| Usually (especially on the more popular trails) there are some good comments to give you a good idea of what to expect. Plus, they also let people rate the difficulty so you have a more honest view of how challenging it is.
| There is a lot on the app, which can sometimes be overwhelming.
➳ Check it out for yourself here.
💬INSIDER TIP: if you like the way Mountain Bike Project is set up, you can check out other apps by the same makers: Mountain Project (for climbing), Hiking Project, Trail Running Project and Powder Project.
\\ For Exploring New Areas and Cities
Often rated as one of the best offline maps, maps.me is one of the top apps to download before heading off to explore a new place — especially a new city.
We will usually download a specific area of the country we plan to visit so that we are 100% prepared to find our way around it just in case we don’t have service (which in a foreign country is common). The app is great at giving you lots of important map information, including showing you streets, public transit stations and stops, popular restaurants and cafes, hotels and hostels and points of interest. When we travel internationally, this is our go-to app for getting around urban areas.
| So much useful information on the maps — especially if you are exploring a city.
| Easy to download a map of a specific region or of a city.
| The app also has interesting walking routes for some of the most popular cities (London, NYC, Paris), so you can skip the city tours and do it all on your own.
| The downloaded maps can take up a lot of space on your phone, so when you are done using them we recommend deleting the files.
| The map is not the most reliable option when hiking or trekking. While it does have some trails, we recommend other apps that are specifically meant for adventures out in nature.
By far one of the most stressful things about exploring a new city is figuring out how to actually get around. Luckily, with the help of the Citymapper app you can easily put in where you are starting from and where you are going and get all the best suggestions on routes to take if walking or biking and/or what public transportation options are available. Plus, if you are looking to use public transportation, it will give you real-time updates on when the next bus or train will arrive.
| Easy to navigate map with lots of insights on the public transportation network.
| Great for helping you explore a new city — especially in a foreign country.
| Not every major city is on the app. This is especially true if you are looking to travel to cities in South America, Africa and Asia.
➳ Check out all of the city maps here.
\\ For Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures
Often touted as one of the most reliable mapping apps for outdoor adventures (it is a favorite of guides), FATMAP is a great option if you are looking to head off on more rugged, off-the-beaten-path adventures — especially ones that involve backcountry skiing, mountain biking and hiking.
Some of the best perks of this adventure app are the 3D mapping, the ability to follow other outdoor athletes and friends, and super in-depth route planning information, including avalanche risks, elevation profiles, aspects and gradients. Plus, many of the routes are curated by actual outdoor guides and athletes — meaning you can trust their knowledge and advice.
| Super in-depth information for route planning.
| Great for backcountry skiing, especially with the provided information on avalanches and terrain.
| Great for adventures in Europe, but not as in-depth as some other apps for the USA.
| Can be a bit overwhelming to use at first.
➳ Check out all of the stuff on FATMAP here.
Less of a map and more of a forum, Spotted by Locals is one of the best ways to get off the beaten path while exploring a new city. Located in 80 cities, the app is founded on the idea that only locals (real locals) can give you the best tips and advice when checking out a place.
The app can also be used offline as long as you purchase the city map ahead of time (each map costs $3.99 USD). Then it is super easy to walk around and learn about the area with the help of locally pinned spots — from restaurants to random points of interest, you are sure to find something that interests you.
| Great way to get away from the popular tourist sites and discover more “authentic” places.
| An alternative way to do a city tour — all on your own.
| The app is easy to navigate and can be used offline after purchase.
| You do have to pay for each city map ($3.99 each).
| Not as high-tech as some other apps.
➳ Explore the app for yourself here.
THE USA NATIONAL PARK SERVICE APP
Not really a map but more like a database of everything you need to know about each national park. The National Park Service app is one of the best resources to help you plan your own epic national park adventure (check out some of ours).
The app includes everything you need to know; including, entrance fees, in-depth information on the best things to do, where to stay, transportation options, visitor centers and up-to-date issues that may be found in the park (like road construction).
| Free app with a ton of information for almost every national park service-managed area (this includes national monuments, national recreation areas, etc.).
| Easy to use navigation.
| Helps you learn everything you need to know about the park before you even step foot inside.
| There is a lot of information available — maybe too much depending on what you need.
| It is more about overall planning and not just about the things to do there, so if you just want information on trails maybe head to a different app.
➳ Check out the app for yourself here.
Planning an epic outdoor adventure can be a lot of fun — especially when you have the right set of tools. We have used all of these 11 mapping apps during our own adventures and we cannot recommend them enough.
Hopefully, you find the adventure app that is right for you. If you have any questions, please leave them below or reach out to us at www.backroadpackers.com.