Best Hiking App for Apple Watch

Best Hiking App for Apple Watch

Thanks to all of the technology available to us today, hiking has never been easier.

With so many smartwatches entering the market, we’ve seen an increase in apps that help with practically every day-to-day activity, hiking being among them.

Naturally, the largest selection of apps are available for the biggest brands, and there are no bigger brands than Apple, so you’re in luck.

With this in mind, we’ve sourced four great apps that you can use for hiking on your Apple watches.

You can find each of them below, along with a description of what each app does and how it can benefit you on the trail.

We’ve also written up a small buyers’ guide, a users’ guide that’ll show you which features the ideal hiking app has.

Here are the best apps that’ll turn that sleek, unassuming Apple Watch into a capable hiking companion in the field.

In a hurry?

If you’ve already got a hiking trip planned and need some last-minute assistance, you should check out our favorite hiking app, the AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run.

See why we like this hiking app below, where we’ve given you some details about what this app can do for you.

  • AllTrails has 100,000+ trail maps, including topographic maps, that come accompanied with reviews and photographs from other hikers. Each one has GPS functionality that turns your watch into an activity tracker.
  • Using social media or messaging sites like Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, you can share your hiking progress with family, friends, and like-minded hikers.
  • You can buy AllTrails Pro to have added functionality, such as the ability to download and print maps, see real-time meteorological information about trails, and Lifeline emergency contact safety features.

Best Hiking App for Apple Watch – Reviews

Our Pick

AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run

Our rating:

This is one of the most popular apps for straightforward hiking on the Apple store, so it’s only natural that it lands the top position for our list.

AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run does exactly what it says in the name, providing hiking, biking, and running trails all over the world.

The popularity of this app is mainly down to two things, accessibility for the whole family and a pre-existing community of users who contribute photographs and descriptions of each hiking trail.

On AllTrails you can find over 100,000 trails fit for all kinds of outdoor activities, including dog-friendly and child-friendly trails for family hikers since you can filter trail searches by which demographics the trail is best for.

As mentioned, the fact AllTrails allows previous hikers to review and provide images of each trail means you can do some reconnaissance on a trail before committing to it, leaving nothing to surprise you and ensuring the trail is perfect for your hiking needs.

If you prefer to plan out your hike beforehand, AllTrails support GPS and topographic maps that have been hand-picked to ensure accuracy.

This GPS functionality turns your Apple watch into a GPS activity tracker, ensuring that you can’t get lost.

The GPS can even direct you to the trail by car before the hike has even begun. This also records certain stats depending on whether you’re hiking or biking, which is perfect for data fiends who like to see their performance in numbers and decimal points.

This may be the popular option, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s AllTrails profile is the same. This is because you can save your favorite trails, adding them to a bucket list for either future hikes or to remember hiking trails you’ve enjoyed in the past.

You can use this to find the trails of hikers you know and save them, so you can follow in the footsteps of hiking personalities that inspire you.

You can also influence others by sharing your hiking progress on all the most popular social media services like Facebook and Instagram.

If you pay for AllTrails Pro, you have added functionality like downloading maps for offline use, including printing them out, Lifeline compatibility so you can assign safety contacts should anything go wrong, and see real-time map overlays for air quality, pollen, and weather reports taken straight from weather satellites.

Oh, and it also removes those pesky ads that many free apps have, so that’s a plus.

Pros

  • Features over 100,000 hand-curated trail maps accompanied by photographs and reviews from your fellow hikers, including topographic maps.
  • Includes GPS functionality that turns your watch into a GPS activity tracker.
  • You can share your progress on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
  • AllTrails Pro allows you to download and print maps, use Lifeline safety features, provide real-time weather information, and remove advertisements.

Cons

  • Doesn’t cover those areas that are less traveled.

Gaia GPS Hiking

Our rating:

This next app would be our suggestion for those of you who are looking for a great premium app that justifies its price tag.

That would be the Gaia GPS Hiking app, a robust option that features a lot of information for free but can become a great companion app if you upgrade it.

The downside here is that, unlike many freemium apps, there are two different tiers of monetization associated with this app.

You can get either the basic membership or the premium membership, each having their own unique benefits.

As for the standard Gaia app, you’ll find road maps, off-road maps, topographic data for those maps, and even live-weather info, something that’s usually cordoned off behind a paywall with other hiking apps.

Gaia users can share hiking trails with one another, including custom trails that users have made.

Under the basic subscription, you can save these maps so that you can use them offline.

If you’re out in the sticks and find yourself wandering into signal dead zones often, this can be an invaluable feature.

This will be a user-specific advantage, but there’s also a variety of hunting maps you can access if you have the premium membership.

This is because Gaia is made by hunters and has since become one of the top GPS apps for it.

Otherwise, you can find other more detailed maps like Nat-Geo maps with the premium subscription.

Pros

  • Access maps of both road and off-road areas, along with topographical and meteorological information.
  • You can share your hiking trails with fellow Gaia users.
  • Basic membership allows you to save maps for offline use.
  • Premium membership gives you access to U.S. hunting maps.

Cons

  • Has two tiers of paid features.

Next, we have the Wikiloc Outdoor Navigation GPS app. If the fact it has GPS in its name didn’t tip you off, this is a great option for those who want active tracking and all the real-time metrics that come with that, like your speed, distance covered, and hiking times.

It’s not just exclusive to hiking either, being compatible with running, biking, and even kayaking or skiing too.

Using the GPS, you can record your own routes and add waypoints for future reference.

This GPS functionality doesn’t just help you find trails, but it also makes sure you stay on them by issuing a sound alert to let you know that you’ve strayed from the designated path.

If you’re prone to get lost or aren’t that great at following a map, this is the perfect app to keep you going in the right direction.

If you do get lost, the live tracking feature can help you by keeping family or friends in the know. These are some of the premium features of Wikiloc that you’ll have to pay to take full advantage of them.

You can also download maps to your Wikiloc account, too. You can share them with other Wikiloc users or access them even when offline, should you need guidance when you haven’t got the signal coverage to connect to Wikiloc’s online map database.

Pros

  • Uses GPS tech to measure metrics like your hike speed, distance, and time.
  • Sound alerts tell you if you’re off course.
  • You can download maps for offline viewing.
  • A built-in compass ensures that you never lose your way.

Cons

  • GPS may be too intrusive for data-cautious hikers.

Cairn: Hiking & Outdoor Trails

Our rating:

Cairn: Hiking & Outdoor Trails is a hiking app that’s oriented around safety above all else, so this is definitely a shoo-in if you’re prone to worrying when out on the trail.

There is a downside, however, which is that most of its safety features are locked behind the app’s premium paywall.

Otherwise, Cairn works much like any other hiking app in that you can see and follow trails near you, as well as create your own trails.

These are all viewable when you’re offline, too, which is handy when you’re deep in the hills where internet coverage is sparse.

Fortunately, Cairn also has a cell-coverage filter so you can see dead-zones on your local maps and avoid losing signal on your watch.

Two of the main safety features you get with this hiking app are its live tracking and emergency contacting abilities.

The live tracking keeps tabs of your location, assuming an adequate connection can be established and reports it to nominated friends.

The emergency contact feature works in much the same way, alerting those contacts that something is wrong when you trigger it or are past your due time to finish the hike.

This alert comes in the way of automated messages that lets them know you are lost or otherwise in danger.

You’ll get a thirty-day free trial of the more safety-oriented features this app has to offer, after which you’ll need to pay for anything more than trail information.

Pros

  • Allows you to see and follow hiking trails, as well as create and store them offline for consulting when there’s no internet.
  • Includes cell-coverage maps that help you avoid dead-zones.
  • Tracks your location live and displays it to your friends.
  • Can program automated messages to emergency contacts if you need help.

Cons

  • Most safety-oriented features are kept behind a paywall.

Best Hiking App for Apple Watch – Buyers Guide

Finding the Right Hiking App

This buyers’ guide, or users’ guide if you’re not planning on directly buying any app, should help you to identify which features make a good hiking app.

Most app markets are incredibly bloated, with many apps vying for your attention since, with most freemium apps, you are the product.

Unfortunately, not many of these apps back up their attention-seeking behaviors with a quality experience, and a poor hiking app can be quite dangerous.

We’ve cracked the average hiking app open and listed the standard features you should find in them below.

Even if none of our suggested apps interest you, you can check this guide out and learn what to look for when sifting through the app market.

Trail Information

Obviously, right?

This is the main feature anyone wants from a hiking app, and it should always be available in the free version of whatever app you’re after since it’s what fundamentally makes them hiking apps.

You want to be able to see information on the trails near you and, if the app is expansive enough, halfway across the world.

The detail in the information provided is what differs between apps. Of course, GPS functionality is something a lot of hikers will want, and fortunately, many apps offer it for free.

Along with that, you should always look for apps that have topographic information so that you can get the lay of the land, and accurate weather information is even more preferable. Some apps even have map overlays that show estimated air quality or signal coverage. 

Some apps will have a community function where other hikers can review and post relevant details about certain trails, including images, which is handy if you’re traveling well-traveled trails.

Other apps take this interactivity even further, allowing you to share trail information through avenues like WhatsApp, Instagram, or Facebook, among other popular options.

Customizability

The best apps have some customizability, especially when you plan on hiking. This means you can create and save your own trails, as well as download them for offline use.

Even better, some apps can allow you to print out the trail maps you create for a more personal touch.

If your app tracks your location or movements via GPS, the more data-savvy among you will appreciate an app that gives you the option to limit this surveillance.

Safety Features

As with most outdooring activities, it’s great to have features that help if disaster strikes. These kinds of applications are perfect for smartwatches since they’re on your person at all times and take some difficulty to fall off.

The two main safety abilities that exist for commercial hiking apps are tracking and contacting.

Tracking is when a watch uses the GPS functionality to not just allow you to monitor yourself, but also report your location and progress to a contact.

Contacting is where the app monitors you and, if your hike isn’t over by a due date or you manually trigger the app, an automated message will be sent to your emergency contacts warning them. 

Free or Premium?

You’ll have to choose whether you should get a free or a paid-for premium app.

In reality, most apps use a freemium model, where you can access most surface-level features for free while enduring ads, but you have the option to go premium.

Check out an app’s premium features and see if you think it’s worth it and weigh up the price. Some premium apps may have just as much, if not more, to offer for a lower price.