It has many sensors to measure such data as walking speed, length of steps, walking asymmetry, and even walking steadiness. The latest models of the iPhone have a three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, LiDAR scanner, and GPS.
The third reason (and you don’t need to be an expert in mobile phones here)—it is an all-in-one device. You have a lightweight camera onboard, and you can also grab videos with outstanding quality (up to 4k videos if you have iPhone 11 or later). In my opinion, the latest iPhone can outperform many DSLR cameras.
Tip: you can have a zoom lens attached to your iPhone camera to get more far distance shots. Also, you might want to use a wide-angle lens to capture a lot of the environment. To me, the wide-angle lens doesn’t distort that much, and it’s awesome.
Why use hiking apps in the first place?
The first reason to use a hiking app is that it’s much cheaper than a dedicated hiking GPS device. The second important thing to notice is that you always have a multifunctional device at your disposal. It’s obvious, but still, you can find and navigate trails with several taps, you can take pictures and videos, and you can call for some help. So, if you’re planning on hitting the trails soon, read this review of the best hiking apps for your iPhone.
The free version of Wikiloc is very useful for trail discovery and less for navigating. If you want to actually navigate and follow the trail you need to buy premium package ($8.99 per year).
The app has offline maps, but I didn’t like them. They don’t show that much information compared to other hiking apps. Also, I didn’t like that Wikiloc offline maps are slow and unresponsive.
However, Wikiloc really shines when you’re finding hiking trails. It has a lot of trails available all over the world (33+ million trails), and the app is especially popular in Europe and South America.
You can also download the trail you liked from the official website to your Apple device.
Among all these hiking apps, Gaia GPS has the best offline maps and is the easiest to use when navigating. You can also try using the Gaia GPS Trail Discovery tool from their app, but they don’t have that many trails (only a tiny fraction compared to Wikiloc).
Theoretically, you need to buy their $17 year license for using offline maps. But you don’t need to do that. You won’t be able to download specific areas with the free version. But I have a trick that works for me. If you zoom into any location when you’re connected to the internet, somehow the app downloads the area, and you will be able to use it offline.
Gaia GPS is also great for printing backup maps on paper! It’s only available with the paid version, and you can only do that from their website, not the app. I recommend doing that if you’re hiking in a very remote area with no cell service.
AppStore Rating: 4.81
Supports: Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Other iOS Devices
If you don’t want to use Wikiloc in combination with Gaia GPS, another great and completely free app is View Ranger. I was really surprised by how good it is, and everything is available for free!
The app’s look and feel are not great, and you need to do some extra steps to make it work (you have to enable “Show HUD compass” in the Settings).
The maps aren’t as good as in Gaia GPS, but they’re much better than Wikiloc’s offline maps. They’re fast, responsive, and contain a decent amount of information for regular hiking. The best part is that you can download them for offline use completely for free (on other apps, you have to pay to download offline maps). Also, ViewRanger does care about your battery usage and drains energy less than the other hiking apps.
View Ranger also has many hiking trails that you can find through their Trail Discovery tool. You can import a gpx-trail you like (e.g., you’ve found a trail on the Wikiloc website and want to navigate it in View Ranger). The app also has a premium version for $4.99, but in my opinion, it’s not necessary.
AppStore Rating: 4.5
Supports: Apple Watch, iPhone, Other iOS Devices
Languages: English, Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
It is the most popular app among all the apps in this article. I wouldn’t recommend the free version of this app because it’s very limited, but if you can afford to pay €29.99 per year (or €60 per 3 years), it is the best all-in-one app that does everything. I only placed it after Wikiloc, Gaia, and ViewRanger because it’s so expensive.
AllTrails has many trails to choose from, similar to Wikiloc. I learned that this app is especially relevant in the USA and Canada.
The only problem with AllTrail is that they’ve split official trails from community-made trails (which are only available from the website, so you need a laptop to see all the trails and save them to your device).
With the free version of AllTrails you can follow only trails when connected to the internet. To download their offline maps, you have to purchase their paid version. They’re better than ViewRanger but still not as good as Gaia GPS.
Another cool thing that comes with the paid version is that you can download and print paper maps for your route. It’s available only from the web version but has a decent layout.
Just offline maps for the whole world, which is a one-time payment of €29.99
A membership of €59.99 per year
You definitely don’t need the expensive premium membership that offers a few extra features for multi-day trip planning, insurance, and discounts at some stores.
With Komoot, you won’t find any pre-made trails. Instead, you open the map, and it’s filled with landmarks, peaks and other points of interest (POI). As a result, sometimes there is a path on the Komoot map, but you must make your way through thickets.
As a user of Komoot, you normally select the starting point, then all the landmarks you want to see and the app will automatically calculate the optimal route to get there. It also shows the altitude, the time, and everything else.
With the paid version, you can download offline maps and print paper maps.
Overall, it is a really solid app with an interesting concept, when you can have more freedom in your trails and not just follow someone else’s route. I think it offers a more interesting experience to a hiker.
AppStore Rating: 4.7
Supports: Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Other iOS Devices
Best for hiking in the US National Parks: National Park Service
The app is very useful for hiking in national parks in the US. It has real-time alerts about closures and safety information for all 420+ parks. You can search for the best hikes, dining locations, trip planning information and campgrounds.
Best free hiking app with offline maps: Avenza Maps
The app uses geospatial PDFs, geo PDFs and GeoTIFFs. These are images that have GPS information embedded into them, and you can load them into your app. So, because these are images, you can use them offline, which is really cool. The free version allows the uploading of up to 3 images.
What’s great about Avenza Maps is that they have a whole website where you can search for different maps and download them to your phone. You can also create your own maps with this app.
It’s a pretty handy app if you go to the National parks.
What is geocaching? Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunting game in which participants use GPS units to locate hidden caches. The geocaches, which can be found all over the world, often contain small trinkets or notes that you exchange for something of equal value. Geocaching is a great way to explore new places and meet new people.
It goes a bit against the 7 principles of “Leave no trace,” but it’s a great way to keep you and your kids engaged on the trail to find hidden treasures all over the place.
The app shows you geocaches near you with a description. It also keeps track of all your geocaches and you earn badges as you go along. It’s a lot of fun finding geocaches on the trail, and often, it takes you to places you wouldn’t have expected to go.
The best augmented reality (AR) hiking app: Star Walk 2
You launch the app, point your device at the sky, and it will tell you all the constellations are currently in view in front of you. It’s a great way to figure out different stars and planets, and the app provides a lot of other information.
It also helps you plan your viewing because it shows you what will be visible tonight, where, and when.
If you’re out on the trail in the dark or camping and want to figure out what the stars are, Skywalk is probably the best app to use.
AppStore Rating: 4.7
Supports: Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, other iOS devices
Languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese
This is my favorite weather app. It gives accurate alerts and daily and hourly weather. It also gives accurate radar of past, present and future storm movements, and data like temperature, wind (including gusts), and “real feel,” which takes into account humidity on hot days or wind chill on cold days.
It also gives you cloud cover, so if you’re a photographer looking for that perfect sunrise, you’ll be able to check it out.
AppStore Rating: 4.5
Supports: Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Other iOS Device
Gimbal. Try Osmo Mobile 3, this gimbal is specifically used for phones and is very compact. It unfolds really quickly when you use it and has a smooth gliding effect to capture some awesome videos with your phone. It also comes with a screw-on tripod. Imagine walking away from the camera shots, not holding the phone, and the tripod slowly rotates and follows you because it has an eye-tracking technology.
My final choice: Wikiloc + Gaia GPS apps
I think it is the best combination, but I will still use Komoot on some of my upcoming hikes. I will also continue using the additional apps like Seek, AccuWeather and Star Walk 2.
I hope this review was really useful to you. Did I forget about some noticeable GPS hiking apps for iPhone? Feel free to leave a comment below.
I write tech-related articles on different software & hardware topics as well as travel related stuff.
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