Enjoying the outdoors, hiking in particular, has become a popular way to escape and reset. Every outdoor enthusiast knows (or should know) that you need a way to plan and track your route, enter AllTrails.
I have a ton of apps for hiking and backpacking, and AllTrails is definitely one of them. While I use multiple apps to plan and track my route, it’s clear from watching my beginner hikers and backpackers that AllTrails is their go-to. What makes it stand out?
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Key Takeaways for AllTrails App
AllTrails allows you to easily research routes and get details from other users for insider tips.
The app allows you to easily share and view others’ routes, providing a community feel.
You can track your route as you go and save it for future use.
Maps are mostly crowdsourced and not always accurate. Red lined maps are from users sharing data, green maps are validated using OpenStreetMap (OMS).
Regardless of whether you’re using the free or paid version, you’ll be required to fill out a membership. This is where your routes and information will be stored.
The app is available for both Android and iPhones.
Why Does Everyone Like AllTrails?
There are a few reasons AllTrails is popular, it has an intuitive user interface, great search functionality to find trails, and a strong community.
I’ve seen beginners figure out AllTrails in minutes. The user interface just makes sense. Finding the trail, following the route, and recording are easy. It’s one of the best hiking apps for beginners out there.
The app also clearly shows you information you want to know like how far you’ve already hiked, how long you’ve been hiking, and your pace.
Let’s face it, if you’ve searched for a trail online, AllTrails was probably one of the top results with information on the trail including the route and reviews from people that have hiked it.
All of the community information is helpful and makes you feel that you’re getting “real” information. You can also add your two cents after exploring.
Putting it Together: Search and Community
I really like the trail information when researching my hikes. The website and app provide mileage, elevation gain, and whether it’s a loop or down and back. This is all useful information. There are also reviews and recent ones may highlight things like a downed tree making a section impassable, or a tricky area that’s not well marked. Sometimes there’s additional information on parking which is helpful.
Using all of the available information, I can get a good idea of my route and plan a better trip.
Areas Where AllTrails Can Improve
The downside is the simplicity and social aspect. AllTrails relies heavily on crowdsourced information. If one person hikes a route incorrectly and saves it, then other people pull it up to follow and add their incorrect routes, suddenly you have people hiking 100 feet off trail on private property.
Even better, I’ve seen a route for a local spot that’s off by miles. People have become confused and cut the loop shorter than the real route. This was recorded and now many people think it’s the true route.
No big deal, right? You just hike a shorter route. Well, what if someone goes out thinking it’s a 6-mile day and, if they use the blazes and signs rather than the app, suddenly it’s a 10 mile hike.
While this may sound fun for some people, if you’re a new hiker and started late, and now it’s 7 pm and getting dark and you don’t have a headlamp…….well, you can see the problem.
I’m also going on record to say that I had the pro version a few years ago and it crashed on me. This happened three times and always at the worst possible moment. The app became stuck, and I had to close it. When I reopened it, I was told the map wasn’t downloaded and I had no signal. I know it was downloaded because I had been using it while my phone was on airplane mode a few minutes prior.
To be fair, fellow hikers have used the paid version for years and have not had an issue. And I still use the free version of AllTrails as my backup.
Free Features of AllTrails
If you opt to try the free version of AllTrails, there are several features to help you through your day.
Search for Trails. AllTrails has one of the best searches I’ve seen in a GPS app. There’s a vast database of trails, and you can find essential information like mileage, difficulty, elevation gain, and reviews.
Access to 8 different types of maps to help you plan your trip.
Ability to export files from trails, activities, and maps from the website.
Record your route in real-time, view statistics, and share.
Import your files to your AllTrails account activities and maps lists.
Create custom maps on the AllTrails website.
Track your hikes and log your activities.
Read reviews and add your own.
AllTrails+ Paid Features (Previously AllTrails Pro)
The AllTrails paid version used to be called AllTrails Pro but was renamed AllTrails+. Regardless of the name, it opens additional functionality. (And psst, the paid version is a great gift for the backpacker in your life).
Ability to download offline maps. This is key for anyone heading out. Cell signal is iffy in many outdoor areas and having a trail downloaded on your phone is a feature you’ll need.
Alerts for wrong turns.
Find trails by distance from your location.
Additional map types.
Ability to print maps as a backup.
Is it worth it to pay for the subscription to AllTrails+? If nothing else, you want to be able to download maps for offline use. That’s the number one reason I recommend paying for the upgrade on at last one GPS app. The two most used are AllTrails and Gaia.
I would pay for one and use the other’s free version as a backup.
If you’re not sure, the good news is that there’s a free trial. Play around with the free version first, then, once you’re used to the app, give the trial a whirl to see how you like it.
Wrap Up: AllTrails Review
AllTrails is a popular GPS app used by many hikers and backpackers. It has an extensive library of trails with excellent search functionality.
On top of that, the user interface is intuitive, and the community feel keeps you motivated.
When researching trails, AllTrails is one of the best resources out there. Once on the trail, I highly recommend having a second app, like Gaia, running in the background as a backup and having a paper map (and a basic idea how to use it).
Remember that your phone isn’t 100% reliable. You should always have a non-electronic dependent means of navigation.
And if it looks odd, check a second source. Don’t head away from the trail, bushwacking down a steep incline while a blazed trail is in front of you just because the app tells you too. Like all GPS apps, there’s some error and you should always use common sense and your own gut.